Do You Consider Yourself "Robust"? – University of Copenhagen

22 May 2016

Do You Consider Yourself "Robust"?

When looking through job advertisements in Denmark, one term keeps appearing everywhere. Private companies and public sector employers are looking for prospective employees who are robust. And not only within psychically demanding sectors, as you would perhaps imagine. It is everywhere.

What are they really looking for?
What do employers mean when they use this specific word?  According to various dictionaries, being robust refers to a state of healthiness, a position of strength or one of energy. Giving it a second thought, I have reached the conclusion that robustness in a job advertisement context really means it all. Adaptability and the capability to stand on your own two feet and argue your point of view – or that is probably what employers would like to advocate to future employees.

Challenge your presumptions
Working with international programmes, I think that many of us believe that an international experience facilitates many of the competencies employers are looking for. Feedback from returning students says it certainly provides a life changing experience beyond the academic experience. It “challenges their own presumptions”, to quote associate professor in Molecular Biomedicine, Morten Johnsen. The ability to understand and communicate effectively amongst different cultures, time zones and languages – while remaining empathetic and curious – are key competences to succeed in a transforming labour market. Knowing this, we constantly strive to find new ways of collaboration with our international partners like for example Yonsei University.

Unique students – individual experiences
The University of Copenhagen facilitates an international experience for 2,200 Danish students every year. We also host 1,700 exchange- and 4,000 degree students in Copenhagen.  Amongst that large cohort, some students stand out. Two weeks ago, I had the privilege to meet the 2 Australian students who were awarded the Crown Princess Mary’s scholarship – 2 great ambassadors to their home universities; to Australia; and now also to the University of Copenhagen. Our own Julie has spent two semesters at University of California, Davis; she even interned at a goat farm while there. Julie is hearing impaired and shows us that a disability does not have to be a disadvantage abroad. Julie made use of the local student network in Davis to get adjusted, a valuable tool for most students. Appreciating this, we have recently elected 33 new Goodwill Ambassadors, working to build bridges between Denmark and their home countries. 

When deciding to go on exchange, these students decided to embark on a life changing adventure.  I am confident that behind all our mobility metadata, there is a unique individual story of experience and perhaps of personal change, too.  Does that experience however translate into robustness?

Taking a different view – it’s up to us
I will be honest. I am personally not very comfortable with the term robust. I think it reduces the individual and oversimplify complex skills. Instead I would prefer to ask the question whether employers really need robust employees, or if they actually seek employees who have dared to challenge their own presumptions?  Employees who have a different perspective of their own culture and of their understanding of their academic field? I would argue the latter. I would also argue that we strengthen employability through international experiences. I wish that employers would state that in the job advertisement instead of robustness. However, it is up to us to change – or to at least challenge the presumptions.

See you soon
We are currently processing incoming student applications. Within the month we will start issuing acceptance letters for your students. Next week we will have 4 team members in Denver for the NAFSA conference. We already have a lot of meetings scheduled and we hope to connect with as many of you as possible. If you are not able to connect with us in Denver, we hope to see you at one of our upcoming events around the globe