Using a set of soft skills to create impact at a global level

Almost 30 years ago, Nathalie Jaarsma began her professional adventure at Ormit Talent. As an ambitious newcomer, she was curious about what was on offer in the job market and thus opted for a traineeship. By now, Nathalie has been working for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for many years. Her diplomatic career in economics, security and culture makes us extremely curious. How did she get to this point and what insights and experiences during her traineeship still have an impact today?

Assignments in telecoms, pensions and commerce

Nathalie started at Ormit Talent in the early years, when it was still really more of a start-up. Nathalie opted for this as it meant she would be working for a variety of clients over the course of two years. In addition, working in a group of trainees appealed to her: supporting each other, and learning from and with each other. “You don’t oversee that beforehand, but it turned out to be very valuable.”

Nathalie completed four different assignments, starting at Ericsson – a technically oriented organisation, and an experience from which she still reaps the benefits in her work today. She then went to work at ABP, joining the organisation during a turbulent period and learning, among other things, how to drive decision-making, how to optimise processes and what role stakeholder management plays in it all.

She next worked at an Ordina associate which dealt with training and ended her traineeship in a more commercial role as account manager at Ordina.

A global career

After that, the world was her oyster. Nathalie worked at her final client for over five years, before coming back to Ormit Talent and then attending Ormit Talent’s Advanced Programme. This is a special development programme for people with several years of work experience. Nathalie wanted to develop more broadly than the commercial role she had held at Ordina in previous years. Before starting at Ormit Talent, Nathalie had worked in Thailand for 2 years and the international experience and working in this context continued to attract. Her Ormit coach drew her attention to Foreign Affairs.

It was the beginning of a wonderful international career: from policy advisor, to economic attache in Australia, to Political Counselor in Washington, head of security and defence policy, to ambassador at the Dutch embassy in Cyprus, ambassador for security policy and cyber, and now active for Foreign Affairs in Al.

What do you need to be successful in diplomacy?

Nathalie has been successfully working for Foreign Affairs for years. What makes you good at this? “Diplomacy is about relations between countries in the full sense of the word. From government to government, to cultural institutions or in the field of security. Ultimately, it’s about influencing behaviour. What’s important in this context is that you have to understand the other person.”

We are talking about understanding more than one person here; you have to know the country, know and understand the culture.

And that creates a lot of layers and brings complexity.

According to Natalie, it starts with the question: “What moves the other person? What does he or she think is important?”

Because, says Nathalie: “Sooner or later the question will come from The Hague: the country you are in occupies this position. We would like them to adjust their position or act differently. What possibilities do you see?”

And this is really diplomacy at its core. Nathalie talks about her approach; a journey of having conversations, listening carefully and genuinely having the desire to come together.

“The world would be a lot more unstable if we don’t listen to one another or there’s no desire to come together. Diplomacy plays an important part in this.”

It thus goes to show that you can use a multitude of facets to ultimately make an impact. You simply have to sense what is needed.

Advice from Nathalie

Soft on people and tough on substance

To be successful in her work, Nathalie stresses that you must be able to distinguish the person from the role. “At times you have to get tough on substance, but always be soft on the person. I also learnt that during my time at Ormit.”

Other important lessons? “Perhaps most importantly, the reflection you have all the time. You can learn something from a book or by doing something. But the challenge with skills is to get better and better. And always reviewing with each other how something is going and how you could possibly have done it better or differently, makes you grow quickly.”


Stand up for your people

Nathalie continuously develops herself as part of her impressive career. She therefore follows development programmes offered and learns from colleagues. She also has a clear message for (future) leaders: Stand up for your people. Continue to take good care of your team. Be aware of what individuals can handle and give them the confidence needed to carry out their work. Nathalie illustrates this with a great example: “We had consultations with a complicated country, which was setting out how they felt we deal with certain things. 80% of it wasn’t exactly true. A lawyer next to me was particularly good on substance. She showed me a note asking: what do you want me to do? Am I allowed to comment on this? I trusted her and nodded that she could respond. She then proceeded to tear up their arguments piece by piece. All very politely and correct in form and content.

She felt my trust and knew that if the other side scolded her, I would protect her. So, be courageous, but also be there for one another.”

Not too rigid in your personal goals

Finally, Nathalie also has great advice for the new generation in the job market. “Be studious. Be open to as many learning experiences as possible. Don’t commit to a very tight path yet and don’t be too rigid in your goals if you have a broad interest. Be open to opportunities and seize them.”

Other happy clients

Would you also like to do a traineeship with a lasting impact?