Personal story Lector Van Hall Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Sciences

Name: Rik Eweg
PhD degree: Agricultural Sciences (Spatial Planning) at Wageningen University
Current position: Lector Regional transitions towards Circular Agriculture at Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Sciences

Ambition: What was your ambition in terms of career perspective, during your PhD?

I did not have a clear career ambition. During my PhD and subsequent PostDoc position, I was notably driven by interest and curiosity. My interest focused on landscapes: how do people interact with landscapes, how is landscape formed as a result of human activities and how do landscapes influence people and societies. Furthermore, I love experiencing nature and both urban and rural landscapes. Besides the interest, my ambition was to play a role in improving human-landscape relationships by making them more sustainable.

Difficulties: Which uncertainties did you face?

Looking back, it was not very hard. Keeping my interest as a compass in mind, helped me to make the right choices. Often I had to make quick choices when I was approached for a certain position or had to decide whether to apply for a position, but keeping my interests in mind helped me also to develop a network, meeting people and organizations which had the same interest. The uncertainties I encountered were mostly related to the duration of the contracts, which all were temporary, varying from four to six years. This sometimes gave me stress, but I always discovered that it was good to change positions after about six years, discovering new organizations and meeting new people.

Helping hand: What helped you in taking the career step?

Before becoming a lector I had four different positions (including PhD) and my position at Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Sciences was the fifth. The positions were in research, policy and innovation, so diverse and on different levels. This variety, but all relating to people-landscape interaction helped a lot. If I would have stayed in the same position for thirty years I would never have obtained this position. What also helped was that I collaborated with, and knew the decision makers who apparently had confidence in my competences and helped me to obtain my present position.

Personal growth: Why does this position fit you?

My current position does give a lot of freedom to work on what is still my curiosity and interest: human-landscape interactions. It is nice to work with a team and in an organization with people that share the same interest. During my career I learned that not only curiosity and an innovative mindset are important, but that good management, meticulous procedures and balanced budgets are equally important. I still do research myself, but mostly as a coordinator, coaching colleagues and students to work in applied research. I also design and organize new research projects.

The takeaway: What can others learn from your story?

  • Determine what subjects provide you with the most energy and take that as a compass in your career and work consistently in augmenting your knowledge and network in that field.
  • Work in different jobs, combine experience in research with experience in practice (public or private organizations).
  • Develop a network of people around your field of interest.

Personal story Lector HZ University of Applied Sciences

Name: Wietse van de Lageweg
PhD degree: Earth Sciences at Utrecht University
Current position: Lector of Building with Nature Coastal Research at HZ University of Applied Sciences

AMBITION: WHAT WAS YOUR AMBITION IN TERMS OF CAREER PERSPECTIVE, DURING YOUR PHD?

My career ambition during my PhD was to do cutting-edge research on coastal and fluvial environments in a range of different countries. The international aspect of academia has always attracted me. I find it stimulating and enriching to work with different people with a variety of backgrounds offering new perspectives.

DIFFICULTIES: WHICH UNCERTAINTIES DID YOU FACE?

It wasn’t hard to fulfill my ambition. But while reflecting on it, I realize it came with quite some uncertainty along the way and it needs to fit your personal situation.

In my case, my partner also works in academia which makes it easier on the one hand because the dynamics are understood but more complex on the other hand due to the challenges to keep up two academic careers, ideally in one city. We worked in the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom and the biggest challenge we always faced was to find a meaningful position for the other to be able to also continue this career.

HELPING HAND: WHAT HELPED YOU IN TAKING THE CAREER STEP?

Excellent mentors and a little luck of being at the right place at the right time. Mentors who believe in you are key because they can provide a stepping stone, guidance and advice at the right time, and simply a much-needed friendly face to discuss life and career every now and then. I have been fortunate enough to have a couple of great mentors who really helped me to kick-start my career.

Additionally, nobody fares well without a little luck. I was recently promoted to lector of our research group but that only happened following the retirement of our previous lector. That said, I have always expressed my ambition to once lead our research group, so if there is something you really want to pursue it is of course important that others are also aware of this ambition.

PERSONAL GROWTH: WHY DOES THIS JOB FIT YOU?

I really enjoy my current position because it combines research, education and working with practitioners. After my PhD I have worked as a postdoc and also in government and consultancy. None of these sectors fits me 100% but in my current role I can work with all of them and I find that very stimulating. Research is the essence of my current role but with important spin-offs to our educational programmes and with impact on the practices of regional coastal managers. This is not one-way traffic: students are highly involved in our research and also with practitioners we co-create our research.

THE TAKEAWAY: WHAT CAN OTHERS LEARN FROM YOUR STORY?

An academic career is a marathon and not a sprint. Be open to the many possibilities out there and dare to explore the unknown. I highly recommend to also spend some time in other sectors like government and consultancy. It is enriching and also provides context and a fresh perspective on academia. For a career at a university of applied science, a wide skill set is required and a range of experiences will certainly help with that.

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