"Find advisors that support your ambitions and assure good collaboration. Enjoy the ride!"

Name: Joost van Andel
Master’s degree: Business Administration at Erasmus University Rotterdam
Current position: PhD candidate; Coordinator and Lecturer Minor Personal Coaching & Teamcoaching at Utrecht University of Applied Sciences

Ambition: What was your ambition in terms of career perspective, during your master’s?

I finished my masters in 2004, after working in various finance positions in a multinational corporation for six years. During my masters I experienced that I was on a career path that didn’t fit ‘who I am’. I was more interested in people and facilitating personal and organizational development. So I really needed a big change. I looked into opportunities in management consulting and higher education and found a great teaching job at Utrecht University of Applied Sciences. Beyond my teaching, I developed as a self-employed coach and obtained a license as psychosocial therapist.

I’m 46 now and one advantage of ‘doing a PhD at an older age’ is that you bring a lot of personal and professional experience. I’ve had many opportunities to develop as a lecturer, internal team coach, chairman of our works council, manager of a team of lecturers and currently as a researcher. This, including my financial background, and coaching and consulting experience within my own small company, offered great resources for my PhD. In my dissertation I articulate a social constructionist approach of coaching for developing management consultants.

Difficulties: Which uncertainties did you face?

Currently I’m in my fourth year and I hope to have finished the first draft of my dissertation within a few months. However, it hasn’t been an easy ride… Obtaining an internal scholarship at Utrecht University of Applied Sciences was pretty challenging. My proposal was rejected twice, which was really frustrating. Furthermore, I had created my own research project and hadn’t been doing academic research for more than a decade. I struggled to convince a committee, consisting of multiple lectors, that my plans were worth investing in. Also, having two really different professors as supervisors sometimes felt like not being able to do things right.

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

I consider myself very lucky to have three great advisors. Although both my supervisors hold different views to doing research, they are committed to my project. I experience that they believe in me and they contribute to making the project work. My daily advisor and co-promotor likes the project that I’m doing very much and offers great suggestions and feedback. Beyond that, she is very approachable and fun to work with. From all three advisors I experience room to do my project and make my own contribution to science. At the same time they challenge me and prevent me from making big mistakes. I also experience great facilitation from Hogeschool Utrecht. Our educational management is very supportive, making sure that I can take the time I need.

Personal growth: Why does this job fit you?

After so many years of teaching, I was looking forward to an intellectual challenge again. This turned out really well. Although I did experience things not being easy, I grew into it and it has contributed to my scientific education. For me it has been generative to strike a balance between staying committed to my core ambitions and intentions on the one hand, and being willing to learn and be flexible on ‘how to get there’ on the other. When things got difficult, this helped me to persist.

It has been a great learning opportunity to be ‘the student’ again and actively look at the good intentions behind feedback that you sometimes ‘just don’t want to hear’. I recently joined a team that is developing the UAS Professional Doctorate program in Learning and Professionalizing. I’m looking forward to combining both management and research in my next career step.

The takeaway: What can others learn from your story?

I’d like to pass on a great and practical piece of advice which I received from a colleague who finished her PhD a few years ago. “When you need to make important decisions regarding your research, write down your arguments. This will save you time when writing your thesis”. I really took up on this. Every time I decided A or B, I wrote it down as input for my dissertation. Now that I’ve started writing my first draft, this really pays off, because I don’t have to go through the same details again. The well-argued decisions (including references) only need little adjustments before being included in my dissertation.

Another thing is to make sure that you have a project that really has your interest, because your commitment and determination will be tested. Pay attention to project management and most important: find advisors that support your ambitions and assure good collaboration. Enjoy the ride!

Are you working as a researcher in the Netherlands and would you like to share your personal story? We are continuously looking for new stories.

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