Are you figuring out what you want after your PhD?
To help you and your fellow researchers find your career path, we developed a new platform: AcademicsConnected. Here you can explore six research focused career journeys, get expert advice and read personal stories from other researchers.
Today we share Joep's personal story. After his PhD graduation, he started working as a researcher at a governmental institution.
Name: Joep Schaper
Master’s degree: Political Science (University of Amsterdam)
PhD degree: Political Science (University of Amsterdam)
Current position: Researcher (The Netherlands Institute for Social Research - Sociaal en Cultureel Planbureau)
"Bridging the gap between research and public policy is of vital importance to us and an exciting new skill to learn."
AMBITION: WHAT WAS YOUR AMBITION IN TERMS OF CAREER PERSPECTIVE, DURING YOUR PHD?
I liked working on my Master’s thesis and my work as a researcher at The Netherlands News Monitor, so I saw my PhD as an opportunity to continue doing research. Understanding the world a little bit better by doing research always attracted me. I have never had a specific goal when it comes to my career, but I have two things I find important in my work life: keep learning and enjoyment.
DIFFICULTIES: WHICH UNCERTAINTIES DID YOU FACE?
Learning was never the problem, but during my PhD there were certain things I started enjoying less: working by myself most of the time, the focus on theoretical and methodological contributions (over societal relevance), teaching, and job uncertainty.
HELPING HAND: WHAT HELPED YOU IN TAKING THE CAREER STEP?
I decided to look for jobs outside of academia. I made lists of organizations I might find interesting. I started with a broad scope: from consultancy firms, corporations I like, to government institutions such as the Netherlands Institute for Social Research (SCP), the Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR), and the Dutch Research Council (NWO).
I asked around in my network and started talking to people who were doing this kind of work. This way I could check if I had the right impression, what the possibilities were and how I could approach the step from academia to jobs outside.
I learned how to translate my experience as a PhD to the outside world and got to know the names of more organizations in my field of interest. In the end I applied for a vacancy at the Netherlands Institute for Social Research that was close to my profile. I got the job using some of the application tricks I learned from consultants I had spoken to in my exploration of my next career step.
PERSONAL GROWTH: WHY DOES THIS JOB FIT YOU?
I’m still doing research, but now I work in teams, societal relevance is our first priority and there is no teaching involved. Personal development and a healthy work-life balance are also well discussed at the Netherlands Institute for Social Research.
I have grown in talking with external stakeholders to learn from them and to make sure that my research relates to the debates in politics and government. Bridging the gap between research and public policy is of vital importance to us and an exciting new skill to learn.
THE TAKEAWAY: WHAT CAN OTHERS LEARN FROM YOUR STORY?
Talk to people about your career. Talk to your friends, your family, your supervisor (even if this may feel scary), and professionals in the field you aspire to work in. It helps you to figure out which aspects you like and dislike in your current work and what you want or don’t want for your next step. Ask around about organizations and jobs you might be interested in. People in the field you want to enter know better how to approach your transition and which other interesting organizations are out there. And it is perfectly okay if plans change, you’ll find your way.