22 SES 16 B, Lessons Learned: Linking the Careers of Doctorate Holders to Current Shifts (Part II)
Symposium Part II, continued from 22 SES 15 B
The number of PhDs awarded by Dutch universities has increased until 5000 per year in 2019. 68% of the PhD holders will ultimately be unable to find work at a university, sometimes after first holding a temporary academic position. They will go on to find work in a non-academic setting. Until recently, there has been little insight into the types of careers pursued by PhD holders in the Netherlands after receiving their degrees. To get more acquainted with this group, we conducted in the period 2016-2017 semi-structured interviewed with 47 PhD graduates from all disciplines (humanities, social and beta sciences). We studied the motivation of the PhD holders to make career transitions. The interviews demonstrated that most PhD holders were mainly intrinsically motivated to choose their further career steps. Examples of these motivations are: the search for more societal relevance, more room for collaboration towards a common goal and more room for personal growth. It is interesting to note that while academics tend to prefer work that offers them autonomy and intellectual stimulation, PhDs who started working in non-academic fields place a higher priority on work that has practical and social significance, as well as on connection and cooperation. Extrinsic motivations (e.g. the lack of job opportunities within academia) played a relatively small role. From our study we can conclude while a gap certainly exists between academia and ‘the corporate world’, it is not as vast as commonly believed. How can we begin to bridge this gap? The first step is to identify and facilitate discussion about the gap itself. Nearly all the interviewees gave valuable recommendations. Examples are: (1) develop a broad range of skills during the course of your studies: seek out new activities and responsibilities during your PhD and be sure to integrate your research into practice; (2) learn to see your PhD as proof of your skills and ability: describe your experiences in terms of the useful skills you have gained, focusing on your strengths and on what you enjoy doing, not just on your specialist knowledge; (3) begin building up a relevant professional network during your studies and use your connections to explore career opportunities outside of academia. The interviews also contain recommendations for universities in their roles as employers.
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