Plenary session

Dr Christ’l Joris (ETAP) - 'Curious and daring: ready for your PhD & for the job market'

I do not believe in destiny.

A school curriculum, with specific choices made in the first decades of life should not contain our whole future and active life. The talent of a high intelligence privileges us to explore and improve the world we live in.

A curious & adventurous mindset is an important asset that we should “nurture” at all times in our life cycle and the lives of our children.  It will open the door for “serendipity”, the event of finding something when looking for something else, thanks to an observant mind.

Some personal observations, reflections and concrete examples by a Doctor in Social and Cultural Anthropology.

Dr Koen Verlaeckt (VLIR) - 'Plan your escape'

Valued for their bright minds and many other qualities, PhDs are considered the crème de la crème of their generation. For that reason, universities are very fond of their young researchers and do their utmost to prepare them to become good scientists who are able to contribute to the research conducted at their institution.

However, during the last 20 years the number of PhDs has risen markedly, whereas the number of senior academic positions has not changed in the same way. Hence the majority of PhDs cannot but leave the university and pursue a career outside academia. A PhD – it is fair to say – has become a preparatory track for a multitude of careers, allowing many PhDs a safe ‘escape’ from the university!

Universities have adapted to this new reality. Although they would rather retain their young researchers, they have taken up their responsibility to thoroughly prepare PhDs for their future, possibly non-academic, careers. With the financial support of the Flemish government, they have established comprehensive doctoral programmes that allow for broad skills development and provide professional development guidance.

However, the PhDs themselves have a responsibility as well: they need to carefully ‘plan their escape’. To avoid frustrations or uncertainties, it is of great importance to start thinking early on about life after the PhD. This is probably even more important for those doing a PhD in the social sciences and humanities, for whom future employment opportunities are vast and therefore need to reflected upon well in advance.