Andres Dijkshoorn‘Having a PhD is still very exotic at a lot of workplaces’
Looking at a problem from different perspectives, opening it up, conducting valid research and making a full report. That gives you an edge over people who didn’t do a PhD. Although policy advisor Andres Dijkshoorn still sees that as an advantage, in political The Hague people sometimes just want a quick solution.
Choosing politics instead of science was not a planned career path for Dijkshoorn. ‘I didn’t have an actual plan in mind. I liked working in academia. Especially because of my colleagues. I also really liked teaching. At the end of my promotion an opportunity came along for a job at a consultancy firm in Enschede, which really matched the topic of my promotion. I had a great time over there.’
‘I have always been fascinated by politics. I follow the news and I am a real political junky. So I took the chance.’
‘Then another opportunity came along to work in The Hague as a policy advisor with the Dutch Labour Party (PvdA). As a student, I had already worked for the Dutch Senate. That gave me my first taste of Dutch politics. Off course it’s nothing compared to the pressure cooker of the House of Representatives. But I still learned quite a lot there and I found it a great environment. I have always been fascinated by politics. I follow the news and I am a real political junky. So I took the chance.’
What Dijkshoorn learned most about his job in The Hague is that you have quite a lot of influence. ‘I got an inside look into a Dutch political party and I really was involved in the decision making of the national politics.’ Due to his PhD Dijkshoorn was able to think in a very abstract way. ‘I guess that’s one of the main benefits. You can look at a problem from different perspectives, open it up, work with it, conduct valid research and make a full report.’
‘Keep in mind what your skills are, what you can add to a company, and how to communicate this.’
‘That gives you an edge over people who didn’t do a PhD. Having a PhD is still very exotic at a lot of workplaces. I was the only one in my company and the only one amongst my colleagues here at the House of Representatives. So I really had to explain what it was I did and how it benefits my job. That would also be one of my tips to current PhD candidates: if you don’t want to make a career in academia, keep in mind what your skills are, what you can add to a company and how to communicate this.’
It’s not always helpful to be so analytical in The Hague. Dijkshoorn: ‘That might sound strange, but sometimes people just want a quick solution. Then again, my strength is that I can do more than just think analytically. And I can also show that.’ During his promotion, Dijkshoorn attended the Netherlands Institute of Government (NIG). ‘That’s a national graduate school for public administration PhD candidates. It helped me to find a structure for my theses and got me into contact with PhD candidates who were struggling with the same issues.’
'Manage your research and your supervision, ask questions and create clarity about where you are and what you’re struggling with.'
Looking back Dijkshoorn thinks he would have really benefitted from seeing his promotion as a clear project. With deadlines, different stages and ‘known-unknowns’. ‘When I started my research I was a blank canvas, I had no idea what it would be like. So that’s another tip to current PhDs: manage your research and your supervision, ask questions and create clarity about where you are and what you’re struggling with. My third tip would be to keep in touch with the world outside academia to broaden your view.’
Enjoy your time
‘Oh, and I have another final tip and that’s please enjoy your time as a PhD candidate and realise that there’s more to life than just your research. That’s what I forgot sometimes.’ Currently, Dijkshoorn is looking for a new challenge. Whether in politics again, consultancy or back to academics, is still up for debate. ‘I hope to find my preference during my trip with the Trans-Siberian Express. That will give me enough time to stare out of the window into the vast wilderness of Eastern Russia and Mongolia, leave the pressure cooker of politics behind me and find out what I will do next.’