Through job shadowing, we bring PhDs directly into our living environment

Nov 9, 2023

We launched a call to companies some time ago: who likes to open their doors to PhDs who want to explore the business world? A day in which one or more PhDs walk along in your organisation. This way, they get an insight into the processes, structures and challenges the business world has to offer. And on the other hand, companies get the chance to look inside the heads of researchers: what are their expectations, strengths and doubts.

PhD Jobshadowing is an initiative of the VLIR (Vlaamse Universitaire Raad), which umbrella organisation of several Flemish universities. CTRL-F put its weight behind the initiative by activating its network of companies. And we got quite a response to that. Companies see the potential of a thorough acquaintance that goes far beyond a standard application procedure.

One of the organisations that immediately jumped on the bandwagon was Fujifilm Electronic Materials. They welcomed four PhDs and put together a varied programme for them. We heard from Jeroen Van De Vyver, HR Business Partner at Fujifilm Electronic Materials, how they experienced the initiative.


How did you handle job shadowing?

"We invited four people from three different universities. We brought up varied topics. For example, we interpreted from HR what you can do as a PhD within our company, what is important in a CV and where the sensitivities lie with a potential employer. We also let our CEO Hans Vloeberghs give his vision. With a PhD in his own pocket, he knows how to respond perfectly to both worlds. We took the candidates to R&D, Process Engineering and Supplier Quality Engineering and also brought them together again at various times."

How do you view candidates with a PhD in their pocket?

"Out of 250 employees, we already have about 15 PhDs on board today. The added value of these profiles is clear and obvious to us. Throughout their career, they have a lot of experience with workarounds, structured research and creative thinking. They are an especially good match with companies that are committed to processes, innovation and quality. They sometimes get feedback from companies that they are overqualified. This is usually the case for environments where there is little R&D or no structural work on continuous improvement. A tip for PhDs who want to transition to the corporate world: investigate the context of R&D and financial status within an organisation. The bigger and broader, the more challenges and opportunities are on the horizon."

"Throughout their journey, they have a lot of experience with workarounds, structured research and creative thinking."

Where does a switch sometimes go awry?

"A business context is often stricter and more structured than academia. Life at uni is freer. That's something a PhD should be aware of. On the other hand, you can respond to this as a company by offering home working, flexible working hours or offering autonomy in other ways."

"We often find such initiatives more valuable than a large (expensive) employer branding campaign."

How do you look back on the initiative yourself?

"For us, it has been a successful day anyway. One of the PhDs has already given us his CV. So in terms of return, this can already count. We often find such initiatives more valuable than a big (expensive) employer branding campaign. It is a way of bringing these people directly into our living environment."

Specialised guidance via CTRL-F

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