An interesting exchange happened on the ARNOVA listserv a couple of days ago. A heated discussion started after someone asked what was appropriate to post on the listserv. Then there were a series pleas and replies where all sorts of emotions run rampant. This was not the first time this has happened on the listserv. This actually happens quite frequently.
I read each reply and started to wonder, do I really want to pursue a career in a place where these types of heated discussions are the norm rather than the exception? Where at certain times egos and credentials are more important that compassion and context? Then I thought to myself, who am I kidding? My ego is what got me here in the first place. I decided to pursue my PhD so I could stand on my soap box and share my expertise with the nonprofit world! So my impassioned pleas about nonprofit operations, technology, education etc would be heard!
After I enrolled in the program I quickly learned its not about the soap box, its about the collective knowledge that's in the room. Its about finding that balance where the information gets across but differing opinions are being heard. This is where teaching becomes an art, an interpersonal dance of when to speak up and when to shut up. Before I began this PhD journey, would react if things didn't go my way or if I disagreed with my boss or co-worker. Now I recognize its not just about the work, its about the interpersonal skills behind it. I now make the effort to pause and reflect in the moment and wonder, should I react in the moment? What will be the consequences? I can still get my point across and be heard without getting offended or upset in the process.
If you're reading this and interpersonal skills come easily to you, that's awesome! But for those of us that are task oriented or methodical, stopping to reflect is challenging! I've learned that developing interpersonal skills is a life long journey for me and I'm still an infant in that regard. Someone recently asked me what I was planning to do after my PhD and I responded by saying "Try to pursue a tenure track nonprofit faculty position or try to work for a nonprofit infrastructure organization like the Independent Sector." This person was surprised by my response and said, "I don't know why you are pursuing your PhD if you are not going to go into academia." I responded and explained that whatever decision I make I know one thing is for sure, that my PhD has been one of the best decisions of my life. I've developed my teaching skills (off the soap box), I've learned how to do methodologically sound research, and most of all I've developed my interpersonal skills.
So whether I end up in academia, the nonprofit sector, or both, my PhD has given me the interpersonal skills to handle anything and anyone as blazing as they might be.