Loneliness and isolation are challenges that any PhD needs to overcome when considering or transitioning to nonacademic careers. This time of career exploration can set you apart from your grad school cohort, mentors or professional colleagues. While everyone else frets over nailing that conference paper or the insane number of academic job applications to submit, you are doing that work in addition to creating new career options for yourself. Others may not understand why you spend your time working an internship or how you manage to find the time to maintain your blog alongside fulfilling your degree requirements. You need to find your tribe — people who get you and who are on the same path as you — to find the energy and support to live out your lifepath.
Who is your tribe?
– People who think like you. Your tribe shares your worldview and perspective. They will never question your vision, rather they help you hone your vision. When you are on a path less traveled you need others who single-mindedly believe that your unique goals are achievable. A couple of weeks ago, I spent an afternoon with my friends and colleagues of 3rd Edge Communications in their trendy, yet inspiring cowork space in SoHo. These guys have been entrepreneurs for all of their careers and they remind me that my skills can be leveraged in many avenues beyond research and teaching and even beyond my current client base. They inspire me to think creatively and own my talent and skills. There is no room for doubt when you are on career building and career transition path. Your tribe will remind you to walk in confidence.
– People who live like you live or like you aspire to live. When I decided to launch my management consulting company, I first sought out consultants who work for themselves and have been successful in their practices. I met many consultants who provide communications, technical assistance, facilitation and strategic planning support to companies, foundations and nonprofits in my work as a program manager. I took an inventory of those consultants who worked with ease, delivered on time, had repeat clients, and lived comfortably. There were plenty of frazzled consultants, but my tribe were the ones I wanted to emulate.
– People who work like you work or like you aspire to work. I recently attended a strategy session of the GrassRoots Community Foundation run by sociologist Dr. Janice Johnson Dias with board leadership from Tariq Trotter of The Roots. This session convened over 40 practicing academics, community leaders, strategic grant makers and policymakers from universities such as Indiana University, Temple University and UNC Chapel Hill and organizations such as Annie E. Casey Foundation, OMG Center for Collaborative Learning and Amped Strategies. It’s quite easy to name drop when in a group of accomplished professionals, but I stay connected to Dr. Dias for her commitment to “the PhD in action.” I’ve even launched a hash tag campaign – #phdinaction – to highlight academics who leverage their skills, capacity and knowledge to influence and create social change. She holds a full-time faculty position at John Jay College in New York, speaks across the country, and manages a growing national organization for the health of girls and women. Did I mention that she was awarded tenure this semester? She is part of my tribe for how she disseminates research to broad audiences, applies scholarship to current social and health challenges, and brings her authentic self to her scholarship and service.
Your tribe should be a collection of people who are at your life and career stage or just a few steps ahead of you. My tribe is an eclectic mix of entrepreneurs, social innovators, and academics who work inside and outside of the academy. (I can’t close this post without recognizing members of my “nonacademic careers for PhDs” tribe, Jennifer Polk, Chris Humphrey and PhD in Progress.) My tribe provides moral support, models to emulate and critical information and connections that push my life and work to new levels. They remind me that I’m not alone on my journey. Not to mention they make the journey a heck of a lot of fun. Kick loneliness and isolation to the curb — find your tribe and live in fullness!
What people, groups or sectors can you connect with either virtually or in person to meet your tribe?