July 16, 2014 By John Frisch
Networking Happy Hour | New York, NY | July 16, 2014
This evening I will attend a PhDs at Work networking event for a third time — and am very much looking forward to it.
Hosted by Michelle Erickson, these gatherings of ridiculously over-educated people finding professional niches in roles for which we were not expressly trained are intellectually stimulating and emotionally comforting. Conversations range across farflung topics (occasionally related to participants’ academic experiences), and collegial support and mutual curiosity abound. As one would expect, attitudes about reconciling academic ambitions/expectations with extra-academic life-building are complex and discussed. Some — often those most recently hazed by doctoral committees — are disillusioned, disappointed, and even perhaps bitter about being displaced from the academic nest; others can barely contain their glee and relief at having escaped it. All understand the great pleasure of doing research and sharing knowledge, and in that spirit we quickly trade insights, anecdotes, tips, and leads about employment in the “real world.”
Beyond the camaraderie, business is being conducted. Would-be hirers and hirees are present. Michelle has an uncanny ability to elicit our skills, interests, needs, and abilities and — with her complete put-anybody-at-ease social grace — to introduce attendees accordingly. She sets the tone, and the rest of us generously help the match-making along. Personally, I’ve had several intriguing conversations about projects that could involve me and I’ve met people who were suited for jobs that I knew about. In one case, I had the pleasure of referring an attendee to take over a freelance job for me.
Like many of the other members of PhDs at Work, I operate on multiple cylinders (in my case as a software/website quality-assurance specialist, as a copyeditor, as a proofreader, as a data/content manager, as an oboist, and – intermittently – as an adjunct music professor), and my career has hardly followed a single path. It’s exciting to be in a room full of people who also are taking detours and often enough inviting others to join them.