I had been thinking today that, while all of our life experiences add up to help us be where we are now and prepare us for what we need to do and what we need to learn, there are a few experiences I have had that I think really helped me as an academic. This is beyond the school training, the apprenticeships in graduate school, the wonderful intellectual conversations.
- Theater. I did theater a long time ago, and if the universe has any justice, no records of that will ever be found nor made public. The benefit to theater is presenting in public and knowing how to evoke different responses from an audience. We constantly have audiences. The academy is not a good place for stage fright, and I have received nice comments from people on my ability to be 'on stage'.
- Student leadership. Most notably, I was a house advisor in college (most often called resident advisor at other institutions). We had to organize a lot of programs, run a lot of meetings, learn to deal with surprises, publicize, manage budgets, etc. Turns out I do a lot of that here too. And you have to learn to do those things when completely exhausted and drained but in a way that makes people feel welcome and encouraged. Kudos to my friends who have gone on to careers in student affairs, because I can't do that anymore. Beyond the HA/RA thing, I did various student government things. I understand the importance of bylaws and have a sense of what makes for a productive meeting and what does not.
- Sales. For various times in my life, I have done sales. It is not my favorite job because I do not like pushing things onto other people, but being able to know how to listen and pitch is a lot of what I do now professionally. Here I am pitching ideas and methods and trying to get people to see the value of them. Granted, in this case I buy into them rather than doing it just because my job relies on it. Of course, I don't really get any sort of commission from it, and this is not a good way to get rich. Alas.
Certainly there are others, but these stood out to me today.