A conversation with someone I went to grad school with inspired this post. S/he made a comment that s/he didn’t want to network at our upcoming disciplinary conference. Rather, s/he wanted to spend time with people she felt comfortable with. I actually don’t think the two sentiments are contrary to one another. For me, part of networking involves finding people that I mesh with personally and academically. There has been talk of networking in the academic blogosphere: Reassigned Time and Ferule and Fescue have great posts encouraging people to network. The Professor is In has great advice for working the conference. You can also find networking and academic PR advice here, here, and here. I’m sure other blogs have great advice as well. I wanted to throw in my two cents as a young academic just starting out.
- Just presenting at the conference and being in the conference program can help you meet other academics interested in your area of study. I got my first invitation to publish in an edited volume (I know some people frown upon this) from the organizer of the volume viewing my entry and asking if I could submit something.
- Present on panels at conferences, and particularly on panels with new people or people not affiliated with your institution. When my friend told me that s/he didn’t want to “network” at the conference, I told her that s/he was already doing that by being on a panel. I think my friend needed to revise their idea of networking to go beyond schmoozing at the society receptions to include the actual panel presentations. (Although I personally like schmoozing at the bar too)
- Go to workshops at conferences.
- Go to association meetings and receptions. You never know who you’ll run into.
- If people show interest in your paper follow up. When people ask me for my paper, I send it to them. (I do consider the possibility of plagiarizing so I generally wait until the paper is under review somewhere if I’m going to send it to a stranger)
- If you are concerned about networking, maybe setting the bar low would help. Plan to meet one new person after attending a conference or workshop.
- If you are a grad student consider graduate student paper competitions. I have entered some and I used to consider their only benefit to come from winning them. However, now I think about them as creating networks by getting my research “out there” and read by people not on my dissertation committee and sometimes by people not in my direct area. Even if you don’t win someone else, probably not at your institution, have looked at your work.
- Go to lunch with speakers that come to your university if possible.
- Ask questions of people at conference panels and after it’s over go up and introduce yourself and follow up.
- Have a website, academia.edu page, twitter, or some internet presence. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve googled someone to find out more about their research and they seem to have left no digital mark. Also, many of my academic friends on facebook promote their talks and recent publications through that venue. It’s funny to me because they generally preface their post with an apology for their shameless self promotion, but then they always include the link to their latest article. (I really don’t think they’re sorry, and they really shouldn’t be) I’ve had a couple friends announce on facebook when their publications have been accepted for publication and I think that might be borderline shameless. But I do like to see the articles when they come out. (See here for further thoughts on academic PR and shameless self promotion)
Since I listed 10 suggestions in the heading I won’t go beyond that number. I’m still trying to figure out how to enter into that elusive circuit of invited talks and lectures at different institutions. I’ve given one talk and attended one workshop at other schools, but I don’t have any invitations on the horizon. I write and think about my networks not being as robust as they could be, but I offer these suggestions and invite others for those of us hoping to improve them.