There’s not much that I dread more than networking events. So many of us (yes, even me) hate networking. Trying to strike up a conversation, nevermind build meaningful connections with strangers, can feel awkward at best, and at worst, forced and insincere. And for academics in particular, it can feel sales-pitchy, gross, and off putting. Yet there are real, tangible benefits to networking. Conversations with work friends can lead to opportunities. You might hear about an upcoming job opening before it gets posted. You’re more likely to find out the inside scoop about an employer. Your connections might approach you to speak on your area of expertise, giving you the chance to promote your skills and knowledge. Or when you’re a candidate for a job, you might know someone who can put in a good word for you (in addition to your professional references). Networking isn’t just about sharing business cards or building up your LinkedIn connections, though. For your network to be effective, you need to have or build relationships with your associates. You don’t want your connections to decline to connect, grow stale, or drop you because it’s a one-way connection. Making your network work for you means meeting people organically, and then thinking of your associates as real, genuine relationships. People who are not just looking out for you, but who are invested in keeping a relationship with you. So how can you do this? There’s two easy steps.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about credentials. For the first few years after I started working full-time in a new field, I was relishing *just* working. I finally had some semblance of work-life balance and had no reason to consider building up my credentials. My existing credentials had gotten me in the door and then the quality of my work itself was good enough to not just keep me there, but to get me promoted a couple of times early on. But it’s not just that I was fine leaving well enough alone. I also had a certain, well, attitude about it. I refused to consider another degree or a certification. I felt strongly I had already done more than my fair share of time as a student.
My post last week about impostor syndrome got me thinking. It’s not just impostor syndrome academics who tend to struggle with putting limits around info gathering. It’s common among all academics. And so that made me think about other work skills that us academics all need to work on a bit. These are some habits that we academics – yes, even me! – pick up through grad school and beyond. Note that I’m not labeling these habits as good or bad – they can serve us well, but they can also be our worst enemies at times. But let’s be real: there are some academic habits that I have needed to adjust, work around, or just plain kick to the curb over the years. These rear their heads most prominently when you first start working or when you transition into a whole new career, so if you’re new to your job, listen up. (But that doesn’t mean we can’t all use a refresher.) Let’s start with a REALLY common one: procrastination. We all know we need to stop procrastinating. WAY easier said than done, though, so we all need to continuously work on this one, unfortunately. I truly think this can be a lifelong struggle. (Sorry, don’t mean to be a downer!). Procrastination can take many forms.
Mastering the workplace: An ongoing series in which we talk about work skills so you can rock your job. I was in a meeting today in which I had to introduce and define impostor syndrome to some (ahem, male) colleagues, explaining how important it was and that this is a real thing. I’ll save you a google – impostor syndrome is SUPER common throughout academia, and is when high achieving individuals – often women – believe that they are impostors, waiting to be found out and walked out of the workplace. They “struggle to internalize their success…[describing] feelings of fraudulence because they do not attribute their success to their own abilities despite many achievements and accolades. Imposters see themselves as unworthy of the level of praise they are receiving because they do not believe they have earned such recognition based on their capabilities, causing heightened levels of anxiety and stress.” (Anna Parkman, “The Imposter Phenomenon in Higher Education: Incidence and Impact,” Journal of Higher Education Theory and Practice, 2016, p.52).
An ongoing series in which we identify your transferable skills. Today’s edition: communicating complicated things clearly. This is one of the strongest transferable skills that any academic has. For years, you have worked at and honed your ability to understand and communicate extremely complicated ideas, concepts, and subjects. In article-length form, in lectures, in manuscript-length forms, in concise abstracts for conference presentations, and maybe even in tweets. This is an advanced communication skill that you can and should list on your resume, demonstrate through your cover letter, and provide examples of during job interviews. Some academics feel they don’t have this skill, but I promise you do.
I saw this story from Southern Illinois University Carbondale this morning, about recruiting “volunteers” to adjunct for them. Um, whut? “Qualified alumni would not teach entire courses, but might deliver an individual lecture, lead a seminar discussion, mentor students or contribute to thesis committees.” Um. Again, what?