Post Academic

Networking Done Right

Posted in Transfer Your Skills by Caroline Roberts on July 5, 2010
Tags: , , ,

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionThe following post was inspired by Post Academic reader SH, who suggested a post about “networking without feeling inauthentic and disingenuous.” Thanks for the idea, SH, and all readers are welcome to propose future topics!

Although they have been known to make love connections, academics and grad students are not social creatures. One of the big reasons any person fears entering the Hamster World is the prospect of networking. Networking has a slimy rep, and we’ve even listed the “Networking Name Dropper” as an annoying graduate-school personality.

But networking doesn’t have to be that way. Here are some common arguments against networking, followed by a sound debunking of the argument:

“I don’t like to think of people as connections.”
Networking implies that you are using people to get ahead, but you don’t have to “use” anyone to network. The only time you “use” anyone is if you accept a favor and don’t give–or at least attempt to give–anything back. If you are polite, if you treat people well, and if you pay it forward, then you’re already a good networker, and you don’t need to scheme to get ahead.

“Networking sounds like making friends at work, but I like to keep my professional life and my friend life separate.”
You’re reading this because you’re in grad school or academia. Your professional life and your friend life have merged into one already. If you want a sharper line between home and work, then you have even more reason to network so you can get into the Hamster World. The private and public can get mixed up there, but it’s a whole lot easier to sort them out when you can leave the office at the end of the day.
Retro telephone image public domain from Wikimedia Commons.

More context on salaries: Furloughs and why it’s probably even worse than the numbers suggest

I wanted to add some anecdotal experience to expand on the raw data of the report, backed with some completely unscientific conjectures, to explain how the situation may even be worse than described in the articles.  Since I’m a UC type, the first thing I thought of when I saw the headlines is whether or not the data takes into account the impact furloughs have had on take-home pay.  The survey does not, so the situation is even bleaker for many state university employees.  From the AAUP report, on furloughs:

We know, for example, that faculty members and other employees of colleges and universities in many states have been forced to take unpaid furloughs during 2009 and 2010. For the most part, however, the reductions in pay resulting from these furloughs are not reflected in our data—although we cannot say for certain how much of a distortion this represents. Many institutions report data for this and similar surveys on the basis of salary levels rather than payroll disbursements.

As a result, I imagine it’s safe to say that economic status of academic instructors is even worse than the objective lowest-pay-increase-in-50-years news that can be statistically proven.  Here are some of the unquantifiable effects of the furloughs on faculty, tenured, tenure-track, or not.  And that’s not mentioning the students who are really taking the brunt of the furloughs, who are receiving less opportunities to learn even as their tuitions and fees are skyrocketing.

1. Economic and personal costs: What’s not as widely reported is the individual toll the furlough can take not just on pocketbooks, but also psyches.  At the economic level, there are a lot of absurd situations that have extracted a lot of unpaid labor not just from temporary faculty holding onto academic affiliations trying to get to the next academic job cycle, but also higher ups.  I’ve heard of cases where faculty are promoted and get raises, only to have their salaries bumped down to what they were making earlier or even less, because of the furlough.  In effect, many people end up having to take on more responsibilities to make up for the loss in pay (though that might not be the primary reason to do so), working more for the same amount of money, in practical terms.

But I imagine this scenario actually shows up as a pay increase on the AAUP survey because they only look at payscales and don’t throw furloughs into their calculations.  So it’s a good bet that the UC and Cal State contributions to the survey are very distorted, showing theoretical raises when the reality is that faculty are seeing less cold, hard cash.  (And to think, there’s probably someone working in some budgeting office earning a salary to do all the double accounting!)

I discuss the further impacts of the furloughs, below the fold…