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Networking Within the Office

Posted in Transfer Your Skills by Caroline Roberts on November 27, 2010
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PhotobucketIf you are a supervisor or in a more powerful position, one of the best ways to fight bullying and assholism is to get more people involved in group activities. No, I don’t mean those cringe-inducing corporate retreats in which people engage in exercises that just make everyone look awkward. But you can work hard to make sure people feel like they have a say in how an office or a department is run.

When people feel left out, problems result. They may be as minor as gossip or bickering or as major as people refusing to do their jobs. The truth is that people need to keep networking within the workplace so they can build teams. Knowing that some people in your office have your back can come in handy. I’m pretty sure it can also protect against departmental strife. Many workplace conflicts arise not because people disagree over a project but because they disagree over personalities. The only way to keep personality conflicts from hampering your job is to make the effort to get to know and understand each other. Here’s how:

Hold meetings. Yeah, yeah. I don’t like meetings, either. But meetings also bring the team together so people can be reminded of each other’s existence. It’s a whole lot harder to ignore someone’s existence if you have to look them in the eye once a week during a status meeting. Of course, that means one of you needs to figure out how to hold an effective meeting, and that’s another story altogether …

More after the jump! Playful image of a social network by Koreshky from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
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After all these years: Reconnecting with faculty

Posted in Process Stories,Surviving Grad School by Arnold Pan on July 13, 2010
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"A handshake" by Dan Beard (public domain)

Remember how we wrote up a mid-summer Choose-Your-Own-Adventure checklist as a healthy reminder of what you should/could be doing to make the most of your dwindling block of dissertating/research time?  We should’ve included that you need to stay in touch with your diss committee and faculty mentors.  We know it’s easy for academics to reverse-hibernate during the summer, but it’s a good idea to stay in contact with folks and even follow up with faculty you’ve lost touch with.  And it’s never too early to plan ahead for the upcoming round of job applications, so stay in prime networking shape, while you’re also getting what you’re supposed to be doing done.

Here’s what got me to think about how easy it can be to reconnect with your faculty whom you might have dropped out of touch with: Recently, I ran into a prominent prof in my field whom I hadn’t seen for a few years, as well as another faculty member whom I only know on a personal level at a talk.  Not only did I have a good chat with them, but they were in fact warmer to me than ever before.  This may have been due to the occasion, but I almost felt like they felt like they were seeing an old friend when we were catching up–although I didn’t tell them about my post-academic plans!  The interactions put things about my relationships with mentors and former teachers into a new perspective for me.

Memories can be strong: I mean this in two ways.  First, like I mentioned above, good impressions can carry a long way, and remembrances of things past can end up feeling warmer over time.  Second, give credit to your faculty boosters for having good memories, rather than assuming that they’re just absent-minded professors.  And give yourself some credit, because you probably did something good in a seminar or while TA’ing with a prof to make your faculty booster think of you fondly.

More about keeping in touch with your profs, below the fold…

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The Pros of Word-of-Mouth

Posted in Transfer Your Skills by Caroline Roberts on July 7, 2010
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PhotobucketUsually, word-of-mouth refers to rumors and gossip. At best, it seems more suitable for a viral video than it is for academic work. Yet word-of-mouth is one of those intangibles that might get you a job, either in or out of the academy.

Freelance writers in particular rely on word-of-mouth to build up a client base. Writer Dachary Carey,* who covers a range of topics on the life of a freelancer, writes:

First and foremost: treat every job like a big job. Don’t put small jobs off because they’re ‘small’ and they won’t pay you much; treat your small clients with the same respect and responsiveness that you provide your ‘big’ clients. You never know when a small client can refer a big client, or even when a small client expands the scope of his business or marketing efforts and needs more from you.

The mantra “treat every job like a big job” is worth keeping in mind as you make any career transition. When moving from academia to the Hamster World, you will need to take on “small jobs” that may be small in quantity of work, pay or prestige. You have to prove yourself first, and then the work will follow.

For that reason, you need to minimize any trash talk or negative feelings regarding small jobs. You may feel tempted to brush off a small client, but no one ever, ever likes to be “looked down” upon. It can be exhausting to treat all jobs like they are important, but the key to avoid burnout is to employ smart time management skills … a subject that will appear later.

*I worked with Dachary for two years, and I’ll use her word-of-mouth tips and recommend her work. Even if you don’t need a freelance writer, her blog can help you with tips on self-employment.

Image of “The Conversation” by Danielle Scott, on Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license.

Networking Done Right

Posted in Transfer Your Skills by Caroline Roberts on July 5, 2010
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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.
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Speaking of Homi Bhabha: When academic celebs disappoint you…

Posted in Absurdities,First Person by Arnold Pan on May 14, 2010
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"The sad clown" by steenslag (Creative Commons license)

No, we really don’t mean for this to be “Mock Homi Bhabha Friday”, but Caroline’s post reminded me of a personal interaction I had with the inimitable postcolonialist back in my first year of grad school, maybe even on this very day in May 1998.  It was one of the first cases for me that I was conscious of a celeb (at least in my geeky world) disappointing me–though maybe it wasn’t as bad as when Yo La Tengo forgot that my friend Mike and I got them an extra guitar strap after one of theirs had broken during a show, only to have them disavow what happened by saying that it would’ve been something they would’ve remembered!

But really, my disappointment in Bhabha has a lot more to say about me than it does about him.  Here’s what happened: Bhabha had been invited to give a theory lecture that wasn’t the Welleks.  The talk itself was somewhat incomprehensible, but I chalked it up to me being a first year grad student–well, that’s probably half the reason.  After the lecture, faculty members I had taken a theory seminar with invited me and some of my friends over to a potluck in honor of our esteemed visitor, which we were excited to go to and probably a bit puffed up to be chosen to attend.  We drove over to the faculty members’ home after getting something for the potluck, eager for the event as only the uninitiated and earnest often are.  Here comes disappointment, below the fold…

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What I shoulda-woulda-coulda been doing for the next academic job cycle

"Winter White Russian Dwarf Hamster in a hamster wheel" by Doenertier82 (Creative Commons)

I’ve been recounting my experiences on the job market this past year, to commemorate receiving my final few rejection letters over the last week.  Now let’s hypothetically imagine what I should be/would be/could be doing to get ready for the 2010-11 academic job cycle/hamster wheel, since part of the academic life is always feeling like you’re behind even if you might be trying to plan ahead.  Considering that my interview yield rate was pretty bad this year, these musings are likely to remain hypothetical no matter if my odds would be any better next year or if the job market bounces back from being the worst ever.  Still, there’s no harm in daydreaming and, who knows, maybe it might help someone else who’s still planning on trying her/his luck on the market again.

1. Beg, beg, beg for an adjuncting position: It can’t help my job search prospects when I haven’t taught in over a calendar year and not at all during the 2009-10 academic year.  I’ve tried to teach at least one quarter a calendar year so that I can at least fudge it on my CV, but I struck out this year, in part due to not being asked to teach by the depts I’ve worked for because of the crappy UC budget and in part because I’m not really motivated to beg to work at a pay rate that’s little better than what I was getting as a TA.  The latter wasn’t so bad when it seemed worthwhile for professional development because I got the chance to teach my own syllabi, but those experiences haven’t exactly panned out.  Like when I applied for an adjunct position at another local school to teach a course that I’ve taught before with a real, class-tested syllabus, only to be used as hiring compliance fodder so that the dept could hire its own student it probably planned to hire in the first place.  But hey, I’m not bitter and, anyway, I was probably that guy when my own home dept hired me.

More stuff I could be doing instead of complaining and blogging, below the fold…

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Resources: LinkedIn

Posted in Transfer Your Skills by Caroline Roberts on March 25, 2010
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Networking is one of the most painful parts about building a career, especially if you are a shy person who prefers to have a nose in a book. I consider myself one of those shy people. I also liked to believe that I could let my merit speak for me and that I didn’t have to be “fake” and schmooze my way up the ladder.

However, I discovered that networking is really just making acquaintances—and possibly terrific friends—who happen to have the same career interests you do. Think of how you make friends after moving to a new town or starting a new stage in life. You probably ask friends you currently have if they know anyone in that area or that school. Then you spend time with those people, and your circle of friends expands. And that’s all networking is, except you might talk about career trends more, and you can’t drink as much, lest you embarrass yourself in front of a potential employer.

The Web site LinkedIn.com is a way for you to get accustomed to networking. If you’re already on Facebook, then there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t open an account on LinkedIn, which is like Facebook, only with more resume info and fewer embarrassing photos.

By signing up on LinkedIn, you can find friends of yours, and you can also search for specific companies. When you perform a company search, you can find out if you know anyone who works at one of those companies. A connection can work behind the scenes to help you get hired at a job. It isn’t fair, but, as Arnold writes about the myth of pure merit, networking can get you a job, especially if a company can choose only one applicant from a pool of equally worthy individuals.

LinkedIn

**As always, this post isn’t intended to be an ad, but if we come across a site that will save you time or get you a new job, then we’re plenty happy to spread the word.

The Art of Making Conversation

Posted in Surviving Grad School by Caroline Roberts on March 10, 2010
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Did you choose grad school because you aren’t a “people person”? Alas, you’re going to have to mingle at some point, or your career will suffer. A grad-student blogger at Lesson: Learned? has this handy suggestion:

Drink.  It will help you talk to people who may or may not be important.  But there is nothing a scientist secretly likes more than a drunk sidekick.  Maybe you’ll land a fabu post-doc.

Or don’t drink. Being a funny sidekick is just as good as being a drunk sidekick. Do whatever you must to make friends with others, and get used to networking. I used to enjoy “networking” as much as I did a sharp stick in the eye, and I’m still not a people-person, but there are nice people out there beyond your stack of books.

These nice people probably want to talk about subjects other than work, and they’ll appreciate that you are reaching out. In fact, some of those people might want to help you if they think you’re a nice person, too. All you have to do is speak up.

Later on, how to handle the not-so-nice types you may meet in your academic career …

“Surviving” grad school [Lesson: Learned?]