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Sunday, October 23, 2005

Networking on the Network

Networks are extremely important to professional success - particularly in academia. Unfortunately, graduate students receive almost no guidance on how to do it (other than go to the cocktail party at the reception and introduce yourself to new people).

Here's an incredibly insightful and thorough guide to networking for academics. It's titled "Networking On The Network", and it's written by Phil Agre, an Information Studies Prof at UCLA. Here's the overview:
  • Section 2 provides a simple six-step model of the networking process.
  • Section 3 considers several advanced topics: noticing emerging themes in your area, using consultation to organize things, ensuring that you get proper credit for your contributions, learning to engage professionally with people from different disciplinary and cultural backgrounds, and deciding where to publish your work.
  • Section 4 describes the relationship between your professional network and your dissertation. Both of them pertain to the process of knitting yourself and your work into a set of professional relationships.
  • Section 5 reveals the mysteries of academic language.
  • Section 6 explains how to get an academic job, building on the networking you've done and on the concepts that underlie networking.
  • Section 7 assumes that you have established yourself in the research community and introduces the topic of advising others.
  • Section 8 explains how to get tenure, emphasizing the "deep tenure" that you attain within your research community rather than the details of departmental politics.
  • Section 9 presents several theories of your career, based on other people's ideas. My own theory of your career is called incremental alignment. Its main purpose is to keep you from overgeneralizing when you find yourself in career circumstances that aren't entirely positive.
  • Section 10 presents a more advanced theory of networking, including the process by which research fields become institutionalized.
  • Section 11 then examines the moral issues that the process of leadership can raise. An appendix provides an annotated bibliography of books and articles on the topic of professional networking.
I'm fortunate when it comes to networking, since my father ran an insurance agency. He came across as a "natural" networker, but if you talked to him about it, you quickly found out that he was extremely systematic about how he went about it.

As a result of his advice, I'm probably a better networker than most in my field. But even if that's true, this guide amazed me in its breadth and depth. If you're a grad student or even a young academic, read it. It'll make a big difference to your career. As an example of how networking helps, both interviews I had at the recent FMA conference came about as a direct result of my contacts I had made previously. So, networking counts. A lot.

HT: Cool Tools for the link.

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