Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Brief Intro to Networking for Post-Acs

Networking is one of those things that may feel impossible when moving out of academia. Oh sure, we've all rubbed shoulders with fellow Victorianists interested in the ethics of literary experience at MLA, but self-promotion and glad-handing are not really a part of our academic repertoire. It can feel a little too close to, ya know, begging. Or lying, if you're feeling completely defeated and inadequate.

But networking is crucial to post-academic life, and once you learn some tactics, it's not as bad as you think. One thing to remember is that while this is all foreign and new to you, people in the real world expect you to ask questions, add them on Linked In, probe about openings at their company, etc. We have some excellent guest posts about networking and linked in headed your way, but in the meantime, revisit some advice from Worst Professor Ever, who wrote a short series called "Networking for Misanthropes and Introverts." She writes:
If you’re feeling awkward about the whole idea, the best way to get over it is to keep doing it. The learning curve is no worse than teaching, trust me. Play to your strengths, which are listening and remembering names and stuff. Check out these Forbes tips for conversational success. And these tips for not feeling sleazy. And consider that introvert leaders may yet take over the world with their mad but stealthy skillz  that extroverts ‘just can’t access’.

She briefly covers informational interviewing, cold contacts, etc. She reminds us that teaching is just as social, charged, and draining as networking, but with a lot more payoff potential!
The bottom line is, you have to network if you want to transition. As I’ve told several people, HR is likely to discard your unorthodox job experience without a second look; you need an actual person to tell them not to. Think of networking as the groundwork for sending off an application, or better yet, a way to meet someone who runs a smaller business and might be willing to give you a shot in a way a large corporation won’t.

Success in any endeavor requires you to do things that aren’t particularly fun. And I’m still gonna say that, as tiring as I find active networking, meeting potentially interesting grownups beats the hell out of killing myself for students — because, let’s face it, teaching is possibly the worst, most exhausting job for introverts. As I learned the hard way.

Be sure to read the comments for even more tidbits about networking for post-academics.Versatile PhD has oodles of info on informational interviewing, which is a great way to start learning about careers outside of academia and making connections. For example, I have been interested in faculty development as a possible career, so I requested an informational interview with the director of my university's Center for Teaching before I left. It was really helpful, and now she knows my name and face. All I had to do was think of the questions I had for her -- genuine questions! -- and ask them! This could also help you figure out what you don't want to do. If you have a friend or colleague who works in a position that you find interesting, drop them a line and ask if you can talk to them about what it's like, their insights, etc.So start networking on today! Sign up at Versatile PhD, and start commenting on other blogs! Earlier this fall, a post-ac blogger shared an opening at her workplace that was ideal for post-acers. This is how you get your foot in the door.

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