This post continues our series by a onetime academic job seeker, now academic-at-large.
The idea of adding more online work to your to-do list may be anathema in 2020, but for academics who find themselves at points in their careers where they really need to make connections, online networking has been an unexpected blessing this pandemic year. “In this new world, [social media and blogging] looks more and more like THE essential toolkit for networking,” wrote Neville Morley in a blog post on COVID-era academic networking. Here’s some quick advice for academics looking to connect more between now and whenever it is that we can again gather in hotel conference rooms to chat over subpar coffee.
“Absolutely basic principles,” wrote Morley about academic engagement on Twitter, should be: “Don’t pull rank, don’t dump on people, and if you have lots of followers take some responsibility for their engagement with people who engage with you.” This is not a COVID-specific bit of advice; the best academic networking, Robin Bernstein wrote in the Chronicle a few years ago, is “radically sincere, deep, and generous.” But when everyone is feeling pretty fragile for one reason or another, the advice to “be kind” goes double. See how you can be helpful, and reach out to peers, not just more powerful people; horizontal networking also yields benefits.
Get the basics nailed down
During this time, if you have the bandwidth, make sure your online presence is complete, and that you own it—you should have at least one website or page that’s not tied to your current university. Select—or take—a good headshot to use across platforms; there are many tips for doing this at home to be found online. (At least one platform—LinkedIn—says that profiles with photos attached get many more views than profiles without.) Pick through your previous writing and presentations, gather up the gems, and put the best stuff on that page that you own. Make sure your CV is updated, wherever it can be found.
Find your people
Other standard advice for academic Twitter users pre-COVID still applies: Tap into subject-specific Twitter lists maintained by people you already follow in order to find new connections; lurk on the outskirts of conversations, see who’s the most constructive and interesting, and follow them; look at hashtags for topics that interest you, and find people that way. If you attend virtual conferences, which are a particular artifact of the COVID era, take advantage of any of concurrent Twitter events that are going on.
Sign up for virtual events
Some scholarly organizations have convened Zoom chats for people interested in connecting around a topic. Check with your associations to see if there are any you could join. Even if you can’t find a time that feels natural to speak up during the Zoom, try to find a way to participate in the chat: sharing links, for example, or adding corroboration to a comment. After the event is over, make sure to connect with participants whose work you found interesting on Twitter or LinkedIn, to continue the conversation.
Think outside the Twitter box
LinkedIn, wrote Eva Lantsoght in a post about why academics should use the tool, “can be a source of consistency as you switch institutions.” Lantsoght recommends using LinkedIn to keep connected with people who change their emails often, as many academics do. She advocates linking out to Slideshare to show off presentations; participating in groups by asking and answering questions; and making sure to keep your profile up to date. And for researchers whose work requires them to connect to people who work outside of the academy, or who may look for jobs outside of academia, LinkedIn is the place to be.
As we all live more in front of screens this year, it’s important to be even more intentional with our time online. These recommendations for online networking will help you build community among academics, whether looking for new positions, research opportunities, or simply connection.
What online networking tactics and groups have been fulfilling and valuable for you this year? Share your recommendations and stories with us on Twitter.