Networking means developing a set of professional colleagues who have a stake in your success, as you do in theirs. Your professional network is made up of people both near and far in relationship. Conducted with respect, reciprocity and gratitude, networking can contribute substantially to your career development.
Who is included in an academic network?
- Graduate school colleagues and the people to whom they introduce you.
- Undergraduate and graduate school professors and the people to whom they introduce you.
- Officers in your professional organizations—of divisions as well as the whole.
- Members of your interest area in professional organizations.
- Departmental colleagues (current and former), especially those who work in your general area.
- College colleagues who share mutual interests.
- Students and former students.
- Grants, research and budget officers.
- Chair, dean and provost.
- Editors who publish your work.
- External reviewers for reappointment and tenure.
How do you work with your network?
- VOLUNTEER! Offer to work with and for them—as journal reviewer, conference paper reader, committee member, organizational officer and so on.
- Attend conferences where your external network people may be and connect with them—at panels, parties, division meetings and so on.
- Make it your business to meet them and have meaningful conversation.
- Accomplish your work well and on time.
- Ask them to read your work and offer feedback—thank them promptly.
- If your work is published, acknowledge their help in the piece and also by a note—don’t underestimate the value of a handwritten thank you.
Keep in mind the reciprocal nature of this relationship. Both give and receive. Often, newer scholars behave somewhat like students, who receive, but don’t give, perhaps seeing themselves as located in an unequal relationship. Realize that you, too, have something to offer even scholars you perceive as more advanced in their careers than you are.