As a young academic, especially as I draw closer to the end of my PhD, I am increasingly realising the importance of getting noticed. As students enter their post-MA or post-PhD world, they inevitably need to stand out from the crowd in order to reach the next stage in their careers, whether that is a PhD scholarship, a post-doc, a museum post, or a teaching position. The easiest way to do this is to increase people’s awareness of your work. I touched on this in my posts on internships and conference papers, however this post will also look at social media and networking.
There are five main things which I feel are essential in building that vital reputation.
It is essential to gain experience in your chosen field. If you want to go into academia, get teaching experience. If you want to work in museums, volunteer and undertake internships. If you want to go into fashion journalism, write and publish. I have personally been offered paid work out of volunteering and internships, so cannot emphasise enough how useful this can be.
2) Web Presence
Although maybe young academics find posts without it, I think that building a web presence is a massive boost, but only if it is a positive one. Join twitter, write your own blog, keep an academic profile, join academia.edu, join LinkedIn. All these things are massively helpful not just in getting you noticed, but in enabling people to have a good idea about what you do. Like it or not, online academic ‘stalking’ happens. People will google your name, and the more impressive your web presence, the more engaged and active you will seem. However, you must maintain your common sense. Posts about wine at post-conference social gatherings are fine, but make sure you don’t go beyond the ‘approachable but professional‘ boundary.
3) Conference Attendance
Keep attending conferences, and keep giving conference papers. Even when you’re in your final writing up stage, and not producing any more new research, do keep your face and name out there. Even when you’ve graduated, if you’re in a stop-gap job, try to keep presenting. This keeps your name in the minds of your peers, and keeps you engaged with current research. My own conference presentations have led to offers to write articles (sometimes paid) for magazines, to write review articles for journals, and offers of work.
Although getting into publishing is a complicated business, as I explored in a previous post, it is important to keep trying. Moreover, once you’ve got something published, don’t relax and think you’ve got that box ticked. The more you have published the better. If you’re struggling to get journal publications, write a blog and write for magazines.
5) Keep working!
The hardest thing to do when you have people constantly telling you about all the extra things you should be doing is to keep your thesis afloat. It is important to remember that your thesis is your priority. If you’re struggling to juggle conferences, social media, publications and your research, your research has to come first. It is all well and good looking impressive to people, but you have to have to research to back in up.