Wit & Wisdom

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Dr. Jane (Ph.D.) Can't Network, Either

CJ Westerberg, November 7, 2011 7:54 PM

narrow minded.jpg

"Dr. Jane knows how to narrowly present herself
to a unique audience of like-minded individuals.
 Is it any surprise that students aren't well-equipped for our present economy?

Dr. Jane Can't Network, Either
Johnny Can't (Net) Work, But neither can Dr. Jane

By Dr. Lee E. Skallerup, Ph.D

As academics (especially in the humanities), we are trained to network as academics, in order to be academics.  Conferences are spent meeting other academics, creating valuable links that will either lead to jobs or academic collaborations (which lead to jobs).  We shouldn't waste our time meeting people outside of academia, heck, outside of our field, because what good would that serve?

We work -- as pointed out by a recent article in Inside Higher Ed -- as teachers or researchers inside our discipline and sometimes even more narrowly in our specialty.  Why work outside of what we are training to do?

But most importantly, we use social networking as an extension of the first two "networking" opportunities: to promote and connect our narrow research (and thus career) interests.  How many articles about looking for academic work remind newly-minted Ph.D.'s that talking about kids or hobbies on Facebook is a no-no, lest a hiring committee think you aren't dedicated to your research 100% or, once you are hired, wasting your time on frivolous activities like family or your health?  Facebook and Twitter (and to a lesser extent, Linked-in and Academia.edu) have become another non-networking opportunity, another chance for graduate students and Ph.D.'s to show how narrowly focused and single-mindedly dedicated they are to their research.

So how is Dr. Jane supposed to advise Johnny how to network to his benefit? Johnny needs flexible skills, adaptable to a variety of different jobs and demands, and the ability to connect and communicate with a variety of people.  Dr. Jane knows how to narrowly present herself to a unique audience of like-minded individuals.  Is it any surprise that students aren't well-equipped for our present economy?


"Dr. Lee Elaine Skallerup has been teaching at the university level for over ten years, almost exclusively off the tenure-track.  She has taught at both large institutions that focus on research (University of Alberta and University of Kentucky) and smaller institutions that serve non-traditional and minority students . . .  In addition, Dr. Skallerup has worked as a journalist, a freelance writer and editor, and a technical writer.  Consequently, she not only understands the demands of higher education, but also those of the professional world.  Finally, Dr. Skallerup began her academic career teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) to high school students, as such she also understands both the unique challenges second language learners face and the needs of high-school aged students."
Her blog, College Ready Writing, can be found here.

Previously published The Daily Riff June 2010.

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