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« Reader query: how many recommendation letters? | Main | Working together: There must be a way »

08/13/2015

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guy

Marcus is right about the general approach to networking (a word I do not like). You want to connect with people in the field who are doing similar work. So at conferences make a point of reaching out to those people (junior and senior) whose work you have read and cited. People love to know that you know their work.
As for soliciting letters of support ... these should be from senior people in the field. And they should know your work. But the easy way to get the right people is to share your work with people you cite. In the old "paper post" days, I made a point of sending a copy of papers that addressed people's work to those people. I would attach a small note, making a connection. Sometimes this led no where, but at other times people responded. Again, Marcus is right that you need to begin to connect with people even if they do not become letter writers for you.
Things are also trickier now. I do not like to receive a lot of unsolicited e-mail with copies of papers. Too often they are irrelevant to my research. But I have had junior scholars send me papers that address or discuss my work. Provided they do not grossly misrepresent what I say in print, I will engage them in a discussion. But I am not interested in discussing someone's work who has grossly misrepresented what I say.
In at least one case this led to me writing a letter for someone, who did in fact get a job (after a few years of trying). I do not claim to be responsible for their getting the job; but it certainly did not hurt. I spoke in the letter of the person as a researcher, the only way I know them, as I have never met them in person. It probably helped that (unbeknownst to the person and me), I had refereed at least one manuscript for a journal by that person. (i only discovered the connection when I saw the paper in print).

anon

Probably the most straightforward way to do it is just to do good work, publish in good places, get invited to conferences, and then make connections from there. I think "cold calling" is a little weak, but you could end up getting lucky. Another great trick is to use visiting speaker series to bring out people you want to meet; gives you a great chance to meet them. We more or less let our grad students pick the speakers where I work for exactly that reason. Junior faculty have a strong vote, too.

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