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« Contacting profs before applying to postdocs? | Main | Publishing philosophy without credentials? »

03/18/2021

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Recently tenured

The importance of outside letters shouldn't be underestimated (I ended up getting a letter from one of the very biggest names in the field because someone I knew from conferences knew her well and recommended my work to her - I am CERTAIN this helped me get my job), but lots of other things, too: yes, people will reach out to you and encourage you to apply to jobs, you'll get invited to be part of fancy workshops, you'll be invited to write papers for special issues, you'll be invited to give seminar talks at other universities.

But honestly the very best part of "networking" for me has been meeting really fantastic, kind, interesting people working on great stuff. I am pretty introverted, and find conferences in large part stressful and not fun - but I look forward so, so much to getting to spend time at conferences with some of the people I've already gotten to know, but at my own career stage (recently tenured) and more senior and more junior.

Rex

Among my external reviewers for T&P: two people I met at conferences, one person I met during a one-year instructor gig, and one person who edited a volume I contributed to (a person I met initially through my dissertation director).

I was asked to co-edit a volume by another person I met at a conference.

I go to a couple of conferences every year. In some cases I see the same people year after year, including association staff, and this helps me with conference anxiety. This has been a benefit to me.

I've met a couple of new people through grad student pals I catch up with at conferences.

anon

The invitation to apply isn't necessarily so great: lots of my better networked colleagues have been invited to apply but then didn't get an interview. I don't know what the success rate is for this type of applicant though. Maybe it's above average.

The main concrete benefit not mentioned in the OP I've seen is the one mentioned above: invitations to get published in contributed volumes.

Europostdoc

Related to 'recently tenured', I've had complex things explained to me in 10 minutes that would have taken me several days to understand by research when networking, I've had some of the most important articles for my research recommended to me when networking, etc etc.

Further, meeting people for future collaborations can be very formative for your career.

it's a sham

Citations. If you're well-networked, you'll get a lot of citations. I have two papers on the same general subject, one with a well-networked philosopher and one without. The one without, despite in fact being a better paper and being published in a better journal, has 3x less citations than the one with the well-networked individual.

Job offers. I think this is especially true for short-term jobs and postdocs. I've seen this happen many times, where the connected person is hired over others. However, I have a close friend whose current assistant prof job was due entirely to the fact that this person knew and had worked with the person in charge of hiring. This is in Europe. I think networking might be even more important in Europe.

TT

I have had 3 academic jobs post-PHD. All of them were in departments where someone knew me or met me before. one search chair who hired me later said that I stood out in the application pile because he met me at a conference 6 years prior when I was a second year PHD student and he remembered that I made a good impression.

recent TT hire

Definitely helped me with invitations to contribute to special issues of journals and book chapters. Might have helped me get things like fellowships and awards, but that is speculative. Still, I think there is value to building up your reputation as a junior scholar who works on x, and part of the way to do that is networking because that is one way people will learn this fact about you.

Some people might view networking as 'schmoozing' but one of the best (and probably most productive) kind of networking is where you have common interests.

One way to do this kind of networking is to consistently get your papers into conferences and then make sure to give a good talk (if you are shy, practice your talk a lot before, ideally in front of a lower stakes audience). People will come speak to you afterwards. Find out whether they work on the subject, or if they have a paper on it, then follow up later to request a copy if unpublished.

Also, go to talks in your area of interest and ask clear and confident-sounding questions (you don't have to actually be confident, just channel the spirit of a mediocre white dude - it really works!) during Q&A and/or go speak with the person afterwards to introduce yourself and ask the question. Tell them you also work on x. If appropriate, grab a coffee together to discuss x.

What's so great about this kind of networking is that it's about getting a chance to talk about something you are interested in with someone else who has expertise in this area - doesn't happen often!

Another word of advice is not to worry too much about networking with 'very important people' (usually senior members of the profession with 'superstar' reputations whatever that means in philosophy lol).

Maybe that is important for some other purpose, but the sort of networking I have described here is about finding the people who work in your subfield. That may or may not include a senior member. This is definitely an important form of networking because these are the people editing special issues and books, and putting together conference panels.

Also, fwiw, in my experience, it is other relatively junior (though senior to me) members of the profession that have reached out to me with opportunities because of networking.

Final suggestion: now that we are in the zoom era, you can do this sort of networking online. Just cold email people that you want to talk to. "Hi, I am a junior scholar who works on x. I really like your work on x, and I was wondering if I could invite you for a (zoom) coffee sometime next week to talk about it."

Anon

I got invited to apply for and landed a postdoc that I would not have been aware of if not for networking. After an APA author meets critic session, I went along to the hotel bar with the group from the session and had a very nice conversation about the session with the senior scholar who authored the work. This was my first (and at the time) only interaction with that scholar. It turns out that they were involved in a grant with someone abroad in a philosophy adjacent field and roughly six months later, I got the invitation.

I've also had several co-authorships result from networking. Chatting with people after talks is a great way to find common interests and points of agreement that can serve as the basis for papers.

Another TT

I was never able to make myself do much networking with established scholars as a grad student, but I did get to know other grad students at conferences and now, years later, those connections are proving very mutually beneficial as we all advance in the field. So, don't discount the value of networking with peers. I also got a lot of valuable feedback on my work that way.

This is just anecdotal of course, but people I know who put a lot of effort into networking with established people do not seem to have ended up with better jobs as a result. And the invitations to publish in edited volumes can be a mixed blessing. At my institution, most of those publications basically don't count toward tenure.

Evan

I think it would be helpful if the comments or future commenters tell the OP which AOS or subfield they are in. I suspect that persons at a large subfield will have a harder time standing out or being memorable compared to someone in a smaller subfield where a lot of people know each other.

There is one trade-off of course: even if you stand out or are more memorable in a very niche subfield, you’ll nevertheless may have a harder time finding employment simply because your area might be too niche. I would like to know if this is the case or not generally speaking. This “targeted” approach can be illuminating since context matters a lot in successful employment.

Assistant Professor

Three thoughts on networking:

1. Well-networked mentors can be incredibly helpful to their students during their training (especially if those mentors share their invitations to present talks or write publications to their students either in their place or in collaboration) and on the job market (yes, people do pick up the phone and talk to each other about job candidates and get first-hand info beyond what is in someone's application).

2. I benefited/continue to benefit from networking with people in my subfield in terms of how best to navigate the professional aspects of my career.

3. Ever notice how articles in excellent journals often acknowledge the many well-established philosophers who provided feedback on drafts or ideas? I take it that being well-connected with people who actually read and comment on each other's work is philosophically useful, at least insofar as getting work published at top journals goes.

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