Mascot for #DevilDiss

Mascot for #DevilDiss
Mascot for #DevilDiss

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Why You Need to Be on Social Media (as an academic)

In the past, I've written about how Twitter, and judicious use of social media has impacted my academic life. There are some new grad students in my program though that now read/follow this blog so I wanted to write a little refresher/update.

If you're a grad student and you don't have a Twitter account, start one.
If you don't have a scholarly blog where you post/share your work, create one.

I'll tell you why, in detail, you should be doing these things below, but let's not bury the lead.
  • I just secured a book chapter this morning because a friend posted on Twitter that someone had dropped out of an anthology and he needed someone to fill it.
  • I was asked this summer to contribute to an edited collection because the editor had read my work on Sequart and had read my blog and was interested both by my writing style and how prolific I was in my writing.
  • I have a chapter in a fairy tale collection currently being shopped, that again, I got because of Twitter.
  • That's in addition to an article I had the opportunity to write because of Twitter, and my first book chapter contribution, which also came from Twitter
For those of you keeping count, as a third semester PhD student I have three publications out, and three in the pipe that should come out the next year. That's six publication credits for a second year PhD student. Given what the job market for the humanities, particularly English, looks like now, most people agree that the single most important way you can distinguish yourself is publications. It's not a magic bullet, things like fit and field certainly count. But if it's you against five hundred others with the same basic qualifications, and if you've proven you can produce consistently you're going to go to the head of the class.

So here's a basic primer for how you can and should use social media to increase your profile and get your name and work out there as well as make valuable networking connections.
  • I regularly post what I'm working on research-wise on Twitter. My dissertation has a hashtag, #DevilDiss. People in related fields comment on it, recommend resources, or just favorite or retweet. This makes connections to people in my field, provides me with sources I may not know about and gets my work forwarded to others.
  • I follow people in my field and interact with them. In a genuine manner. Be a person. While I reserve Twitter for professional interactions, I don't want to be a robot, so my dog Nehi gets her picture put up there sometimes, and other personal details that personalize me without drifting into oversharing. Don't be a suck up- blatant pandering is VERY obvious on Twitter, as is name dropping, but asking genuine questions, or participating in a conversation is different. These connections will lead you to others, and your network will expand.
  • On my scholarly blog, I post all kinds of things- posts about attending recent job seekers workshops, prepping conference presentations, papers, course materials that are relevant to my dissertation. Once I write a post I link to it on Twitter. This not only helps you organize your work, but as a lot of people have written, getting into the habit of regularly writing, writing ALL THE TIME on different topics and for different audiences only improves your academic writing.
These are all simple steps that will not only get your work out there, but will also get you talking to the people in your field/specialty. You can start building today.

But this is not enough. As the saying goes, connections will only get you the chance, it's what you DO with the chance that matters. You need to have a work ethic. A good one. You need to earn a reputation for being someone that can be counted on. Can deliver on deadlines. Deliver good work that requires little editing. This type of reputation will ensure that people think of you when they have an opportunity, will recommend you for other work.
In addition to a good work ethic be sure to be professional and polite. Maybe it sounds simplistic but thank people for the opportunity. Express how excited you are to be able to do this work. These things count too.

Most of my professors aren't on Twitter. They don't know how it functions. In fact, I emailed a congratulations yesterday to a professor whose book just won an award, because I saw it on Twitter. She didn't even know yet.

But Twitter and the connections you make are not going to go away. These are the people that you will see at conferences, will write articles for and with, who will potentially be on your search committees and eventually be your peers. Social media is a great way to get resources, make connections, and show what you have to the world.

So what about you- how has judicious use of social media helped you? Any starting tips or tricks you want to share?

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