I sat on Liana’s last post thinking about how important support networks were to me during the various phases of my academic career thus far: undergraduate, new graduate student in Liberal Arts, new graduate student in Political Science, ABD in Political Science, Adjunct, Sessional, and now tenure-track faculty. Support networks never go out of style. They serve an important role helping the academic traverse through the morass of academia. There are multiple reasons why we have legions of ABDs. One major reason, in my opinion, is the lack of supportive networks or people in the student’s life. This includes personal life and professional life.
It’s important to remember that we need camaraderie, mentorship, and support. I have previously shared how lucky I was to be a member of a woman’s academic support group. This group made me realize that I would have to find support networks in Political Science. And, like Liana previously blogged, I had to get outside of my comfort zone and network. This meant attending conferences (debt) and making connections. Then, at the next conference people recognized me and things and I became part of the academic community.
You can’t snap your fingers and have a network of people who are your academic posse. You have to cultivate it and I would argue that you have to have multiple networks to keep sane in this game. There is so much competition and you are rife to have moments of self-doubt, you networks will keep you grounded and focused. Likewise, you need to have supportive networks outside of academe. Gasp. This means you need to try to have a rounded laugh. Oh, stop laughing or smirking. It’s true. You need to take time for yourself, too. This seems antithetical to academe, but it’s important to take care of you!
How do you find the seedlings for supportive networks? One place is via social media. You might find that the professional organization related to your field(s) is the first place to start, but don’t stop there. Look on Facebook, Twitter, Linked In and blogs, too. Don’t think that the conferences are the only place to connect with like minded people in your field. See if you can make some early connections via social media sites and then meet up IRL at the conferences. The time investment in meeting people is worth it. Academic communities are incestuous at times and everyone in your discipline knows someone else. This can work to your favor when you’re applying for scholarships, post-docs, and jobs. It can also work to your disadvantage if you’ve been foolish or have burned a bridge via bad behaviour. So, always be professional and collegial.
When you’re at the conferences, business meetings for the sections or groups that you’re interested are worth attending. This is if they are open to the general membership. Find a friendly face and sit near them or hover and listen and learn. You have to make the effort to reach out and hopefully someone will see this and connect with you. Good luck as you look for supportive networks and as you build them, too.