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Networking on the Network:

A Guide to Professional Skills for PhD Students

Dr.Phil Agre’s article has compelled me to recommend it as a must reading for any one aspiring for graduate studies
As a graduate student preparing for a career in research, you have two jobs: (1) do some good research, and (2) build a community around your research topic. These two jobs may seem to conflict with one another, given that research is generally a solitary activity (or something you do with the local gang in your lab) whereas networking is a social activity, something you largely do away from home. The demands of your thesis committee may seem so immediate and crushing that you let your community-building slide. Or your thesis advisor may be locked into the old patriarchal view that you will succeed professionally because of your thesis committee’s contacts and not because of your own effort. I want to offer another view: you are in charge of your career, and the best way that you can take charge of your career is to build a community around your research.
This article is an introduction to professional skills for PhD students, and the most important of these skills involve building a professional network. I will proceed as follows. Section 2 provides a simple six-step model of the networking process. Section 3 considers several advanced topics: noticing emerging themes in your area, using consultation to organize things, ensuring that you get proper credit for your contributions, learning to engage professionally with people from different disciplinary and cultural backgrounds, and deciding where to publish your work. Section 4 describes the relationship between your professional network and your dissertation. Both of them pertain to the process of knitting yourself and your work into a set of professional relationships. Section 5 reveals the mysteries of academic language. Section 6 explains how to get an academic job, building on the networking you’ve done and on the concepts that underlie networking. Section 7 assumes that you have established yourself in the research community and introduces the topic of advising others. Section 8 explains how to get tenure, emphasizing the “deep tenure” that you attain within your research community rather than the details of departmental politics. Section 9 presents several theories of your career, based on other people’s ideas. My own theory of your career is called incremental alignment. Its main purpose is to keep you from overgeneralizing when you find yourself in career circumstances that aren’t entirely positive. Section 10 presents a more advanced theory of networking, including the process by which research fields become institutionalized. Section 11 then examines the moral issues that the process of leadership can raise. An appendix provides an annotated bibliography of books and articles on the topic of professional networking.

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