Networking should not just be done off campus, at conferences and other professional gatherings. Your on-campus network is just as important (maybe more so) than your off campus. Most of us are tenure track at research or small schools where your department, college, dean, and provost will have a say on if you get to stay after your tenure decision. Make sure these people know who you are and have a positive opinion of you before your tenure case comes before them. Below are a few ways you can do them. Again, you can go the in your face, PublicityWhore route, or you can be subtle or discreet. Just don’t be too subtle that they don’t notice you.
Get a group. I don’t mean a scientific group, I mean an EveryOtherThursday Group. This is a group of like-minded women to whom you can talk openly and honestly about the challenges of this job and who will give you feedback and advise. We have several of these on campus. My group has a number of very senior women, mid-career women, and junior women. Your group doesn’t have to be just women, but there are definitely issues that women face that men are oblivious to (too many to list here, and we will get to them – eventually). The group should be supportive and problem-solving – not just a bitch-session group, although that is useful too. The senior women in my group have helped immensely with navigating my early career, academic politics of the university, and they were supportive of my tenure case at the college-wide level in a number of ways.
Go to lunch. Invite random people to lunch routinely from within your department and outside. This is another part of that bonding over science and personal information to form friendships. This is called “being collegial,” and it makes you look like part of the team. If people in your department go running, biking, hiking, or to the gym together, join in with that. Be part of the team. Do not exclude yourself.
Go to lunch with senior faculty. The year before my tenure packet went in, I had a series of lunches with influential senior men in my department. Your know who they are. If you don’t – pay attention in faculty meetings: which members of the department do people always listen to or credit with ideas? Those are the people who are respected. If people roll their eyes when someone senior is talking, don’t go to them. When I invited them to lunch, I specifically told them that I wanted to talk about my tenure case with them, to make sure I was on the right track and would be fine. At lunch, I laid out the path to tenure as I saw it. I had 6-9 months left until my packet went in, I had this many papers out, this many in the pipeline to publication. I was working with this many students, postdocs, undergrads. I did not bring up negatives, but only positives. My goal: get these men on my side. They are the movers of the department, the wise elders that people listen to. I didn’t want there to be any surprises at tenure time, and I wanted any one of them to be able to present my case as if they knew it by heart.
Be seen at conferences. This is not about off-campus mentoring, so why am I brining up conferences? Well, when you go to a conference, you will likely have other people from your department, college, university at the same conference. Be visible to your institutional colleagues. Make sure they see you are giving a talk or a poster. Make sure they see you out and about at the meeting talking and networking. Much like going to lunch, this is also part of being collegial. I have seen someone not get tenure because someone in his department said, “I never saw him at that conference, so I assume he was just in his hotel room.” Of course that is irrational and stupid reason to destroy someone’s career, but it happens. Make sure it doesn’t happen to YOU.
Respond to emails. This is hard because we all get bogged down with stuff and can’t always respond right away, but when your on-campus collegaues send an email – respond!
Do your part. When working with others on non-service tasks, do a good job. For instance, if a big multi-PI grant is being assembled, and they assign you a task, do it well and in a timely manner. Yes, your chances of getting it may be slim, and it it may seem like a waste of time, but you need to be part of the team. If you are doing service, there are some times when you should work really hard and do a great job and other times when you should half-ass it. Of course, do your work that you are assigned, but don’t spend too much of your precious time. Example1: you are working on the admissions committee reviewing files. Do have all your files read and commented on by the deadline. Don’t spend 6 hours on 3 files – spend 20 minutes on each, giving your impressions. There will be a discussion, and you will have time to go back and re-evluate if your quick scan was too cursory. Example2: You are serving on a student’s qualifying committee with 2 senior people from other departments. Do respond to emails and be at the committee meeting for the student on time. Don’t be so hard to track down that the senior person heading the committee has to ask your senior colleagues if you are traveling. That makes you look bad both out of department and within.
Write lots of grants. At my university, every time I write a grant, my chair signs off and my dean signs off. That means that my dean sees my name about 5-10 times per year in the context of research and grant writing. This is a positive. My name is associated with grants and money and research – all positive. In this environment of no money, you shouldn’t ned much motivation to write lots of grants, but this added self-promotion may help you get a few more out and across people’s desks.
Are there other specific suggestions for networking on campus? It is a long-term thing, so start early – you can’t save it all for the last minute. Please guest post or comment!