Johnny Can’t (Net)Work, but neither can Dr. Jane.
As academics (especially in the humanities), we are trained to network as academics, in order to be academics. Conferences are spent meeting other academics, creating valuable links that will either lead to jobs or academic collaborations (which lead to jobs). We shouldn’t waste or time meeting people outside of academia, heck, outside of our field, because what good would that serve?
We work (as pointed out by a recent article http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2010/05/24/krebs) as teachers or researchers inside our discipline and sometimes even more narrowly in our specialty. Why work outside of what we are training to do?
But most importantly, we use social networking as an extension of the first two “networking” opportunities: to promote and connect our narrow research (and thus career) interests. How many articles about looking for academic work remind newly-minted PhDs that talking about kids or hobbies on facebook is a no-no, lest a hiring committee think you aren’t dedicated to your research 100% or, once you are hired, wasting your time on frivolous activities like family or your health? Facebook and Twitter (and to a lesser extent, Linkedin and Adademia.edu) have become another non-networking opportunity, another chance for graduate students and PhDs to show how narrowly focused and single-mindedly dedicated they are to their research.
So how is Dr. Jane supposed to advise Johnny how to network to his benefit? Johnny needs flexible skills, adaptable to a variety of different jobs and demands, and the ability to connect and communicate with a variety of people. Dr. Jane knows how to narrowly present herself to a unique audience of like-minded individuals. Is it any surprise that students aren’t well-equipped for our present economy?
(Cross-posted at UVenus)