IMPORTANT NOTE: In COVID19 of course the in-person networking that Dr. Cardozo is talking about will not apply! But I’m sharing
Today: Spinning Your Postac Web, by our own postac coach Dr. Karen Cardozo.
Bio: Karen Cardozo started in career counseling at Harvard in the 1990’s and returned to the field two decades later. In between, she completed a Masters in Higher Education Administration at Harvard (1993) and PhD in English/American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (2005). Before, during and after the PhD she worked as a dean at Mount Holyoke and taught a wide range of courses in the Five College Consortium of Western Massachusetts. When a tenure track position didn’t materialize, Karen made a Real-Ac turn back to career development at Williams College, only to then land a tenure-track position in Interdisciplinary Studies at MCLA in the Berkshires, where she introduced a new course on the changing world of work and ultimately gained tenure). Karen was recruited thereafter for the role of Executive Director of Career Development at Hollins University in Roanoke, VA. That experience launched her into her current position as AVP of Career Design at Northeastern University in Boston. Karen identifies primarily as a developer of whole human beings, and tries to be one herself by meditating, spending time with her husband and sons, hiking with her dog Sadie, and making music with her band, Show of Cards (showofcards.com). You can email her at email@example.com or find her on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/karen-cardozo-5a7b497a/
Karen Cardozo’s post-ac consulting philosophy:
With a Masters in Higher Education Administration and a variety of work experiences on 8 different campuses (R1 and SLACs, public and private, single-sex and coed), I have significant institutional knowledge and expertise on Alt-Ac careers as well as related diversity issues. As a generalist MBTI-certified former career counselor, I’m also well-suited to offer a robust diagnostic approach to broader career change possibilities. And because I’m an interdisciplinary scholar currently located in the tenure system, I am well-placed to help you consider the comparative merits of academic versus nonacademic jobs, as well as the transferable potential of your scholarly background. Finally, as an aspiring yogi, singer-songwriter, and parent, I can empathize with and support your larger efforts to compose a satisfying and meaningful life.
Spinning Your Postac Web
Above all, one thing bears emphasizing:
This process is the antithesis of the academic search! In few other sectors are job descriptions posted a year in advance of the start date and candidates so expensively, painstakingly, and time-consumingly selected by committee. While there is plenty of cronyism in academe, typically, faculty hiring is not done unilaterally but through an arduous process designed to solicit (or pretend to solicit) communal input. The rest of the world operates largely on autocratic and just-in time hiring as well as “right place, right time, right connection” dynamics to slot candidates into positions. Yes, academe is increasingly a just-in-time operation as well, so networking doesn’t hurt there either, but you take my point: the academic search process (including conference interviews) is not the norm in the wider world of work.
As a result, networking looms particularly large on the Alt/Post-Ac market. You need to think of “it” as a regular activity, like eating, sleeping, or working out (hmm – have you not done much of those lately either? Remember, taking care of yourself WILL help you perform better on the job market, as well as maintain some perspective). Being engaged in a robust networking practice means you have your ear to the ground, and are steadily increasing your exposure to others whose ears are also to the ground. With all those ears on so much square footage (I wish I were a gifted cartoonist right now), someone will eventually respond when you announce your availability and describe your capabilities and interests. So, let’s get started with Web Spinning 101 (sounds nicer than networking doesn’t it?).
Who and Where
Selecting your “targets” is often a misunderstood aspect of networking. For many, the dreaded term conjures up suits and fancy business functions, or hours spent loitering near elevators till you just “happen” to bump into the CEO. By all means, don’t ignore large, important or relevant gatherings where you can meet up with those who have leadership or hiring influence [obvious contenders: trade association meetings; conferences (even academic ones); civic events in the region you want to work].
For such events, yes: dress appropriately, carry business cards (you can get simple ones fairly cheaply online with your name and contact info, perhaps including a website with more information) and prepare an “elevator pitch” using one of your major transferable skills: distillation. You’ve written a dissertation abstract for god’s sake. You can sum up your life and career goals in 30 seconds, no problem!
However, as the selectivity of FaceBook friends or Linked In connections demonstrates, networking is most effective when someone who knows you well, is invested in seeing you do well, and/or simply wishes you well* is willing to endorse you for a job, meet with you to share advice or information, circulate your resume, or use their own influence to get you in the door.
*Sorry if the tripartite criteria eliminates most of your academic department!
This means that some of the most useful networking is really going to happen in THESE kinds of places and situations: walking your kid/dog/pet tarantula around town, dinners and parties, coffee shops, the gym, the childcare center, PTO meetings, book club, religious services, weddings, or family and college reunions. Don’t neglect your alumni network either (a concept that makes more sense in U.S. educational contexts than in countries with nationalized public higher education): whether or not YOU feel the bond, the idea that you are somehow kin to those with whom you went to school can be a relatively easy means of finding people who work in fields or places of interest; some alumni or campus career offices will even help you find them. Especially if you are relatively introverted, THIS is the way network – with people you already know and around whom you are reasonably comfortable.
Don’t presume you know who’s “worth” talking to, either. While what you know about someone may make it appear that they are not perfectly positioned for your interests, each person has their own friends, family members, and employers, as do their friends, family members and employers! So just talk. And then talk some more. [Also, take good notes and keep good records.] Thus does your web begin to take form….
Don’t get me wrong: I continue to be impressed by the kindness of strangers. As Wandering Scientist suggests, most people like to talk about themselves, and are genuinely sympathetic about how tough the job market is. So don’t neglect to reach out to a stranger or pursue something of deep interest because your personal network doesn’t align with it. Just know that you may have to crank up your creativity and persistence to get seen and heard in such “cold calling” cases. A higher percentage networking practice involves working outward from your closest personal connections.
What to Say
Your main messages: 1) I am looking for a job—not in a bitter failed-academic way, but in a ready-to-make-an-exciting-change kind of way (fake it till you make it!), 2) I am a good and trustworthy person (i.e. vouching for me will not soil your reputation); 2) I am sensible, smart and versatile: my academic skills along with a, b, and c experiences have left me well-situated to do x, y and z.
Your main questions: 1) Have you heard about any job openings? 2) Can you think of anything that might fit my background in particular? 3) How did YOU get into your job/field? 4) Whom else should I talk to?
SIDEBAR TIP: Unless your contact knows you are unemployed (if you are), it’s always best to present yourself as someone in one work situation looking for a better fit. Here’s where academe’s baffling inner workings can provide some cover. You may be thinking, “I only have two months to finish this damn dissertation, and I don’t have a job … AAAGHHH!” But you can say: “I’m at the University focusing on my research right now, but I’d love to apply what I’ve learned to the nonprofit world.”
Besides communicating the above, the end game is simple: don’t leave without another lead – a contact name, a tip about a job opening, a suggestion about where to get more information. If you’re in a limited field or regional search, you will feel the 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon effect pretty soon. You’ll know you’re doing a thorough job when the same information begins to resurface in different settings. At that point just stay on the radar and keep that ear to the ground. For anyone willing to entertain a broader search (by function or field or region), networking can be engaged to infinity and beyond. But hopefully you will land a job before you have to go there!
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