On conferences and connections
Is everyone kicking ass? I hope so!
Many of you are political scientists, which means that next week might be APSA for you! I’ll be there, being awkward AF. Want to meet me? I will be at Terrasse William Grey (on the 8th floor of the William Grey Hotel) on Thursday, Sept 15 from 4:00-6pm. Come by and say hi if you’d like!
Speaking of conferences, let’s talk about how to get the most out of them!
The first rule is that if you hate conferences, you don’t have to go to them and you will have just a fine career and be a cool person and live your best life. BUT if you want to be better connected to other people, to make friends (and enemies!), and the develop a stronger network, conferences are one of the best places to do this!
If you DO go to conferences, my best advice is to use the conference to deepen and strengthen your network
This advice is a combination of two of the best pieces of advice that I’ve ever gotten. Sara Mitchell once told me that being a ‘central node’ in academia is the best way to have influence. And from a variety of sources (but summarized by Gretchen Rubin), we know that deep ties to others are a key to happiness, especially in professional settings.
How do you deepen and strengthen your network? By meeting new people and reconnecting with your coven. Specifically, I try to do the following at every conference:
Meet at least one cool new person. Usually this happens at receptions, happy hours, or via other people, but can also be a cold call (/email/twitter DM) where you ask someone you don’t know to meet up!
Introduce two people you know to each other. Be an academic matchmaker. People you like will like other people you like.
Reconnect with someone that you’ve only met once or twice in person to develop a stronger connection with them. Again, this might happen organically but it also might require work on your part!
Spend time with people that you really like. I so look forward to the dinners, drinks, coffee, ice cream, laughing, yelling with my coven at these conferences.
This pattern of engagement expands your network, increases the density of your network, and deepens the bonds you have to your close connections. All of this provides you both with new opportunities to connect and reinforces your existing network. Happiness and influence. Boom. Thank me in your Oscar speech, please.
Maybe all of this sounds really hard. Maybe you think “I can do one of those things.” That’s cool. Do one this time. Learn slowly. Next conference, try to do two of these things. And on and on.
But also: Stop being so hard on yourself: My broad advice for people in academic settings is that we are all awkward as fuck so if you are awkward as fuck, you fit right in. Please remember my best advice: No one remembers your stupid like you remember your stupid.
Except if you are mean, creepy, or harassing. Stop doing that shit. Don’t be a harasser or a predator. Don’t be sexist or racist or a homophobe. Don’t be an elitist piece of shit. Don’t be mean just because (I’m looking at you, person who told me that I had a fat face last year at APSA). People remember that. I remember that. I’ve got a fucking list.
Hope to see many of you soon! Let’s all be badass bitches, dominate APSA, and get some shit done!