Archive for: July, 2015

Getting noticed...

Jul 17 2015 Published by under Uncategorized

...is NOT making sure your chair spots you at seminars in hopes that you're hired internally.

By now I presume you've read the train wreck of a "careers" article over at Science, puzzlingly titled "Getting noticed is half the battle" when in fact the bulk of the piece is dedicated not to tips on getting noticed per se, but on congratulating yourself for brown-nosing your superiors and abandoning your family to work 100 hrs a week. I guess that's the other half of the battle?

Sciwo at Tenure, She Wrote has a pretty thorough takedown of the myriad ways in which the article is wrong, dated, heteronormative, and straight up dangerous, so you should go read that. However, there is one thing I will give the author: getting noticed is important for career maintenance and advancement.

The $64,000 question, of course, is how do you get yourself noticed without looking like an arrogant peacock? I'm going to turn some of the specifics over to New PI for a moment, who pondered some of these questions a couple of years ago. She writes,

It is a constant struggle in my mind on when to shake those back feathers and fan that tail. Do I tout my own horn at every little accomplishment in my department? Should I remind people who invited me for talks in passing that I was invited? Do I walk up to important people at meetings and just introduce myself pitching my "awesome" research?...The purists hate this and complain to no end about how your science should speak for itself.

Now, YMMV, but my answers to these questions are: yes, yes, no, and don't even get me started. When you're TT, accomplishments of any size are evidence that you're moving forward, and I see nothing wrong with updating the news section of your lab website and sending your chair an email when something particularly good happens.

Second, You. Must. Give. Talks. If you're at a conference talking to a buddy in the poster session or at the bar and he casually throws out a "we really should have you down to Fancy University to give a seminar," say, "that would be great, thanks!" and then follow up with a quick email once you get back home that says "Awesome to see you last week! Looking forward to the possibility of a visit once you get your seminar schedule for next semester set." Or whatever! But giving talks not only gives you a captive audience for an hour, you get a whole day to visit a department and meet one-on-one with whatever fancy people they have there. These chats can lead to collaborations, grand, paradigm-shifting epiphanies, and perhaps most importantly - letters for your tenure packet.*

Getting your shmoozing in this way has the added benefit of relieving you of New PI's 3rd scenario - the cold pitch to bigwigs. Just don't do it. If you absolutely must meet Dr. SuperFancyPants, find someone you know to introduce you in a casual environment. Otherwise, your interaction is pretty much guaranteed to go like this:

Finally, and this is a no-brainer, put in a session proposal for every single conference you attend, which has several benefits. First, obviously if it gets accepted you are a total baller and will get noticed for being the rockstar who organized that panel everyone loved. Second, it could give you a reason to contact and build a relationship with Dr. FancyPants, if the conference is the kind that likes their panels to be a mix of senior and junior folks. Third, even if you don't get FancyPants shmoozing out of it, you will definitely get camaraderie with your contemporaries out of it, which can also lead to all sorts of career bonuses in both the long and short term. And finally, if it gets accepted, the conference will usually give you at the very least free registration, and at the very best free hotel and airfare. That is like COLD HARD CASH in your pocket, all because you sent a few emails and wrote a paragraph about how exciting your sub-sub-subfield is.

Above all, be a good scientist who is kind to others and enjoyable to be around, and trust me, you'll be noticed in all the right ways.

*not to mention that these people are on grant review panels and journal editorial boards!

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