by Jessica DeWitt
Several months ago I wrote a piece for my department’s graduate student blog that addressed the need for Humanities students’ to expand their skill set in order adapt to the changing demands of both the academic and non-academic job markets and society at large. Sparked initially by the dialogue that took place during the ASEH 2013 graduate student luncheon panel on non-academic job opportunities, I focused in this post on the benefits of learning and integrating the methods of the digital humanities, specifically GIS analysis, into one’s research. Digital research methods are, however, just one facet of the technological realm with which scholars must grapple in today’s research and employment environment. In a culture where the influence of “googling” (or “binging,” if you prefer) is undeniable, the scholar, particularly the young upstart, is increasingly called upon to both cultivate and manage an online presence.
Last week, Jim Clifford, Jon Bath (Director of the Humanities and Fine Arts Digital Research Centre at the University of Saskatchewan) and I were asked by the History Graduate Student Committee (HGSC) to speak at a workshop entitled “Online Presence Workshop: How History Grad Students Can Survive (and Thrive) in the Digital World.” As the main operator of the HGSC’s Twitter account, I have googled all of the graduate students in the department numerous times in order to publicize our student body’s latest accomplishments. I am repeatedly surprised by how many searches come up with nothing or an outdated snippet from 2007. While it is fortunate that a search of one’s self on the internet does not result in the potentially career-altering party photo montage, the absence of anything is not a keen alternative. Outsiders looking for a quick overview of an individual’s interest may see a blank result and not continue their search. It is of the upmost importance for the graduate student to take on the role of personal publicist because no one is going to take on the position for you: not your department, not your university, not your colleagues.
The first and most elemental step the graduate student should take is to take advantage of whatever profile and research descriptions one’s department may offer, making sure to keep this profile relatively informational and current. This small step does wonders for enabling others to know about one’s research and the work that one is doing, opening the door for future networking. Beyond this fundamental step, I highly encourage all graduate students to create an www.academia.edu profile. A mix between Facebook and Linked-in, Academia.edu is a kind of online CV, which enables the individual to post their publications, conference presentation, etc. While the social aspect of Academia.edu is ever-so-slowly getting better, I find that there are two main uses for which the site is especially useful. Firstly, if one is googled, one’s academia.edu profile will be one of the top search results. If your profile contains a relatively informational, but brief account of your research and accomplishments, this will be a one-stop-shop for most people searching for a concise description of you. Thus, by creating a profile, such as this one, you are taking direct control of your online persona. Secondly, academia.edu provides an exact record of who is viewing your profile, googling you, and from where they are doing this searching (I find it much more straightforward than the statistics offered by Linked-in). You will be surprised to find that people are searching for you and you may notice jumps after getting on conference panels, winning an award, etc.
|Presenting at the HGSC Workshop|
Using activehistory.ca, The Otter, his personal blog, and the blogs of others as examples, Jim spoke to the attendees about the benefits of blogging. One of the key benefits of blogging is that it enables academics to communicate their research and experiences to a broader audience, which is not typically possible with an academic publication. Curating a personal website and writing for other blog’s like The Otter each have their advantages and disadvantages. Personal websites give you more control over your content and offer a useful place to present preliminary research, but they must be updated regularly or they risk appearing out of date. This content of these websites varies from an expanded CV to a full-on blog. One strategy is to use personal websites to chronicle pieces that you have written for other venues. The benefit for writing for larger blogs is that they typically get much more traffic than personal websites. Jon Bath emphasized the importance of making sure that one gets credit for the work that one puts into writing posts for other websites.
|HGSC Workshop Participants|