Good Advice on Networking to Advance your Career
February 14, 2006
In "Networking on the Network" UCLA associate professor Phil Agre sets out a 66,000-word guide for PhD students on how to develop professional networking skills that can advance their careers.
His advice is on the mark for engineers and other knowledge workers as well. As befits an MIT PhD whose research interests range from information technology and institutional change to Internet culture, Agre recognized the potential of the Internet for professional networking way back in 1993, when he wrote the first version of this article.
In thinking about Agre's advice for PhDs, it seems clear that the burden to "publish or perish" has also been an advantage academics have over other professions in terms of (a) finding peers with similar professional interests, (b) building and gaining visibility in a mutually beneficial professional network, and (c) publicly sharing knowledge and expertise in print and public presentations.
If you think that it's only academics who need to develop this sort of personalized professional network, you're living in the wrong century. The growing power of online media – websites, blogs, podcasts and vlogs (video blogs) – is transforming every company into a media company, and every knowledge worker into an online reporter, editor and publisher (over internal intranets as well as the Internet).
Agre provides two tips for creating a customized professional network specific to your interests and abilities:
Articulate the commonalities you discover you have with others (which includes exploring differences). "The principle of articulating commonalities is the secret to getting along with people," Agre writes.
Find a "structural hole" in your profession that you can help fill. "A structural hole, intuitively speaking, is a bunch of people who don't know each other but ought to."
How can you find and build your own network using the Internet? "To begin with," Agre writes, "the most fundamental way of finding people online is to help them find you." The easiest way to do that is through a blog like this. If you're not blogging, or commenting on blogs, you're missing a really easy and powerful way for people of like interests to find you.
This should be a no-brainer for engineers who sell industrial equipment. But the potential benefits of blogging may be even greater for those who buy and use the equipment. Articulating your process needs and ideas online gives you the possibility of the sort of serendipitous results that come when you fill one of those "structural holes." Not to mention it gives you professional visibility in an age when invisibility can be a real drag on your career.
Story Behind the Story: New Orleans Cleanup Article by Elaine Eliah
February 04, 2006
If you read the news story on this website, "Corps of Engineers Completes New Orleans Canal Cleanup," you may have noticed that the author, Elaine Eliah, is a communications specialist with ECC International Baghdad. Curious as to how someone in faraway Baghdad came to cover a New Orleans cleanup story, I sent her an email. She replied immediately.
"I am normally in Baghdad, where I sit typing this right now," she wrote. "In Dec/Jan I had to make a training trip to the US and ended up writing for our group working in New Orleans and a group cleaning up groundwater in Cape Cod."
Eliah wrote she offered to go to New Orleans, "when [her employer] ECC and the Corps of Engineers were taking a lot of flak over certain matters that were not even in our hands to remedy."
She explained that ECC began life as the Environmental Chemical Corporation, an environmental remediation company. ECC now offers many other services including engineering, construction, munitions response, and operations and maintenance of treatment plants and systems.
When asked if it took a lot of guts to be working in Iraq, she replied, "I don't know if it's guts or just ‘got to be there - don't want to miss it.' There are people who will never think that way and people who don't know how to think anyway else."
Eliah has been in Iraq since May 2004. "I go everywhere for my stories," she wrote. "Secondhand info doesn't cut it for someone who has worked as a professional journalist." When not working in Iraq or traveling to the US for "weddings, funerals and training," she makes her home in Italy.