Friday, May 10, 2013

Why Historians Make Good Networkers

Over at her blog Uncommonplace Book, Liz Covart writes about an interview she conducted with Jennifer Polk, founder of the blog From Ph.D to Life.  Polk's blog helps people with Ph.Ds transition to work in the non-academic (or real) world. Networking, she argues, is a vital part of that transition.

After conversing with Polk, Covart concludes that historians have the skills to become good networkers.  Here is a taste:

My conversation with Jen also helped me to realize that historians are well positioned to network; we possess all of the skills needed to reach out and connect with other people. Historians know how to research and we like to interact with people. Okay, so most of the people we interact with are long since dead, but we seek them out anyway in the papers and works they left behind. We seek them out because we want them to help us answer questions we have about the topics, periods, people, thoughts, and cultures we study. We receive their help when we read, interrogate, and contextualize the papers and possessions they left behind. This one-sided engagement allows us to better understand and connect with our historical people. Networking with the living is not so dissimilar. 

The best interactions take place when you find another person who shares something in common with you. Jen conducts research before she initiates contact. When she reaches out to someone she leads with what they share in common: an alma mater, an advanced degree, interests, an experience. After establishing this common ground, Jen asks for help. Historians study people and know that most people will respond favorably to requests for assistance when they feel connected to them. Moreover, historians are capable of making the most out of each networking opportunity because we know how to ask questions of our sources.

Read the entire post here.