On Jobs: Networking

Much of what Haseeb Qureshi describes is rock solid advice no matter what field you are interested in. I was especially taken with his reminder about the importance of networking, of finding people in industries, companies, or jobs you are interested in and simply buying them a cup of coffee and asking them questions, lots of questions, and listening. I want to give this same advice to all my students, but that makes me wonder: is networking useful for graduate students? At the very least, it would give them a wider introduction into the field. I learned a lot from my teachers, but I learned just as much from Lee Haring, Erika Brady, John Michael Vlach, and others whom I only met at the annuals meetings of the American Folklore Society and who were always very kind.

Now that I think about it, I first met Barry Ancelet when I asked to have coffee with him at the annual meeting in Jacksonville in, I think, 1992: that turned out to be six years before I applied for a job here at UL-Lafayette. At the very least, during a moment when I wondered what course I might chart for myself, meeting Barry as well as hanging out later with the likes of Janet Langlois or getting a chance to trail after John Dorst and Michael Ann Williams, informed my understanding of what it meant to be a folklorist as much as an class in folklore studies ever did. In particular, it opened up possibilities I never dreamed of during my coursework: it made the field feel more open, more prone to conversation than argumentation.

Later, trading notes on both topical and professional matters with Patricia Sawin and Jill Rudy made me realize that the personal mattered, that the coffees and meals were meaningful ways of being engaged and of advancing one’s own thinking.

So, yes, networking matters, both in the short-term of getting something you want but also in the long-term of being the thing itself that you want.

Leave a Reply