Advice to Future PhDs from 2 Unusual Graduating PhDs
Next week I will be attending my official graduation from The Fletcher School to receive my PhD diploma. It is—in a word—surreal. I’ve been working on my PhD for almost as long as I’ve known my good friend and colleague Chris Albon, which is to say, a long time. Chris is also a newly minted political science PhD and recently joined the FrontlineSMS team as the director of their Governance Project. Needless to say, our paths have crossed on many occasions over the years and we’ve had many long conversations about the scholar-practitioner path that we’ve taken. With graduation just a few days away, we thought we’d write-up this joint post to share our pearls of wisdom with future PhDs.
First: blog, blog, blog! The blog is the new CV. If you don’t exist dynamically online, then you’re not indexable on the web. And if you’re not indexable, then you’re not searchable or discoverable. You don’t exist! Blog-ergo-sum, simple as that. Chris and I have been blogging for years and this has enabled us to further our knowledge and credibility, not to mention our of network of contacts. The blog allows you to build your own independent brand, not your advisor’s and not your program’s. This is critical. We’ve received consulting gigs and keynote invitations based on blog posts that we’ve published over the years. Do not underestimate the power of blogging for your professional (and yes, academic) career. In many ways, blogging is about getting credit for your ideas and to signal to others what you know and what your interests are.
Second: get on Twitter! Malcolm Gladwell is wrong: social media can build strong-tie bonds. Heck, social media is how I originally met Chris. If the blog is the new CV, then consider your Twitter account the new business card. Use Twitter to meet everyone, everywhere. Let people know you’ll be in London for a conference and don’t underestimate the synergies and serendipity that is the twittersphere. Chris currently follows around 1,200 people on Twitter, and he estimates that over the years he has met around half of them in person. That is a lot of contacts and, frankly, potential employers. Moreover, like blogging, tweeting enables you to connect to others and stay abreast of interesting new developments. Once upon a time, people used to email you interesting articles, conferences, etc. I personally got on Twitter several years ago when I realized that said emails were no longer making it to my inbox. This information was now being shared via Twitter instead. Like the blog, Twitter allows you to create and manage your own personal brand.
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