If you are a new grad student you may have been told to "have an academic twitter" or that twitter is important for your career. That may be the extent of advice you were given. This post is some twitter basics. I am by no means a twitter influencer, but I did talk with some folks who are. These are some general tips as well as how I personally use twitter. As with all things, use your best judgment and remember that less is typically more when it comes to the personal information you publish online.
Engaging on Twitter
For this section I enlisted the help of Dr. Thomas Lecaque, a Historian at Grand View University. Dr. Lecaque's historical hot takes and political commentary has earned him twitter fame (and the elusive blue check).
1. Check out his "Pinned Tweet" (below)
From Dr. Lecaque:
"Twitter is a tool, and it can be helpful---it is a networking opportunity, one that has provided me with contacts, CFPs, and venues for publication, both public facing and academic. And these are all positive things. But Twitter is also social media, and it as such has all of the risks and problems and genuine threats to watch out for. In the current academic climate, where social media is monitored by schools and political groups, you have to be careful. And I say with full knowledge of how aggressively hypocritical it is for me to say so---my Twitter feed is aggressively political and impolite, and has been since grad school. But social media replicates the power dynamics that are a hellscape in reality, too.
I'm a cisgender, heterosexual white man, with tenure; social media enables me to extend my own reach. So use it! Use it to circumvent the traditional power structures to the best of your abilities! But be careful. This is especially true when you have a larger following. It amplifies your message and brings in ever increasing opportunities for publications, podcasts, other media---but it also attracts scrutiny, critique, and trolling. If you end up on the radar of the largest far right platforms, your university will not protect you, and the threats go from online harassment to real life harassment very quickly, ESPECIALLY if you are not a white man."
As you can see above, Dr. Lecaque has the job security and the following to engage with trolls with humor (and sometimes swearing). He is able to weigh in on trending topics and political arguments that junior scholars may not have the same freedom to engage with.
By comparison, my tweets are more formal. I have merged my personal and professional twitter accounts and try to refrain from sharing too many specifics about my personal life. I do make my political views clear but I made that decision very carefully. If you've seen my CV, it becomes very clear that I study issues including abortion, abolition, and trans rights. These topics of study do limit the number and type of organizations interested in working with me (particularly colleges and universities with certain religious ties). I prefer to be upfront about my political views and address potential biases clearly and transparently. The degree to which you share your personal life and views online deserve careful consideration.
I was lucky in the sense that my program at Purdue included my masters so I was able to stay with the same institution from MS to PhD. This did not stop me from moving NINE times between opening my acceptance letter and starting my postdoc. That's right. In seven years I moved NINE times. Thankfully most of my moves were relatively short distances but I did move from Ohio to Indiana, Indiana to Ohio, and Ohio to Delaware. Two of the three of my bug moves involved moving to places where I had little to no social networks.
I am exhausted even typing that. I am fresh from my last move in August and thinking about my next move already (I'll move at least once more after my postdoc contract ends). This post is a list of ways to survive and maybe(?) thrive while moving to a new place.
Congratulations! You've been offered a position somewhere. You vaguely know where it is on a map (unless you're like me who did not fully appreciate how far south Delaware was). You've decided to accept. Now what?
THINGS I TRIED THAT WORKED:
This list is my new standard practices for moving to a place for work. It is easy to throw yourself into work when work is the only thing you know about a place. If you want to protect yourself from burnout, make settling in a part of your schedule.
THINGS I TRIED THAT DIDN'T WORK FOR ME:
THINGS I TRIED THAT WOULDN'T HAVE WORKED FOR ANYONE:
People Are Going to Give You A LOT of Advice
If you are in your first year or two of graduate school you will be inundated with advice. Some of it good, some of it irrelevant, some of it genuinely terrible. I had a tough time separating the useful advice from the counter productive advice. Here are some strategies I used:
Getting the Lay of the Land
Overall, I was wonderfully supported by faculty in my program. I did have some odd exchanges here and there but mostly everyone had my best interest at heart. I hope this is your experience too but I wanted to give some advice on how to suss out bad advice (or unhelpful to you advice). Most of the unhelpful advice I received was not given out of malice. Successful faculty will often share how they specifically became successful. Their model may not work for you for a number of reasons.
If your program is like mine, you have an advisor right out the gate. Some programs vary - you may have to find an advisor in addition to all the other first year hurdles. You may be in a program that does not do one-on-one advising. I explain graduate school to people outside academics as similar to apprenticeships. Each journey is very individualized. Programs, timelines, advisors, departments - they all vary widely.
The advice you get may not apply to your program or situation AT ALL. There are very few pieces of advice that will apply to all graduate students. I think of it like traffic patterns. There are some laws that apply everywhere but graduate students are like pedestrians in this metaphor. Definitely learn the traffic laws, but it's also important to learn the local habits - which stop signs are usually rolled? what crossing are dangerous?
You may expect the drivers to follow the rules and you may have recourse if they fail to do so but typically, pedestrians are at the higher risk for injury and damage. Being cautious and aware of your environment can add a layer of protection. Know what your rights are as a student and/or worker but be aware of the power dynamics in your program and the university at large.
Your department may have existing relationships that are important to know. Maybe the faculty has spousal hires - you wouldn't want to make a comment or criticism of a professor only to find you were talking to their partner. Understanding faculty relationships can help you make sense of competing advice as well. This does not happen often in my experience, but sometimes the advice you get is not about you at all. It has to do with a pre-existing disagreement between faculty.
Know Your Goals
Much of the advice I received was how to get a job at an R1 (Research 1) University. While that advice might have been spot on, it was not achievable for many students and was not helpful for students with other career goals. It is likely you will be evaluated on how well you are following this advice - whether it alines with your goals or not.
I recommend journaling about your career or professional goals. Think about what you need to focus on to achieve your specific goals. Compare your goals to the career advice you are getting. Find a faculty member or professional in your field (ideally someone with the job you aspire to) who supports your goals. I remember friends who felt terrible that they wouldn't be competitive for R1 jobs only to remember that was not what they wanted for themselves. It can be easy to get caught up in what the department or your committee wants from you. Regularly check in with yourself to make sure you are clear on the kind of career you want.
Give Yourself Time
I did not feel I had good handle on graduate school until I was ABD (all but dissertation). My masters in particular was a gauntlet. Give yourself time to adjust to the expectations and rhythm of academia. There is an insane amount of pressure to arrive on day one with a publication in progress and a clear research agenda.
If you are publishing and have your dissertation mapped out when you arrive on campus I bow to your preparation skills. You are not typical. In my experience, the dissertation and even masters thesis will change and develop. I spent my first year preparing one thesis proposal only to have to redesign completely in year two. I did not publish during my masters despite working on several research projects. I was convinced I was woefully behind. Talking with other graduate students and faculty during my PhD, I realized I was incredibly normal. Everyone's career looks different. It's okay to get your footing and learn the paper and publication process before you dive in.
Part of graduate school is learning how to navigate academia. It's okay if you take time to do that. You don't need to revolutionize your field the first semester of your masters. Figuring out what your area will be and how to begin research projects while juggling advanced coursework takes time and effort. Have patience and take time to find mentors among your faculty, wider field, and peers.