Keeping in Touch

Sep 25 2013 Published by under Academia

This is part 3 of my posts on STEM careers. I'm not sure how long it will go on. Probably until I'm out of thoughts on the matter. But I think, as I've left academia, I've learned some things that can benefit the people who are still there. Parts 1 and 2 are available here and here.

Last week, I talked about how much advisors could benefit their students by just keeping in touch with some of the people they used to work with who went into careers outside of academia. And I thought, you know, people might want some tips on HOW, exactly, to keep in touch.


First, for the advisors: It's not as hard as you think to keep in touch. I know when many people first think about "keeping in touch," you think of careful emailing once or twice a year, which, once you add colleagues and former colleagues and people you used to know...well that's a lot of time spent networking.

But networking doesn't have to be that way. I know many academics think LinkedIn is useless. I also used to joke about it, and not understand it.

Then I left academia.

LinkedIn is a GOLD MINE. And I'm encouraging academics to get on LinkedIn ASAP and use it. Not for themselves, but for their trainees.

Because this is how you keep in touch with all the people who you don't want to friend on Facebook, but who you just want to keep a tiny thread of connection to. A small rolodex, of people that you've known professionally...that updates itself.

Say you know someone you went to grad school with. You're pretty sure they went into industry. But you're not totally sure. Your student wants to look at industry.

  • Go to LinkedIn
  • Search for the name
  • Find the person
  • Connect with them

Most professionals on LinkedIn keep it pretty well updated. They know that employers go there, and it's also a nice place to look professional while networking. So many will have recent information on the site. Then, when you need them, you can look at their profile, see where they went, what they do, and message them "Hi Don, great to see that you've done so well in industry! It sure has been a long time since grad school! I'm now a prof at Big U, and my student is interested in industry in your field. I see you've been working at J&J for a while, I'm sure they'd like to hear your story. Do you think you might have time to chat with hir about it? Hope things are going well. - You"

You can even find contacts without remembering their names. Search your contacts on LinkedIn for "industry". Seriously. A set of connections who have that in their profile will come up. It's that easy.

This doesn't involve emailing or actively keeping up with people. That's the great thing about LinkedIn. And other people outside of academia KNOW this. They won't be upset that you haven't contacted them in years, instead, they'll probably be happy you want them to mentor.


Now, for the people who have left/are considering leaving academia: Please. Reach back. I'm trying to do this, to friend and connect with people who I've left behind. I connect with everyone who I know, and willingly accept most connections.

It can be hard. Sometimes, we leave academia and we're bitter. It's hard to leave that culture, to feel like you are unprepared for everything outside it, and to feel like, sometimes, it kicked you out. Often you feel like your choice to leave was not...respected like it could have been, or like things went badly on the way out.

And yes, sometimes they do. I've heard grad student stories of the kind of callous lack of support that make me want to cry. And I've seen a lot of people who have decided they want to leave...and have no idea where to look.

But that is WHY you need to reach back. Because all of us who have left academia have BEEN in that position, unsure, worried, stressed, and having a lot of difficulty figuring out what to do. By reaching back, you place yourself where people can find you, remember you, and get your help. By reaching back, you help ensure that fewer people will struggle. You can show them what success outside the pipeline looks like. And you get to continue mentoring and helping other people succeed. Wins all around.


So reach out. Reach back. And get on LinkedIn. Staying in touch doesn't having to be hard. And the little things can make a big difference.

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The Letters to Our Daughters Project

May 11 2009 Published by under Activism

Sci here, reporting in from sunburn hell. This is what I get for doing my speed workouts without reapplication of sunblock. Be good little runners, peeps! Slather on the SPF 30! We shall not suffer both runner's knee AND moles for removal.
Also, aloe is great. May not medically DO anything, but it feels lovely...

As an aside, Encephalon is up! Check us out (Two entries, ya'll!) at Sharp Brains!
Anyway, today I want to direct all of you who are not already reading it (though I'm sure you are) to Dr. Isis' Letters to our Daughters project. It's a fantastic scheme of hers to give us lady scientists some equally lady scientist mentors.

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Scientiae is up!

May 05 2009 Published by under Academia

Finally, Scientiae is up! It's Sci's first time submitting to the carnival, and I'm very glad that I got in. It's a big one, too, a two part experiment from Endless Possibilities. I highly recommend, especially the ones from The Bigger Picture (with photos of women in science looking very badass), and more than a permanent student.

And Ambivalent Academic has posted on what to put on a cover letter for people she's cold-emailing for post-docs. Sci had an idea, and posted an example, but I am but a lowly grad student and could very well be totally wrong. So I am posting my example HERE, and I would really lovely some feedback for those bigger and badder than me!!
*cough cough*
Dear Professor X,
My name is Scicurious, and I am nth-year graduate student in the laboratory of Dr. Magneto at Mutant U, on track to graduate in never. My current work utilizes genetic studies to pinpoint mutations in Sabertooths, for the determination of the generation of more crazy things with claws and attitude.
I was recommended to your laboratory by Dr. Jean Grey, who felt that our work is very complementary (/ I had the pleasure to talk with you at the last International Conference on Mutant Research, where I presented my work/ I recently spoke with you about use of x-rays in assessing the presence of adamantium in the skeleton/ I did something else with you and it was totes awesome). I would like to use my postdoctoral experience to investigate the generation of claws in other mutants. Right now, I am fully trained in some aspects of claw generation, but would like to use my postdoctoral experience to move into the additional study of adamantium, which I feel would add greatly to my current techniques and allow me to form a more complete picture of possible mechanisms behind claw growth and badassery. I greatly admire your work on Wolverines, as well as your work with adamentium skeletal elements, and I was wondering if you might be looking for a post-doc at present.

I have taken the liberty of attaching a current CV and research statement, which explains my current work in more detail. Please let me know if there is a post-doctoral position available in your lab, and if you do not believe I would be suitable, I completely understand. Thank you very much for your time and attention.
So? Concerns? Did I say anything horrid and bad and guaranteed to make people run away?

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