Friday, October 16, 2009

On networking and not working

I could have sworn I scheduled my blog to post as usual this morning. But then I discovered that it didn’t. Don’t know how that happened, but since it was a sorry excuse for a blog post anyway, I don’t really mind that it got lost (it’s not really lost, it’s all there in “drafts”, but it’s not worth reviving. Trust me). Luckily I stopped by before midnight, so I won’t miss a day in the ongoing NoBloWriMo challenge… Anyway, what I did say in the lost blog post is that I’m back from my Midwestern adventure. I had a splendid time – in fact, so splendid that I didn’t remotely miss the fact that I had limited online time for a week and I was completely cut off the entire weekend. I would not even dream of trying to tell even a fraction of everything I’ve seen, experienced and done – it’s all reserved for multiple blog posts to come (and there will be pictures!). In addition, I’ve had time to mold over some follow ups to some of my previous blog posts (alright, one of them – the Nobel Prize again occupies my attention – will get back to that later, NOT tonight). In short, I’ve got plenty of blog material for the days to come. Further, my time in the US is rapidly coming to an end – soon the time will come to reflect over how I feel about leaving (and more importantly, how I feel about returning home). I also have some catching up to do on some comments and such – so I believe the forecasted rain this weekend is welcome.

However, if you thought I returned to a nice and quiet start of the weekend here, you were wrong. Today I’ve been at a conference all day. Basically, this was just the sort of thing I pictured myself doing when I first set my mind to go to Washington. Networking. Academic, interdisciplinary interaction. Get input that in turn will help me form new perspectives and angles on my thesis.

Today’s conference was arranged by PARC (the Palestinian American Research Center) and IMES, the Center for Middle East Studies at George Washington University. Even though I am technically affiliated with GWU’s IERES (Eurasian Studies), I am on the mailing list for IMES, and today’s event allowed me to mingle with the right kind of people, since I, after all, am not working with Eurasian questions. (Long story short – IERES has the visiting scholar program, and one of my professors knows the head of IERES. Networking pays off.) The subject for the conference was scholarship on Palestine, showing where today’s research on Palestine in numerous disciplines stands. Interestingly, the conference was very academical, but not particularly political (which is quite unusual considering the subject). On the other hand, it can be argued that most of the participants probably had similar views on the subject matter (supporting this is the fact that there are enough people out there who would not even consider attending a conference about Palestine, since the word Palestine implies a certain bias in the ongoing struggle. This may be the case, but I’ve come to accept that when your field is the Middle East, no matter your discipline, you have to learn how to deal with bias because there is no escaping it). I’ll avoid details, but let me just say that the conference was extraordinarily interesting and fruitful, and I am very happy I convinced myself to go (even though I could have used some time off after my vacation). I am sure it will be a great inspiration to me when I over the weekend get back to working on my thesis.

Thus, academically the conference paid off (though technically I didn’t pay anything at all. I don’t know if it was because I’m with GWU or if the same applies to all participants, but they didn’t charge a dime. So not only did I get free academic inspiration, I got free breakfast, lunch and dinner. They don’t treat scholars this well in Norway). On the networking part, though, I don’t know. I know that for many bloggers, especially the aspiring writers of us, networking is a key component. It can be tricky in blog form, but personally I prefer that to the real deal – speaking to complete strangers about the weather or the food in hope that at some point during the conversation it will come up that they can offer you the job of your dreams and that they are willing to take your card. Add to that speaking in a foreign language, the fact that you’ve just spent 7 hours in deep concentration and that you don’t actually have a card – it’s exhausting!

It wasn’t a huge success. Granted, I did get someone’s card. I did give out my email address to a couple of people. And I had an interesting epiphany when it turned out the lady next to me worked for the US Air Force as part of their team to train and prepare soldiers for what they might expect on foreign soil. It does reassure me to know that the scholarly developments is taken seriously by people in power, because of the implications this has both for the academia and for the air force. Also, it opens up a whole new range of job opportunities I had not thought of before.

(Wow – I’m really rambling now. It is also technically over midnight, but I’m ignoring that, since I a) acted in good faith thinking I had already posted; and b) can argue that I am still on Minnesota time.)

By the time of the banquet – which was a somewhat fancy affair with great food and lots of wine – I was extremely tired and fed up with the networking. I grabbed some food and had a quick drink, and I was out of there before anyone had the chance to say “business card”. I might do some follow-ups (one of the really eager ones actually already emailed me, so there are clearly possibilities), but all in all I was happy to let this be the extent of networking I did today. After all, I’m new to it. I’m still learning. And it is more important that I went to the event, and that I tried, than whether I actually succeed.

At this point I should have drawn a clever parallel to blogging and how it also there is more important that I am trying at all than whether I actually succeed, but I am not making sense as it is, and I am inclined to post this before I get cold feet (colder feet, actually, since they’re already freezing. It got cold in Maryland while I was away) and proofread or some such silliness.

Therefore I bid you goodnight, at 11:09 pm Minnesota time.

(In case you were wondering - I had an intention with that clever title of mine, but I cannot for the life of me remember what it was. The "networking" part is pretty evident, the "not working" - not so much. Maybe it refers to my brain, which currently seems to not be working. I think I just feel asleep in the middle of a sentence... Time to hit the sack!)


Galen Kindley--Author said...

Well, I think your brain is very clear…especially considering the time and circumstances. In-person networking is hard for me…not that I’ve done a bunch of it, but I understand what it involves and those things are not strengths. I have people skills, but have to drag them out and prop them up, or, I’ll stand in a corner and wait for the earliest time I can leave and still say I did what I went there to do. This is one reason why I’m having a difficult time getting my hands around the value of conferencing. I’m told it is just essential to success as a writer. Beats me how. I see a lot of real world expense and very little real world payback…though, again, I’m assured it’s there. Guess I just have to trust those doing the assuring and take the leap. Sigh. I sense disaster.

Best Regards, Galen

Imagineering Fiction Blog

Galen Kindley--Author said...

Oh, cool. My anti-spam word was Nogink. Love that.

Watery Tart said...

I think MANY of us who see ourselves as writers are not particularly adept at the networking thing. We are just more introverted than that. I have met some great people at conferences, but they tend to be people LIKE ME, rather than people who might be able to HELP ME. Glad the academia and food portions were good though!

Cruella Collett said...

Galen - your description sounds exactly like how I'd react in a similar situation. I guess it's a matter of practise. Which is annoying, since in order to practise, you have to go through the "this is not doing anything for me" phase. Good luck with the leaping, and with figuring out the deep, inner meaning of Nogink ;)

Tami - yes, I definitely think there are more 'networkers' than the actual 'networked' out there... The one that emailed me is an example - she was about my age, and she was interested in meeting people that could help her get somewhere, or get her in touch with these people. Chances are I will not be able to help her, and she will not be able to help me. However, at the same time, the beauty of networking is that it is a "net". You don't just connect to those above you in the system, those on your own level might be useful too, if in a limited way. And it certainly can't hurt to have them as part of your connections - who knows - this girl might end up being president some day.
One thing I have learned, though - make sure you have a business card. It makes you look so much more professional. I believe this is the case for writers' networking as well. Business. Card. Is. Key.

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