Self-Promotion in Academia

It seems that the question of self-promotion in academia is coming up more often (or I am noticing it more often).

Speculative Diction on has an article called “Shameful Self-promotion vs. Meritocracy.”

This blogpost was written in response to the Times’ How Not to Get Left on the Shelf article. It also responds to Dr. Lee Skallerup’s post Shameless Self-Promotion.

It’s not just a discussion of the arguments about whether academics are successful if they don’t have a general audience. In fact, while it starts there, I don’t think that is the meat of the argument at all.

One point that I thought was very truthful and telling was an almost-throw away line on blogging and social media in the academy.

The suspicion of self-promotion is also part of the reason that blogging and other social media activities are often dismissed by academic colleagues and peers.

My university is very positive towards blogging and social media activities, but many people use the social media specifically for work. (I have not figured out how to separate the two, but I would really like to create a second facebook account and migrate my colleagues and work-related acquaintances over to that one.)

Not only are self-promoters more successful, but so are graduate students whose supervisors “push” their students’ work actively. Ever wonder how so-and-so managed to get that article published in a good journal, or a helpful research assistant job, or an item that showcases their work on the faculty web page? Committee members and supervisors can help with this too, behind the scenes, and it’s in their interests because your success reflects back upon them.

This is an important thing to remember as a graduate student and it is something to keep in mind when teaching graduate students. If my students are successful, my work also gets a wider audience. Thus it is in my own self-interest to encourage and market my grad students as strongly as possible.

(So, if I ever get any grad students, watch out. You may come to feel like they are a member of your family from all the promotion on this blog and other places.)

Women in general are less likely to claim expertise, which can be a detriment when it comes to succeeding in an academic career and a public profile. Female graduate students are more likely to suffer from “Imposter Syndrome” and to lack the sense of self-value that helps them develop crucial professional networks.

To some extent, I don’t buy this. I think everyone is likely to suffer from Impostor Syndrome.

However, I know that I have been far less at ease in claiming expertise than, for example, my husband. In fact, my sons often claim more expertise than I do, even in fields I know, simply because they are so sure they know everything. (Grin.)

But this is actually a problem because I am fairly sure that I blew an interview once by saying that I am a “pretty good” teacher. I am not the best teacher ever, but I am dedicated, consistent, responsible, and engaged. That’s a lot better than many teachers I have known over the years. I am also actively engaged with my students both in and out of the classroom. … When I say “pretty good” what I really mean is “not the best teacher ever, but amazing, nevertheless.” That’s not how I phrase it though.

I particularly liked the closing paragraph:

Let’s try to avoid allowing self-promotion to be one of the “dirty secrets” of the academy, something to be sneered at or reserved for the egotistical and vainglorious, something that “real” academics don’t do; after all, what’s a book launch for?

When I have a book launch, I will definitely let you know.

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