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On the importance of cultivating a network of friends and colleagues OUTSIDE of academia

I have had a very diverse life and with that, I have developed various networks of friends who do NOT work at all in academia. These friends and colleagues have enriched my life enormously.

Rebecca, John, Ryan, Tanya and myself

John, Rebecca, Ryan, Tanya and myself when I was in graduate school. All of them worked in the tech industry, while I was studying my PhD.

One of the reasons why I have never feared the tenure process outcomes is precisely the broad range of activities I have developed in my previous lives and the extensive and diverse network of networks I have. I am lucky to have friends and colleagues in many industries, and because of my interdisciplinary training and work experiences in government, industry, consulting, academia and business, I can do a lot more than being a professor.

I myself have done a number of different things. I have waited tables, served coffee, managed an office, danced and modeled professionally, designed marketing campaigns and blogger relations programmes. I have done public relations and media training work. I have advised startups. I was my parents’ assistants when they were lawyers (my Mom decided to leave law behind, did a PhD in Spain at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid and became a professor of political science).

Having friends of very diverse backgrounds and doing different things myself, (working as a chemical engineer in a plant, working in government as an advisor and within the bureaucracy, tutoring and teaching disadvantaged and marginalized adults some basic literacy skills) has expanded my world from the narrower academic field.

I can do A LOT MORE.

I have worked as a management consultant, as a website programmer, and I have a super strong network of friends in extremely diverse fields. I love being a professor, don’t get me wrong, and I’m very good at it, but I don’t necessarily need to stay in academia. I have plenty other options.

Having friends with diverse backgrounds and engaging in other professional activities not directly related to academia has made me a lot leas worried and wary about a turbulent job market. Because I can do a lot of things beyond being a professor. That’s greatly thanks to having friends who work outside of academia.

Moral of the story: cultivate a network of people who are WITHIN academia AND a network of people who are OUTSIDE academia.

Both are very important.

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