BY ALICIA FEYERHERM
Associate Professor of History, Amber Nickell, shared advice on networking with historians during last month’s History Club meeting.
“These days, everything is social, and a lot of historians have moved their networking to social networking,” Nickell said.
For example, on Twitter, #Twitterstorian is a commonly used hashtag where historians share information.
“If you follow this hashtag pretty closely, you’ll find that you learn a lot about the upcoming books, upcoming talks by Twitterstorians or ongoing debates,” Nickell said.
Other scholars, especially those in older age demographics, tend to use LinkedIn. Nickell said she has made some connections with scholars that did not have any other social media presence besides LinkedIn.
“The other thing you want to do is use LinkedIn to kind of put yourself out there in the world,” Nickell said. “Set up your profile and update it once a semester.”
For those going into history education, some professors and teachers put their syllabi on their LinkedIn.
“When you’re teaching as a high school teacher, or whatever your goal is in the future, and you’re trying to put together a course, you’ll find a lot of syllabi on LinkedIn so it’s a great resource for that,” Nickell said.
Academia.edu is the “nerdy historian social network” according to Nickell.
On the site, users can upload their own work for discussion, comment on other articles and make connections with historians studying similar topics. If students come across something particularly fascinating, they can message the creator.
Facebook and Instagram can also be used as networking tools as long as students make sure to create separate accounts for personal and professional use.
Nickell also discussed ways to network in-person through conferences.
“The number one organization for all professional historians, at every level, is the American Historical Association,” Nickell said.
This year, their 136th Annual Meeting will be in Philadelphia January 5-8.
Students can also find conferences and online groups specific to their field of study.
“Just kind of poke around and see what conferences fit with what you like,” Nickell said.
Nickell understands that major conferences can be intimidating, but the experience and networking opportunities are unmatched.
“All of these organizations have regional conferences through the US every year which are easiest to get to and much less stressful, especially in the early career stage,” Nickell said. “But for networking, go to the big ones and meet all those people that you love their work. It’ll totally be worth your time.”
One way Nickell makes the most of her conference time is by cold emailing historians ahead of time.
Nickell finds a paper of an author she is impressed with, sends them an email complimenting something specific about their work and asks if they would be interested in getting coffee at the conference. Sometimes, the author does not plan on attending, in which case Nickell offers to meet with them via zoom.
“I spend most of my conference time not listening to panels, but having coffee and drinks with scholars,” Nickell said. “Coffee time is always going to be worth more for your professional development than going to panels will be.”
Finally, Nickell gave tips for crafting an “elevator pitch” for those you meet at conferences.
“In the business world, they teach you this elevator pitch where you get on the elevator and you pretty much attack the person before the elevator door opens,” Nickell said. “This does not work with historians.”
Nickell said most historians are introverted.
“You have to be very calm in your approach,” Nickell said. “You have to work your way up to it.”
Nickell said starting off asking where they are from is a good icebreaker. The elevator pitch can start after the initial connection has been made.
“You want to make sure that it’s something that can be said in about two minutes or less, that it gets across who you are, what you’re interred in, but does not inundate them with too much detail,” Nickell said.
Even if the conversation lulls, Nickell warns against speaking negatively about anyone.
“The world of history is quite small, especially the further and further you move through it and so you will encounter the same people every year at conferences,” Nickell said.
At the end of the day, the goal is both professional and human connection.
“Everything I’ve gotten in my life has been because of my networks,” Nickell said.
Some conference connections have turned into years-long friendships and Nickell showed pictures of her and other conference attendees.
“You’ll notice all of these things are not occurring inside of the conference room where I gave my conference paper,” Nickell said. “If I just gave my conference paper and I left, I would have none of these connections.”
Upcoming events for History Club include Allison Reardon speaking about her graduate student work at the National Council on Public History at 6:00 p.m. on October 18 and a Q and A with the University of Kansas press about publishing at 6:00 p.m. on November 15.