When I started graduate school, the first piece of advice that I was given by a senior graduate student was to network as much as possible. Which, at the beginning of my graduate career, I replied, “What the hell am I supposed to talk to the gods of combinatorics about? How do I even summon them? Why would they care about what I think?” As it turns out, I found the best way to network is to attend conferences as much as possible as early as possible. That way, gods get converted to pretty eccentric human beings who are more likely to remember who you are. Personally, I find that attending smaller, specialized conferences is better for networking; larger AMS and MAA meetings give me too much anxiety and I end up hardly meeting many people.
However, finances and time restraints do not afford most of us the luxury to attend many conferences. Enter here the world of online social networks. The wonders of social networks keep us connected to contacts we make either in person or through email. While this is great in many regards, I still think there are some issues to consider.
First, do we need to be vigilant about what we post on various networks? For instance, what I post on Twitter and Facebook is much different than what I would share on LinkedIn. While it is important to maintain a professional face, I find it equally important to keep my nonprofessional relationships alive. Will a colleague/ future coworker I met be offended that I posted a news article that exhibits my liberal views? Will they be insulted by the YouTube videos of kittens my friends like to post? Will they think I am too into Pokémon and that’s just weird? All of these things run through my mind, and sometimes influence whether or not I post something.
Another aspect to consider is can my Internet presence be too much? For instance, I maintain a personal website, have several Twitter accounts, a Facebook account, a travel blog, a LinkedIn account, a Google+ account and I compulsively check my three email accounts. Obtaining an iPhone did not help; the instant access to all these services makes me sometimes miss what is going on in the real world.
Maintaining these accounts is relatively easy for me, and I found it is good to be diverse since different people prefer different networks. In particular, maintaining a personal website is probably the most important aspect of having an online presence. When people search for you, it is good to have a frequently updated, well designed website so things like your CV, research and teaching interests, etc. are easily found.
So I end this rather long post with a few questions. How important is networking in the long run? Is it worth investing time into social networks like LinkedIn or making a website? What social networks do you find most useful or enjoyable to use?