"Anybody ever had an era, when things could've been better? Feeling like you was on a stretcher and all you remember was the Hecklers. But the Universe lifts that weight. Then you shine like a new feather, blessings on blessings, et cetera."
~The Carters, "Nice"
Prolific words by Queen Bey and her hubby Jay-Z. We are most certainly living during an era that could be better. In fact, the whirlwind happened, and we didn't see it coming. If you're like so many others in academia, your academic calendar has conferences to attend, research to present, professional development to do, and classes to finish (whether you are teaching or the student). Now, our days are about innovating how to transition classes and services online, avoiding Family and Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) violations, and a host of other higher-ed related nuances. Our inboxes have also been inundated with canceled conferences and postponed publications.
The stimulus package included student loan payment relief, which provides 0% interest, payment suspension—and for those paying through income-driven programs for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program earn full credit during the suspension if you were on a plan beforehand.
This package most certainly gives academics some financial relief, but what about the work you've put in? What about moving forward? Here are some strategies that you can utilize to ensure that your hard work doesn't go unnoticed or overlooked.
Put it on your CV anyway
In the world of academia, we like robust CVs, and we cannot lie (in my Sir Mix-a-Lot voice). Presenting at conferences is a massive part of your yearly academic cycle, and although nothing is ever guaranteed, COVID-19 and social distancing have caused conferences to come to a grinding halt. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't get credit for the work.
These are unprecedented times, and search committees will be aware of these gaps, but still show how you were involved in the circuit and were committed to contributing to the academic community. Add any conference panels, presentations, or posters you were accepted and slated to attend on your CV, even if the event got canceled. To do this, add Cancelled due to COVID-19 in parenthesis after the conference dates.
As a bonus, this is a great time to update your CV if you haven't done so lately.
Keep submitting your work
Most organizations are still figuring out whether they are going to keep the theme of the current year and invite everyone back or move on and focus on the future event. Also, some organizations are asking for submissions for conferences for late 2020 and 2021. Submit your work! We don't know if the conference will happen, but don't let that discourage you.
If your work is accepted, guess what you should do? Put it on your CV. It's perfectly acceptable in academia to put future conference talks and presentations on your CV. You already include the dates of the conference with the title, and you will do the same in this instance—except they will have future dates. Be sure to put these on top as they represent the most current involvement.
The tip above goes hand and hand with this one. I know most academics follow groups on social media, but there is a vast difference between following and participating. LinkedIn has groups for academics; such as Leaders in Higher Ed, Higher Education Adjunct Faculty, and Association of Black Women in Higher Education. A quick 'higher education' search in the search bar will reveal hundreds of groups you can join.
The key to cracking LinkedIn is to post and interact with others. This gives you the most exposure. I've found a few free virtual professional development and networking opportunities hosted through some of the groups. The key is to increase your visibility. By doing this, you'll have more people interested in seeing and hearing about your work, which leads to the next tip.
Build a virtual presence
Here is where personal branding meets academia. Some academics feel as if personal branding is underneath the pillars of academics; however, it's a whole new world, literally. The reality is, academia is still an industry that can and will be impacted by the economic fallout of COVID-19. More importantly, with everything moving to remote environments, academia is being forced to make some much-needed changes and become more agile. No one is indispensable, and millennials in academia need to be poised to be at the forefront of this transition.
Start having a virtual voice. You can do this a few ways, but the key is to give the virtual academic community a preview. If you don't have an online portfolio, use this time to build one. How intricate and tech-savvy it becomes is dependent upon your skill level, but it should at least have the basics. The basics will include a digital version of your CV, links to your publications, conference proceedings, and videos or images of you presenting or teaching. Don't forget any collaborations or additional committee work.
Programs such as Weebly, Wix, and PageCloud all have some drag and drop templates that make it easy to create an online portfolio. Just be mindful that some of them have free options and paid options.
If you want to go beyond the basics, use social media to host virtual videos, create and share an infographic with pertinent information about your work, or even start virtual dialogues about your work. The key here is knowing your strengths and limitations. Don't stay idle and dependent upon conferences to give you a voice, create your own.
As a side note, if you are going to be defending your thesis or your dissertation, find out if you can share it live or share the link with family, friends, and others to support you. Just because it's not the defense you were dreaming of, doesn't mean that you should go without having a room full of people to support you, even if it's virtual.
Keep applying for positions
Whether you are a current grad student looking for new opportunities, someone getting ready to graduate, or if you're already in academia but are looking to make changes, there is one thing that you have to do: apply for the jobs. Yes, we know it's not looking like the outside will be opening soon, but we can still plan for it.
We are living during one of the most significant shifts in higher education since the introduction of correspondence learning. There will be restructuring, new strategies, and colleges are going to need fresh ideas and innovators to make this happen successfully. Colleges are looking for more remote faculty and staff, but will also need agile academics to be fully capable of seesawing between virtual and in-person opportunities.
Let's face it, for some people, the transition to remote working in academia is more than they can handle. For some, they don't want to do it and may take early retirements, sabbaticals, or even move to other industries. So, be prepared. There are a few job boards that I like, such as the Higher Education Recruitment Consortium (HERC) and the American Association of Blacks in Higher Education (AABHE). Some of them, like HigherEdJobs, have an option to search for remote opportunities.
Bonus: Check your resources
Financially, times are tight and filled with uncertainty. We know we are all guilty of having memberships or subscriptions and forgetting about them. So, check and see if you paid or if your college paid for you to have a membership in an academic or discipline-based association. A lot of them have tons of resources, such as virtual events, job boards, and networking opportunities. Take advantage of what you've already paid to be a member. If you are not part of any national education associations, check them out and see if they are offering any discounted or free opportunities.
I can't stress enough how pivotal this shift in higher education is. I don't think the magnitude of it is fully realized at the moment. As The Carters’ lyrics remind us—the Universe will lift this weight. It’s important you heed these strategies to catch all of your blessings, on blessings, et cetera.