I’m finding that visibility is an important element of the graduate experience. I think of it as cousin to the concept of service, in that being seen can often translate as a statement of availability for service in committees, initiatives, projects, and events. These opportunities may not directly relate to my own research interests but they benefit the larger community of scholars I would like to join and support.
Finding ways to be visible to others is a small but powerful way I can foster a professional academic identity for myself. Starting out in my program, the idea of crafting my professional identity seemed daunting. I questioned what I had to offer to the professional community – and worried others would question that as well. But I found that visibility could work as a silent display of interest. I didn’t necessarily need to speak up at research group meetings, brown bag seminars, or committee gatherings. My visibility said what my still-nascent professional experience could not – that I was interested, active, and willing to learn.
That said, showing up for every gathering or volunteering for multiple activities is not for everyone. Beneath the time commitments that every grad student must learn to balance is the underlying fabric of our personalities and proclivities. Some cannot wait to be seen; others prefer not to be seen at all. But introverts and extraverts can work in different ways to achieve visibility to their peers and professors and still be highly effective. Here are a few you can try:
Frequent the commons:
Where does your program hang out? Then go there often. Make it a point to visit there on a regular basis, stay a while, and stay with it. If your program doesn’t have a commons area for graduate students, it’s time to ask for one.
Get out of your cubicle (provided you have one…):
Just because you have a designated work doesn’t mean staying confined to it. Staking your regular presence in a more visible space is a good way of reshaping its purpose and use.
Write for your program’s student blog:
Yes, this one works, and it’s easy and obvious. Student blogs are a great way to practice your writing. Period. But they also afford visibility to peers and allow beginning grads to practice professional discourse among peers, while often generating more than a passing interest from faculty.