"There's No Career in Academia Without Networks": Academic Networks and Career Trajectory

Year: 2017

Author: Heffernan, Troy

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Academic networks have been found to provide social support, but also career advantages to those who actively network build - these career benefits can greatly enhance career trajectory for academics over those who do not cultivate scholarly networks. This study surveyed nearly 200 working academics from 15 countries and found that over 60% of respondents engaged in academic networking, and attributed some career advantages to be the result of these networks. Even more than 10% of those participants who were not involved in academic groups hoped to establish networks of their own as they had seen the advantages being part of an academic network had played in some of their colleagues' careers.

An extensive amount of literature has discussed the role of academic networks with research from single location to cross-border explorations of the impact they can have on academic careers (Borgatti & Foster, 2003; Brink & Benschop 2014; Ibarra, Kilduff, & Tsai, 2005; Jack, 2005; Kilduff & Brass, 2010; Parkhe, Wasserman, & Ralston, 2006). This study draws upon Bourdieu's notions of social capital (Bourdieu & Wacquant, 1992, p. 119) to theorise these data and better understand how networks influence academic careers and trajectories.
The literature suggests networks can play a significant role in career trajectory via employment opportunities, increased status and influence, and subsequently even higher salaries. Networks can also lead to publishing opportunities or being alerted to employment or research opportunities that have not been widely advertised which can aid in employment and promotion opportunities. Research has also suggested that gender influences networking, with men and women participating in networks for different reasons. The literature indicates that gender and related balance of family care expectations can be a factor in academics' intent when developing networks, and in the outcomes seen by network members (Brink & Benschop, 2014). Thus, I argue that networks can be inherently political, affording some academics benefits that others may not be able to access as easily.

This paper builds on past research by examining the role participants believed networks have played in their careers. The literature is often characterised by studies that use quantitative methodologies to establish statistical information and patterns for management and administration audiences. This paper contrasts those findings with qualitative data on participants' personal comments and perspectives regarding the role academic networks have played in their career progression. This study's significance comes from exploring the specific career advantages that have been identified by academics engaging in active academic network building. The paper subsequently demonstrates the value of being involved in academic networks and illustrates that those not involved potentially face increased difficulties in establishing and growing their academic careers.