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Academic Coaching & Writing

I. Setting the Stage: What is an Academic Persona?

Jul 01, 2014 by Lee Skallerup Bessette

Welcome to this series on taking charge of your online presence to reflect and promote your academic persona. The series will answer some common questions, such as: What is an online persona? Why should you even have an online presence? What are the most common online platforms that academics use, and how do you decide which one is right for you? How do you manage your online presence without getting overwhelmed?

This first post will set the stage by defining the concept of “academic persona.” A persona, to go into the root of the word, is a social role or character typically played by an actor. The word persona means “mask” in ancient Latin. It refers to the way you present yourself to the world, how you want people to see you. Your academic persona is how you want to be seen professionally in the realm of academia and beyond.

For many years, academic personas have been shaped by academic CVs, cover letters for jobs, physical appearances at conferences, and finally job interviews themselves. While all of these still serve as important opportunities, typically they are reactive. In other words, if you rely solely on these methods for making yourself known, you are reacting and shaping yourself to other people’s conventions within specific contexts. Certainly, you have some agency in terms of choosing your program, your institution, your research project, and your research output, but you have little control over how others piece together these fragments of information about you into a viewpoint of you and your accomplishments that reflects how you want to be seen. Designing an online presence is a way to bring these elements together into a coherent whole, which can only help enhance the more traditional expressions of the academic self.

I don't necessarily like the word “mask” when it comes to your academic persona, as it makes it sound like you're pretending to be someone different than you are in real life, although sometimes it can feel that way. Your online presence is an opportunity to take control of how you want to be seen and understood. The focus, then, of this series is how you can take charge and begin to reshape your academic persona by designing your online presence.

The remaining blogs in this series will focus on the following topics:

Blog II. Assessing Your Online Presence: What Does Google Know About You?
Blog III. Getting Motivated: Why Bother With an Online Presence?
Blog IV. Making Choices: What Does It Take to Set Up a Website or Blog?
Blog V. Social Networking for Academics: Why Use Academia.edu and LinkedIn?
Blog VI. Using Popular Social Media Sites: How to Leverage Facebook and Google+
Blog VII. Tweeting: How to Use Twitter to Your Academic Advantage
Blog VIII. Finding Online Hangouts: What Are Some of the Other Platforms?
Blog IX. Maintaining Your Online Presence: How to Manage Your Time

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