How do you deal with situations where a person constantly name drops and attempts to appear impressive via this route? I'm curious because I have noticed quite a few students doing this on my masters course and I feel it impedes the development positive working relationships. How do you 'manage' such situations?
I'm curious. I've never experienced this behaviour in an academic environment - who do they name drop?
I'm currently in DC (on fieldwork) and just met the biggest namedropper ever. They toured me round so many things and introduced me to, frankly, irrelevant people (I'm trying to sort out interviews with elites...she took me to the Congressional job service.) She also introduced herself to tons of people and was seemingly constantly trying to network. Most of her contacts seemed shallow (or wildly irrelevant) but, hey, I did have some interesting stories because of it.
Based on my recent experience, I think people who namedrop tend to have superficial relationships with those people. Also, it doesn't really matter who you know, so I wouldn't really worry about it.
I managed to train one name dropper to stop (at least around me). Every time they dropped a name, I would hit my hand on the table. Finally they asked me and I said that was just the sound of a name being dropped on the table. After they figured out that I wasn't impressed, they stopped.
However, be careful of who you shut out. Sometimes the superficial or 'weak' ties are the better resources for things. You just have to learn to use the resource properly. I'm trying to remember the author(s), but there was at least one good paper about this called the Strength of Weak Ties. It makes for interesting reading if nothing else.
I agree Screamingaddabs- it really does matter who you know, and coming to the end of my PhD, I can really see that. Namedropping is annoying, but academia is such a small world and it does matter who your supervisors are and whether they are well known and well respected. When I have made enquiries about jobs and mentioned who I work with there is always a very positive reaction, and I'm grateful that I've had the chance to work with my supervisors. It really is necessary to get your name out there as much as possible because so many posts are filled by people who are already known to the employers, or at least their supervisors are known to the employers. KB
Never has the phrase 'It's not WHAT you know, it's WHO you know' been more appropriate or true than in the context of academia. The 'old boys network' has always been a direct route to getting jobs and it is still is. Having been on the recruitment side of things in two different unis I can tell you now that staff have been taken on that haven't been the best people for the job simply because they were the former PhD student of the HoD's golfing buddy etc etc. It really can be like that especially in the more prestigious, old-fashioned unis...
Name dropping though is poor practice and not respected by anyone, not even the people whose names are being bandied around. Name dropping has a time and a place and has to be carefully done. Doing it at Master's level to other students is just misguided and totally pointless.
The whole networking thing can be totally weird though, and hideous when it's done badly. There's someone in another department at my uni doing a PhD in a tangentially related area to mine. A mutual acquaintance put us in touch and this person suddenly included me in a big round-robin email to lots of other people he'd picked up in similar ways, and introduced me with a flurry as 'a new contact' that he'd 'found'. Which was totally bemusing, as he'd just introduced me to the people based in my own office, who I already knew very well! This person pops up all over the place, always intently focused on networking and building their reputation, and it just feels like they're off collecting people with no genuine interest in the people they're talking to. Huge name-dropper too. I've reached the point where my heart sinks when I see this person at an event I'm attending. But the way these things work, they'll probably be a professor in a few years time, and I'll probably be desperately hoping they remember me!
I think being genuine is really important in networking. The weird thing about Masters students is that many of them seem to think they are really important and that all the well-known experts in their field should be grateful for a chance to know THEM.
Unfortunately with so many careers services emphasising networking skills, focus on building lasting relationships tends to get thrown aside. Which is why namedropping, sycophancy, arrogance and blatant attempts to impress people are very common. It seems so much more natural for people to try and impress someone for five minutes, long enough to exchange a card or pitch their research area, than to think, "I really respect this person and have similar ideas and I want to develop a working relationship with them."
To be honest, I've been slow to figure that one out myself.
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