Academic world intersects real world

I noticed a post about extroverts in academia by Karen Tani, who was writing about a post Screening Out The Introverts by William Pannapacker, who in turn was writing about a book by Susan Cain.

The question is this: are people who are good at selling themselves and their work more successful in the academic world than introverted people who are reserved and cautious?

I’ve wondered about this over the years, and the posts I have linked to above make many of the points I would make. So I’m not going to repeat them all here.

The answer is yes.  In this way, the academic world intersects the real world. One might think that the research work of an academic will stand alone, and that an academic will be judged properly and fairly on their work, and on their work alone. That personality doesn’t enter into it. Unfortunately (?) that is not the case. There is some truth to this, of course. Certainly the research of an academic counts. But it’s naive to think that people don’t get ahead using local politics and salesmanship.

That’s not to say that introverts will not make successful academics. In fact, perhaps it is necessary to be a little on the introverted side, because periods of reflection and thought locked away on your own are a part of academic life. One commenter says that many academics are some kind of a combination of introvert and extrovert.

Introverted geniuses are often protected by senior academics to nurture their talent. In the academic world, one can “get away with” being a reclusive genius, and the greater your genius, the more you can get away with.

I agree with many points in the two postings. There’s nothing to be done, no action needed. I think the system works pretty well. It’s just an interesting observation. PhD students and young academics would do well to keep this in mind. Be ready for the politics and salesmanship, but don’t worry about it. You will be able for it when it happens.

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One thought on “Academic world intersects real world

  1. Pingback: Ninth Level Ireland » Blog Archive » Academic world intersects real world

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