Things 6 and 7: Professional networking – better known, better connected, better equipped

This post was written for 23 Things for Professional Development, Thing 6: Online networks and Thing 7: Real-life networks.

Professional networking is all about building relationships with people, sharing information with them and helping each other.  I often find the initial connecting stage of networking daunting, particularly in a large room/online network full of people I don’t know, but it’s something I’m definitely getting better at.  Once I’ve got past that first stage though, I find networking really fun.  I love talking to people and finding out what they do, I really enjoy helping other people – that’s one of the main reasons I joined the profession – and having people I can turn to when I need help makes life much easier and less stressful.

On the cpd23 Thing 6 post Helen suggests all the advantages of online professional networking fall under the headings of becoming:

  1. Better known
  2. Better connected
  3. Better equipped

I like this way of thinking about networking and I think it applies to real-life networking as well as online networking.  If you want more information on the What, How, Who, Where, When and Why of networking I would recommend the recorded webinar on this blog post.  I’ll now go on to discuss some networks I already use and some I have investigated for things 6 and 7.

Colleagues

My workplace is where I do most of my real-life professional networking.  I work for a large library and get a chance to work alongside, or at least chat during tea breaks with, a fairly large number of library professionals at various stages in their careers and with various areas of expertise.  I also have a ready made network in the other Oxford University library trainees, who meet regularly for training sessions.

Twitter

Twitter is currently my main online networking tool.  As I said in my Thing 4 post, I find my twitter network really useful for keeping up to date with news and trends in the profession.  One of the best things about twitter as a professional network is that there are so many different people there – it’s not limited to one sector or one career stage like some of my other networks are.  Even though I’ve only been on twitter a few months I already have 99 followers on twitter (almost all library and information professionals), most of whom would probably never have heard of me if it weren’t for twitter, and I’ve had tweets retweeted so even more people will have seen my name in connection with something library-related.  Twitter has also helped me keep in contact with people who I’ve met at real-life networking events such as the CILIP New Professionals Day.

CILIP

CILIP, and other professional associations, have great potential as a source of networking opportunities.  So far the only one I’ve really taken advantage of was the New Professionals Day, but I’m planning to attend my first regional branch meeting on the 4th of July in Reading (on updates in copyright) and hope to be able to make it to more events in London once I’m studying there.  I really enjoyed the New Professionals Day not just because of what I learnt at the sessions, but also because I got to meet lots of other new library and information professionals.  Talking to other attendees between the sessions, at lunch and afterwards at the pub I got to find out more about where other people were in their career, what they do, where they were going and their opinions on the talks and workshops.  My only regret was not getting contact details for some of the interesting people I met.

Even though I’ve been a member of CILIP for about eight months I didn’t know about the existence CILIP communities, a collection of forums, blogs and people, until I started Thing 6.  It’s interesting to know it’s there, but looking through recent threads on the forums there weren’t any conversations I felt I immediately wanted to join in with and I seem to follow most of the blogs that I find interesting already.

LISNPN

LISNPN was the first online professional network I joined and it really made me feel part of something bigger.  I enjoyed finding out about other graduate trainees on the forum, which resulted in my first real-life networking event outside my workplace when I went to London to meet other trainees and LIS students.  I’ve also found the downloadable resources section with anonymous reviews of LIS degrees and how to guides for tasks such as using twitter, getting published and interviewing well (as the interviewee).

LinkedIn

The Oxford trainees had a session at the Oxford University Careers Service a couple of weeks ago which was amazingly useful and covered, among other things, LinkedIn.  Some of the top tips I came away with were:

  •  The headline, summary and your name are the bits that are searchable from a search engine, so make sure keywords are there. (The headline is the bit below your name, e.g. ‘Radcliffe Science Library Graduate Trainee at Bodleian Libraries’, and you can change it by going to Edit profile and clicking on the edit link next to your name)
  • Recommendations! You can get recommendations from anyone your connected with, which means you can basically have references from people you’ve worked with or for, but who aren’t your line manager.  I think this is brilliant, but it does have the rather large downside that you can only get recommendations from people who are on LinkedIn.
  • There are lots of sections you can add if you think they’re relevant, such as courses, projects and volunteer experience.  Find the link to add them just under the big grey box on the Edit profile page.
  • You can change your public profile url so that it’s your name rather than a string of numbers, for example mine is http://uk.linkedin.com/in/lizzieatkinson
  • A good LinkedIn profile can back up what you’ve put on a job application.  According to a 2011 US survey by Reppler 48% of hirers use LinkedIn to screen candidates and although (I strongly hope) you won’t be rejected for not having a LinkedIn profile, 68% of hirers had hired someone because of what they saw on a social networking site (not necessarily LinkedIn).  I’ve no idea what those stats would be like for library and information jobs in the UK, but if it might help me get a job it sounds like a good idea.

I came away from the session feeling very positive about LinkedIn and determined to vamp up my rather bare and neglected LinkedIn profile.  I wanted to include details about all the jobs I’ve had and all the volunteering I’ve done as they’ve all developed skills that would be useful for jobs I might want to apply for and I didn’t want to miss anything out.  Then I sat down and had a bit of a rethink.  I’m fairly open and happy for people to find me online, but I felt like I was putting my life history out there online and wasn’t really comfortable with that.  So, for now, I’ve stuck to my library work experience, with a description of my current post, and my degree with a bit of an explanation of what it was because the title doesn’t make it obvious, the projects I did and a list of the societies I was on the committee for and some of the outreach volunteering I did.

LIKE

LIKE is the London Information & Knowledge Exchange.  I’ve not been to any of their events before but had heard of them and some of their meetings sound really interesting.  I’m hoping to make it to some of their meetings once I’m studying in London.

Organise your own event

Finally, if you think it would be good if there was an event to share ideas about a particular topic or for a particular group of people to meet then make it happen.  It might involve a lot of work or it might not.  I organised a cpd23 meet up in Oxford last week.  All I had to do was suggest a time and place via this blog and twitter and I got to meet some interesting library and information professionals who I’d not met before (as well as some who I had).