by Kasia Piasecka
reposting from 1/26/12 and 3/28/12
Networking on LinkedIn: Informational Interviews vs. Librarianesque Stalking
Personally, I enjoy meeting new people online in the interest of making new friends, business associates, tennis partners, pals to toss hackey sack, and yes, you guessed it, for the purpose of gaining knowledge from an informational interview. I am a fellow INALJ-er and optimistic job hunter; there is nothing more that I love than looking for jobs, applying for jobs, dreaming about jobs, and dreaming about other people’s jobs. This fact brings me to my central question: when is it appropriate to contact a librarian or information professional on LinkedIn, who happens to have the job that you want and the position that you might just be thinking about applying for? I posed this very question on INAJL’s LinkedIn discussion group and here is advice from librarians working and networking from the front lines.
Pros of Contacting:
- LinkedIn is for business networking; in other words, it’s not a social network. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend Facebooking your contact – that’s rule number one in the professional librarian rule book. So by networking, you would be using your LinkedIn account for all professional intents and purposes. Right? Right.
- Your thorough (ahem, stalking) research might impress your contact and initiate a response from them. In which case, you’re golden!
- Networking equals new connections. New connections equal new opportunities. What’s not to love?
- Positive things can come of networking if its appropriately handled. It’s important to treat your first message as a request for an informational interview. Keep it simple and short. Here’s an example:
Dear _______ , (It’s your call, but I would use Ms. or Mr. to stay professional.)
My name is _______ and I found your LinkedIn profile by _________ (If you need to save face, I would do a little research and see if they are connecting with any of your contacts, active in any groups on LinkedIn, if their Twitter profile is linked with their LinkedIn account, and/or google their name and see if they are active on the interwebs. This will allow you to fill in this blank appropriately. You can also say “My name is _____ and I became interested in contacting you on LinkedIn because I follow your blog/twitter/comments on _____ discussion board/group” and then follow this sentence with:
I became interested in contacting you personally because of my interest in working at _______ library/school/etc and I was curious if you would be open to answering some questions for me.
Thank you in advance for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.
______ (your name)
- LinkedIn networking is a great idea when you are considering applying or interviewing for a position that is significantly further away (100 miles +) than where you currently reside. Your contact’s willingness to provide you with information about the position can prove to be very beneficial. It can save you valuable time if the informational interview proves to demonstrate that you are not a good fit for the position or if the position is not a good fit for you.
- You become more comfortable with online networking on LinkedIn, which improves your confidence in real-world scenarios and real-life interviews!
Cons of Contacting:
- You are officially a 10 on the 1-10 Creepy Librarian Scale. Kidding aside, the most significant con of contacting someone that you don’t know on LinkedIn is that you will be misjudged by your contact who doesn’t want to be contacted by someone they don’t know and/or doesn’t share any LinkedIn connections with.
- Worst case scenario: your invitation to connect does nothing to bolster your reputation with the employer, you never get a response, and you might have lost out on a potential contact altogether.
- Your contact does not use their LinkedIn profile and your message will go unanswered.
The consensus among fellow librarians appears to be that it is absolutely a personal choice whether to engage in online networking on a professional networking site. It seems like it would be the rational thing to do, but it is important to weight the pros and cons of contacting one contact over the other and it helps to define what you are trying to gain from an informational interview. When in doubt, visit the INALJ discussion board and prompt another discussion on this topic or join this one!
Kasia Piasecka completed her MLIS degree at the University of RI in December 2011. She currently works as a part-time Reference Assistant at the Newport Public Library and as an intern at the North Kingstown Free Library in RI. She is active within the Rhode Island Library Association as the public relations committee co-chair and she also writes for the association’s member’s bulletin. Kasia’s professional interests young adult services & library spaces, social media usage in libraries, emerging reference trends, information literacy, resume and cover letter writing, and access to information for people of all abilities. You can find her on twitter @urigslis.