by Courtney Butler, Head Editor, INALJ Idaho
I know there have been a huge number of articles on the web (including on INALJ) that contain testimonials as to why it is, in fact, worthwhile to go to conferences and other continuing education type events. Spoiler alert: this is another one of those articles.
Up until now I’ve somehow managed to squeak by and break into the professional world without attending a single conference or networking event. I considered going a number of times. I even started filling out the paperwork for one that was hosted at my school. But in the end I always got overwhelmed by a combination of travel, cost, and the intimidation factor associated with going outside of my comfort zone. In school, both professors and student groups alike preached the importance of networking, and I was afraid for a long time that my fear of mingling was going to hold me back professionally.
Thankfully, I got lucky in making some important connections by chance that really helped me out with my post-grad job search. However, when another lucky break afforded me the opportunity to attend a continuing education course in my hometown at no cost with a number of people I already knew, I really had no more excuses not to go.
Let me tell you – it was an incredibly positive experience. The workshop itself was mainly review, but I attributed that to me being a recent graduate. If I hadn’t been enrolled in a class on the workshop topic less than six months ago then I would have gained some really valuable information. It was set up like a really long lecture, and I generally despised lecture courses during my studies. But hey, there were no papers to write afterwards so it wasn’t so bad. Basically, it was easy to see how these types of courses could and will be very useful throughout my career.
Outside of the lecture itself, it was a lot easier to talk to people than expected. I didn’t even have to make too big of an effort. A number of people actually initiated conversation with me. After that initial ice was broken things went really smoothly and I gained a lot of confidence. It was amazing to hear about all of the cool projects that other people are working on. Plus, I picked up a couple of invites to visit various places where some of those aforementioned cool projects are occurring and even a heads up on a job someone thought I would be well-suited for.
It can be easy to forget that librarians and archivists are generally friendly by nature. We work with and serve the general public, so mingling interactions should come pretty naturally. And they did, once I remembered that conferences are opportunities – not torture. So just like with anything that can be a bit scary, just take a breath and jump. It’s a lot easier than you think after you take that initial plunge.