by Emma Pinault, Head Editor, INALJ Delaware
Introverts Can Network, Too!
Networking and making connections in your field is vital to career success, whether you’re just starting out and looking for a job or looking to move up into a more challenging position. We all know this. But not everyone is a people person, and the field of librarianship seems to attract more introverts than most. For some of us, networking doesn’t come naturally. However, with practice it can become easier. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when looking for ways to make professional connections:
1) First, take a deep breath. Relax. Remember that networking doesn’t have to mean a huge party or conference where you can’t leave until you’ve met and chatted with everyone. There are other ways to reach out to people.
2) Build up your social media presence. Maintaining an up to date LinkedIn profile can help connect you with potential future colleagues, employers, or professional mentors. Starting a blog on an aspect of your field you’re particularly interested in can also raise your visibility and provide opportunities to connect online. Alternatively, pick one or two professional blogs related to your field to follow. If the blogger allows comments, this is an opportunity to start or participate in a thoughtful discussion. Otherwise, reaching out by email is another way to open a dialogue. However, you don’t want to limit your networking efforts to the computer.
3) If you aren’t currently working in a library, look into possible volunteer opportunities. Even shelving books or assisting with cleanup offers you a chance to meet local professionals in your field who might be valuable contacts or mentors. Consider reaching out and getting involved with a Friends of the Library organization, if one exists in your area. This can be another way to meet people and help out your local library.
4) If you’re already working in a library, look into your library’s opportunities for training and staff development. This is always a good way to keep on learning and keep up with what’s going on in your field, but it can also be a way to meet colleagues you don’t work with every day, and expand your circle of contacts within the organization.
Volunteer or look for opportunities to work on cooperative projects with staff from other departments or other library branches. In addition to introducing you to new people, this could also give you a chance to take on different and more interesting challenges and improve your skills.
5) Sign up for conferences that interest you, if your budget and schedule allow it. But don’t try to force yourself to meet and talk to every person there. Attend sessions or panels you’re most interested in or knowledgeable about. Take notes and ask one or two thoughtful questions, if there’s an opportunity. Introduce yourself to one of the presenters afterward. If he or she has time to talk, this is a great opportunity to have a conversation and make a new connection; if not, simply introduce yourself briefly and thank the presenter for an interesting discussion. Set yourself a goal of having a certain number of conversations with new people and focus on quality, not quantity, of interaction. A real connection with one or two new colleagues, mentors, or potential future employers is more important than awkward small talk with a hundred people whose names you won’t remember tomorrow.
Keep your networking goals challenging but reasonable, and your confidence and ability will grow!