By Rebecca Immich Sullivan
Networking can be looked upon as too difficult or as unfairly using people to get ahead. But networking can be utilized as a great tool, both for individuals searching for a job and those already employed.
The key to networking is to look at it as creating relationships. You are not looking to “use” someone to get ahead, rather you are trying to share information that you have and learn from the other individual. Successful networking will involve give and take from both individuals.
Three simple rules can help you present yourself well at all kinds of events, from conferences to meetings to the grocery store. Opportunities to network are everywhere.
1. Bring business cards! It is crucial that you have business cards, even if you are not currently employed, to give to people who are interested in contacting you. You can order business cards for free through Vista Print ( http://www.vistaprint.com) or have them made up at Kinkos or another printer.
It is helpful to write notes for yourself on the back of the business card after you have exchanged them so you can remember details about your conversation. Follow good networking etiquette and make sure to write your notes after the individual is no longer in front of you.
2. Have copies of your resume ready. While not everyone you meet will want to receive a copy of your resume, it is helpful to have it available to give more details to those individuals who are interested. It may not be practical to carry your resume around at all times, but make sure to have it at events like conferences or job fairs where you could meet potential employers.
3. Create a short introduction about yourself. This can be called a variety of different things, from an elevator speech to a thirty-second bio, but basically it will be a short sound-bite that talks about what you do, what you have accomplished, and your career goals.
You can create a sample speech by filling in the blanks:
“I was born and raised in ___ . I have attended school at ___ and graduated with a degree in ___. Most recently I have been working for ___ . My job title is/was ___. Two of my greatest strengths are ___ and ___ . I used these strengths to achieve the following special accomplishments in my most recent position(s): ___ . Prior to that I worked for ___ (company) as ___ (job title). There I gained a solid base in ___ (knowledge learned or skills used). My career goals are ___ .
You will want to customize your speech to reflect you and your personal experiences and career goals. Make sure to emphasize who you are, what you do, how you do it, and what happens as a result. Be prepared to make your introduction shorter or longer by practicing different versions.
Networking at Library Events
One of the best places librarians can network is through library organizations and conferences. If you are looking for employment, attending conferences for your state library association or your area of interest can be a good way to meet people with common interests. Attending larger conferences, like the ALA Annual Conference, can be a little overwhelming with the large number of people attending, but make sure to attend meetings and events that cover subjects that you are interested in to meet other librarians.
While attending a conference, eating with people is going to be one of your best bets for successful networking. Be brave, talk to people, and ask them if they have lunch plans. You can make small talk, discuss the meeting you attended, and ask lots of questions over lunch.
If you are looking for a job, another great place to meet librarians who are interested in helping you find employment is the Resume Review Service ( http://www.ala.org/ala/nmrt/comm/ResumeReview.htm). The Resume Review Service can be done over email or at the ALA Annual Conference or Midwinter Meeting. The librarians who review your resume can be great resources for more than just your resume – ask them questions about job searching, suggestions for having a successful career in librarianship, and qualities they look for in librarians. It’s a great way to get career advice and guidance from librarians with experience.
If you are looking for further tips and advice for becoming a successful networker, check out some of these recommended readings:
HELLO, My Name is Scott.
What if you decided to wear a nametag every day for the rest of your life? Scott Ginsberg has been living that reality since 1999 and shares his lessons about approachability and networking.
Lindenfield, Gael and Stuart Lindenfield. Confident Networking for Career Success and Satisfaction. London: Piatkus Books, 2005.
A networking book for both extroverts and introverts that will help develop skills to introduce yourself with confidence. Learn more about building and nurturing a network of relationships.
Rezac, Darcy. Work the Pond. New York: Prentice Hall Press, 2005.
Introduces a different networking approach – “What can I do for you?” – that can help make networking easier and more successful. Examples of how to network successfully, as well as sample business card designs, can help make networking less intimidating.