Trends, Achievements, and Perspectives
In my first few positions as a professional salesperson in the 1990s and early 2000s, refined networking skills were considered required competencies and I learned strategies from quality corporation-sponsored training programs designed to develop and hone such skills. During those years in professional sales, the employers for which I worked bought memberships in local business associations. These various associations offer member opportunities such as networking, education, advocacy and member rewards. An important benefit of such memberships was the networking events where members showcased their products and services, practiced their 20-second introduction, and connected with other business people. Fundamental aspects of these meetings were strategic social networking opportunities to sit with people we did not know, stand up and introduce ourselves and our services in 20-second speeches, and collect more business cards than we distributed. As important as though meetings were, the execution of a comprehensive follow-up practice ensured professional success.
While association conferences and workshops would be ideal events for networking, I have noticed that librarians do not leverage those opportunities. At two recent conferences, I saw my work colleagues attend sessions together, sit together, have lunch together, and spend their evenings out together. While it is wonderful and rewarding to spend time away from the office with our work mates, spending time with librarians from other colleges and universities brings me great honour and pleasure. I purposefully sought out others, introduced myself, gave out my customized business card (complete with a QR code to launch my mobile ePortfolio). The discussions with these profoundly knowledgeable librarians between sessions, in the evenings, and at breakfast connected me with remarkable people sharing insights, ideals, challenges, and hopes for our profession.
How do we connect with similarly amazing colleagues online, develop a community of practice, and do so effectively?
I joined LinkedIn a number of years ago but didn’t truly understand its usefulness nor the benefits of the features. Since graduating with my MLIS last year I have revisited LinkedIn at the encouragement of a close friend with the aim to develop a strong online professional community. I have been amazed at the responses I have received and at the number of other professional librarians using LinkedIn. When you sign up, pay attention to such features as:
In the last several months, I have connected with more than 80 others and joined over a dozen library and librarian groups. I can post an activity on LinkedIn that is also shared on my Twitter account. This is one aspect of transliteracy competency librarians hope to gain. How we use online social networks and understand how each interconnects with the other is significantly important for librarians. While LinkedIn provides options to share activity with my Twitter account, posting onto a WordPress blog offers Twitter sharing and an entry on my Facebook account. Learning these features is incredibly important to leverage my social networking opportunities and avoid multiple postings while ensuring cross-postings to my various social networks where I have different groups.
There are many online networking opportunities but in my view I have time to focus only on one or two to do it well, and to contribute meaningfully to the professional community building my connections.
I feel very strongly that honouring my professional community through active reading, respectful online conversations, and consistent interaction is demanded. It is easy to slip past a colleague’s posting or insert an event into my calendar with every good intention to pay attention to and interact with my online community but put it off to next week or the week after. As regular and important as dental flossing, consistent and meaningfully focused attention to my online community is presciptive for success – both mine and my community members’.