Get to Know Your Network (and Let Them Get to Know You)
Published: November 13, 2020 by Jillian Collins
Effort makes for a great network. The networking bit is always a bit of a hurdle. It can be awkward to approach someone to be a mentor or join a group that appeals to your career aspirations. Career confidence in networking starts when you take initiative to get to know “your network” as individual people just like you.
‘Write Something Interesting about You’
Consider the start of a new semester, and the very first discussion question assignment of all your courses: the introduction. Your name, location, where you are in the program, why you are taking the course, and something interesting about you. You need to have your Canvas colleagues know who you are in the course, but that “something interesting” makes them remember who you are. This activity is a terrific opportunity to find others with whom you have something in common. You need this practice because the absolute best way to build the type of authentic connection that can last for a professional lifetime is through opening up the conversation.
Is Your ‘Inter-networking’ Working?
When networking, it’s imperative to be able to read the room. Since things have become cyber-centric, over conference centers, you have an advantage and a disadvantage:
Advantage: ”Inter-networking” doesn’t require you to even turn on your webcam. You don’t have to chase down someone who is part of the organization you want to intern at, or a university librarian that you’ve read all about – they’re online! And you can network as time permits.
Disadvantage: You have no human connection. Face-to-face events aren’t coming back soon, so that fellow student you’d like to get to know better is often simply another face in a breakout room. The easy camaraderie that might develop with a fellow attendee at the annual LIS conference is for now a thing of the past, and in-person coffee meet-ups where we might get to know each other better are also usually being replaced (again, for now) with a Zoom meet-up.
Given that this is the moment we’re all in, you still need to be building your community of colleagues/your professional network. So, what are some of the best ways to do that?
What’s Your Sign?
Yep, the cliché pick up line is useful – but we’re not discussing astrology. In this context, ask yourself: if someone saw you again, what would they associate you with? Something unique about you? Something you both have in common. What authentic piece of yourself have you been willing to share? Having confidence can be hard, acting confident can backfire. But being confident by being yourself is natural. To help get you started:
Share your passions. Besides your résumé, your LinkedIn profile, and all those other career-focused things, you have your life. Love baseball? Roller derby? Steampunk fiction-writing? Others do as well! Are you someone who has a craft, like knitting, painting, training a cat? That’s interesting! As long as it’s appropriate to share with people who could be working with you. Don’t bring up anything that you wouldn’t post on a Canvas discussion. Other than that, let others see what brings you joy, laughter, or meaning to your life.
Consider your current networks. Clubs, social media interest groups, connections on LinkedIn. Facebook, Twitter…all the places you go to find the people you want to know, already know, or are involved in activities you enjoy. Do these groups interest you? Do the people you engage with in these groups interest you? Do you engage with other group members one-on-one? Do you engage with them at all? If you are unsure, or the answer is no, make a plan to reach out to at least one member you already know and one you don’t, weekly if possible, to create a habit of continuing to build your profile in the professional community. Start the conversation.
Authenticity and consistency are key. Bring together your passions or hobbies (what your ‘sign’ is) with a consistent level of interaction and engagement among your professional groups. You’ll have established an effective way to maintain (and build) your network of relationships regardless of current constraints. You can find an opportunity to ‘re-introduce’ yourself, or attend the next digital event with a whole new attitude. Show off your signature craft.
Let Your ‘Sign’ Shine!
You are, at the end of the day, more than a student. When you think about the old and dreaded “Tell me about yourself” question from job interviews, turn it into a different scenario. If you get to know yourself, and how to help others remember you, that’s a great way to get to know – and grow – your network.
Quick Jot from Jillian
I wanted to write this for two reasons. The first is to underscore that a network, as a professional, thrives when you connect to those in the group. People remember you when you begin a conversation. People will open conversations with you. It is an accomplishment and shows you are an individual and not another name on a membership list.
The second reason is more personal. We need supportive and genuine connections to others. This is the digital age, in terms of the pandemic. People are social by nature, but our social lives are limited. COVID-19 is global and local. We all work together, in order to keep ourselves and others safe. It is important, admirable, and showing community solidarity in the face of fighting the Coronavirus.
But there is still an emptiness when it comes to maintaining relationships that provide support. Consider the topic of finding common ground with people in professional networks as making friends. Ask them about themselves. But, remember, they are the people who have potential to recommend you to a future employer. You could be the person to recommend them, too.
I know it’s not easy to become a social butterfly overnight. I know that life, in general, always throws an outside challenge at you. All the plans you can make for a day may be interrupted with unexpected car trouble, a trip to the auto shop, and five hours in the lobby. Our best laid plans are subject to the whims of the universe.
I urge you to remember how much you are worth as a person. You are interesting and knowledgeable of things, which make you extraordinary. People want to know you as both a friend and a professional. I know I would. Right now, there are hurdles in digital divides and unpredictable circumstances that drain us of energy.
I want you to be comfortable with taking baby steps. You want to take the opportunity to know the other people on a level that makes a positive impact in friendship. By doing that, you are keeping yourself, and others, motivated.
- 5 Ways Your Team Can Stay Productive – and Connected – while Working from Home (from The Muse)
- 5 Thoughtful Ways to Build Relationships Virtually (from QDT)
- How can we build relationships in virtual isolation? (from Chief Learning Officer)
Selected Career Opportunities
- Archivist/Post Production Support. Where The Buffalo Roam (WTBR). Remote position. San Francisco, CA. Apply onLinkedIn.
- Education in Emergencies, Library Programming Consultant. Room to Read. Remote position. Apply on company website.
Mark Your Calendar!
Cafecito con Barbara Miller hosted by REFORMA SJSU iSchool Student & Alumni Group
- Date: Thursday, November 19, 2020
- Time: 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. (Pacific Time)
- Location: Register here to attend this Zoom event
Around-the-World Library Tour hosted by ALASC
- Date: Wednesday, November 18, 2020
- Time: 6 p.m. – 7 p.m. (Pacific Time)
- Location: Register here to attend this Zoom event