We have a series of guest blogs lined up. The first is from Joanna Ptolomey, a fellow editor at FUMSI.
My name is Joanna Ptolomey and I'm a nervous networker.
About 8 years ago, with 2 children under 2, I was isolated and struggling. On the verge of giving up my business and feeling detached from the information profession, I wasn’t sure how to turn things around. However, a chance remark by a fellow professional and an offer to connect me with some information professionals in a different sector re-ignited my desire to continue in business.
Coming from a project management and research background I decided to take advantage of a short period of time and set myself a 4 month personal booster project. Designed with the nervous me in mind, it was a tool to network, learn, share, and -- if need be -- a prop to hold me up.
Power networking with smart business cards, the best stationary and the slick one-liners -- well that was not me. What I learned was that networking is about building relationships for yourself and helping others build theirs. Also, relax and be yourself -- simple but true.
I decided early on that networking had to be integral to my work plans and flows -- it had to be part of the natural flow to make it seem less of a chore. That would mean seeing opportunities to connect and share where there are sometimes seemingly none.
Some things that worked for me:
- Have a plan for meeting people, connecting and sharing. Perhaps develop a short project with goals and outcomes.
- Share your ideas with a colleague/mentor. Experience has taught me that if I share my ideas and aspirations and be specific about outcomes, then I am more likely to have success. They will often recommend or connect me to others.
- Be creative about putting yourself in different situations. One of the things I do is to get involved in focus groups in healthcare (my niche industry). I have discovered that for a short amount of time I give free, I get so much back. Many of the stakeholders are present at these events -- from patients to service delivery budget-holders.
- Don’t do the hard sell. Yes, if people ask, tell them what you do and how you help people. But listening and asking enquiring questions are key. You never know what intelligence you will glean for yourself or the profile you are creating.
- If you get an introduction via someone else, be prepared to be upfront about what you expect. For example, I generally want to know about how public and health libraries have been working together in consumer health information provision.
- Publish or showcase what you do at selected events/organisations. I started small with the Scottish Health Information Network (a group of which I was already a member).
- Social media has to be mentioned as a tool; however it really deserves its own post. Just being a friend on social media does not count. It takes the same amount of energy and effort to share consciously and effectively.
Navigating away from the nervous networker has taken time -- and I still prefer the terms sociable and sharer. Whatever works!
Joanna is a freelance information consultant and analyst. She helps people make the best use of information in decision making and managing risk. She is particularly interested in inequalities such as accessibility, information literacy and the information divide especially in the healthcare sector. She is the author of the chapter ‘Digital divide and accessibility’ in Government Information Management in the 21st Century and the book Taking charge of your career : a guide for library and information professionals . She is a contributing editor and product reviewer for FreePint publications FUMSI and VIP.