This is another in a series of guest posts, this time from another fellow AIIP member, Betty Story.
Although working in a linear fashion is not my inclination, I know that following a plan is the tried-and-true way to succeed with networking. However, along with a methodical plan, I find serendipitous networking is reassuring for an introvert. Serendipitous, or happy-chance, networking is often a possibility when we're out and about in our lives. Since most of us are engaged in a range of activities besides work, we enjoy networking without a recognized event that demands we suit up, meet, greet and sell ourselves.
Recently I wrote a letter to the editor of the local weekly newspaper of my beach community. The letter was a response to another reader who suggested shutting down the local libraries and for taxpayers to receive refunds from the tax funding that went to libraries. After I calmed down, I wrote a letter about the ROI communities do get from libraries and the roles of Andrew Carnegie and Benjamin Franklin in founding America's libraries. As an introvert, I struggle with public speaking, and writing this letter was easier than if I had to spontaneously debate the value of libraries. After the letter was published, however, I received an invitation to speak at a community group. There were also a couple of phone calls and emails from several like-minded people with questions about my work. Yes, this could just lead to being on another committee, but I have learned to not underestimate any relationships.
Also, I lately responded to a query in HARO ( Help Out a Reporter) about starting private school libraries. As I have set up several international school libraries, I got in touch with the reporter from GreatSchools.org. I was interviewed about my experiences with school library development. From this outreach, I've been contacted by a consortium of well-established charter schools and an educational publishing company, and they are interested in my services.
The contacts that were generated from the letter and interview were springboards to conversations about what I do as an information professional. Talking about a passion for libraries and my experiences with developing school libraries is one painless way to market myself and make connections.
Social-media marketing guru Dave Merman Scott blogged recently about serendipity vs narrowcasting marketing. Scott suggests that we have to use both types marketing and not just focus on our primary market field.
Since we all have real life interests when we're off duty, it’s good to remember how simple networking is when we’re not in potential business situations, pondering what to say next. For example, I volunteer with a group that finds homes for retired racing greyhounds. When we're not talking about our dogs, we do sometimes talk about our work life. I have gotten work indirectly from a connection with other greyhound owners.
Keep an eye out for your serendipitous networking occasions, I find they build confidence, are enriching and may even occasionally bring prospects.
Betty Story, an independent information professional, teaches and works on projects for nonprofit agencies, school libraries, and small businesses. She currently serves on the board of directors of the Association of Independent Information Professionals. Although she pretends she's an extrovert, it's only from years of practice that she can now enter a room of strangers, smile and approach someone.