I cringe anytime I hear someone refer to “networking.” I just hate the word. For me it evokes images of uncomfortable gatherings where I sweat and try to think of anything to say to anyone in a crowd of strangers that won’t sound too stupid. I am a closet introvert. I used to be a lot more shy than I am now, but I still get exhausted at gatherings which involve a lot of strangers, a lot of talking, and a lot of forced conversation.
There is a flip side to this whole real-life networking saga–I LOVE progress. I really like partnerships and working with others who have similar goals to mine and figuring out how to make things happen. I really enjoy pitching in whatever energy, thoughts, hard work I can to making someone else’s idea come to life. It is really great when I meet others who feel the same way about my ideas. I especially love it when ideas become a shared creation and then get brought to fruition. To me, this is the reason for building and maintaining real life networks. Sometimes they can be natural network–like fellow librarians for me. Other times, my real life networks consist of a much wider net. My real life networks include friends and acquaintances I have made through leadership programs, Chamber of Commerce meetings, local historians, marketing professionals, school administrators, and much more. Each network offers me a chance to get to know others better and to direct my energy and my efforts in ways to help the community I live and work in.
It takes time to maintain and nurture friendships and networks. It is important to stay in touch, to do what you say you are going to do, and to be honest about what you have to offer at any given time. Some networks even cost money to maintain. I have been a member of the Indiana Library Federation for several years along with the American Library Association. In celebration of this particular thing, I just joined the Florida Library Association. I don’t know too many Florida librarians outside my library system yet–but I look forward to future opportunities to connect and share.
Thing 7 is part of the 23 Things for Professional Development series.