In my experience the term networking produces distinct reactions from people. Mainly: a great opportunity to enjoy some wine, nibbles and liaise with other professionals in your industry or the pit-stomach anxiety reaction at the thought of spending the night chit-chatting with strangers. Personally, I feel the former, since starting my professional career I’ve come to realise how important networking is. It is integral in the Information profession as well, a core component of information as a practice is information and knowledge sharing. They only way to do this is by communicating with our colleagues and our end users. Long gone are the days when librarians can hide in the dark corners of the library sans contact with other people, along with the changing role of librarians the idea of networking is changing also (Steve Haber, 2011).
I spent 27 September 2018 with colleagues from my firm in the National Portrait Gallery for vendor drinks (bad photos I took on the way out below). Aside from the wonderful artwork, which I enjoyed far more than the first time around on my primary school trip, it was a chance to network with other Information professionals and business teams. Before the event I spoke to some of my colleagues about networking and how we use it. As expected some of my colleagues back arched and wide eyed explained the anxiety that comes with schmoozing strangers in a professional manner and those who openly and actively look forward to making conversation and sharing ideas with people. Thus, I wanted to delve just a little deeper into how the Information profession treats networking and if there was any evidence to suggest Information professionals on average are pro or con networking.
Typically professions like sales and marketing are viewed as being successful and aggressive networkers, going around a room with the velocity and precision of a great white shark. So how does the Information profession fair?
CILIP’s Mike Jones and Jo Wood conducted a survey in February 2018 asking respondents (across all library professions) to rate their confidence in a variety of situations. During a two-week period, in which the survey was active, 238 people responded and here are some of the results.
In relation to the idea of networking:
41.6 per cent of respondents rated their comfort at 1 or 2, while just 26.9 per cent rated it 4 or 5.
When asked to describe their feelings towards networking:
By far the most prominent word was “awkward”, followed by “nervous” and “anxious”. (Mike Jones, Jo Wood, 2018)
It should be noted that when respondents were asked to rate their experience at networking events, the figures showed on a scale of 1-5 the average was 3.29. So not all the data indicated negative responses and experiences in relation to networking. However, from the figures collected in this survey there is some evidence to show that some Information professionals do feel a sense of discomfort about the idea of networking. It can be said once at the event figures were increasingly positive but it is that initial period before the event that anxiety is increased.
Networking events and conferences may not necessarily be all about the content and something can be said for the importance of just meeting people and sharing ideas (Yvonne Hultman Özek, 2009). As within most professions despite impressive technological advances and the growing wealth of resources that aid working practices and environments, people are still the greatest resource. Meeting people and sharing ideas is how we progress and develop and the same can be said in the Information profession, the most valuable ideas I have got have been through talking to people in the field and beyond. Networking is unavoidable and some relate information to communication between people thus information is deeply rooted in communication (Bawden and Robinson, 2012). The need to network in my perspective is a scary notion and so it should be because those opportunities are untapped knowledge and experience pools that we should be using and if for nothing else, go for the free food and drinks. Make friends don’t alienate people.
Bawden, D and Robinson, L, 2012. Introduction to Information Science. London: Facet Publishing
Chowdhury, Rishi, 2011. The Importance of Networking [online]. United Kingdom: Business Insider, 2011. Available from: https://www.businessinsider.com/the-importance-of-networking-2011-5?IR=T [Accessed 30 September 2018].
Haber, Steve, 2011. The Changing Role of Libraries in the Digital Age [online]. Huffington Post, 2011. Available from: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/steve-haber/the-changing-role-of-libr_b_803722.html?guccounter=1 [Accessed 30 September 2018]
Hultman Ozek, Y, 2009. Rejuvenation and Networking Motivates Librarians to Attend Conferences, Evidence Summary. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice 4(4). Available from https://journals.library.ualberta.ca/eblip/index.php/EBLIP/article/view/6293/5867 [Accessed 29 September 2018
Wood, J and Jones M, 2018. Conference 2018: making the most of networking opportunities [online]. London: CILIP, 2018. Available from: https://www.cilip.org.uk/page/Conference18network [Accessed 29 September 2018].