Monday, 9 January 2012

Thing 7: Face-to-face networks and professional organisations

Like many fellow professionals, I have been so lucky to have been helped, encouraged, occasionally cajoled and badgered by colleagues within my support networks. My line manager in my first professional post, who remains a firm friend and mentor, introduced me to some truly inspirational library colleagues and started my network for me. As a fledgling college librarian, colleagues from neighbouring colleges kindly took me under their wings and gave me so much support, practical advice and gentle mentoring. Their support enabled me to progress and achieve in a new role and location, developing new knowledge, skills and confidence. Part of this confidence enabled me to join CILIP's Colleges of Further & Higher Education Wales Committee, and then on to National Committee, eventually organising a three-day residential conference, being Honorary Secretary and the National Chair. Yes, these experiences were hard work, but at the same time they were hugely developmental, fun and rewarding. And again, I still have friends and colleagues from my CoFHE times, although that was over 15 years ago! And the list goes on ...

So I value and appreciate my professional networks and organisations. Hopefully, I'm also a good example as an active member of my current networks. Networks are great, but they will only become really rewarding, challenging and developmental when you choose to take an active part in them. Don't just sit there, and expect to be a spoon-fed sponge, soaking up the professional wisdom as if by passive diffusion. Get out there, contribute, participate, organise, debate, discuss, visit, praise, question, support and constructively shake-up these networks. In being actively involved you will develop:

  •  a wider network of professional friends and colleagues, 
  • your interactions with them will be more numerous, more purposeful, and more helpful / supportive
  • opportunities to open yourself up to a wider range of challenges and professional learning experiences. 
As a new LIS Professional I would never have had the confidence to have led workshops in professional conferences, chaired a Special Interest Group, or go on to lead a team organising a conference. My networks have enabled me to do these things, which in turn have given me experience and confidence to apply for more senior roles, change direction in my career, and hopefully to support and mentor other colleagues.

I continue to reap the networking benefits. My recent involvement in CILIP's Career Development Group Wales Divisional Committee provides me with new opportunities to meet fascinating, enthusiastic, talented and resourceful professionals at all stages of their careers. In Wales, I believe that we are very fortunate, because the Welsh Library world is a comparatively small, but welcoming group. We have strong foundations - an excellent CILIP Branch, a great national annual conference, some really active Special Interest Groups and local networks, Aberystwyth "library school", the National Library, devolved heritage and culture policies. As CDG Wales Committee Secretary I hope that I can enable, encourage, support and cajole other colleagues to become professionally active, to develop and value their support networks.

Don't just sit there, do something! Take confidence from your virtual networks. Twitter, Facebook and other Online Communities can be great ice-breakers for when you do meet others face-to-face. You will have so much in common, so much to share, to give and to benefit from.

This is all very good but what could I do better in my networking? Some New Year thoughts:

  • improve my networking within my own organisation. With 5000 staff, I should try to know a few more, understand their roles, needs and aspirations;
  • become a more skilled networker. Work on my memory skills  - I have a terrible memory for names, and that really doesn't help networking! Perhaps take cards with me to conferences / events / giving my Twitter / blog and email details. Look at delegate lists and try to talk with as many people as possible. Use social media to add to events that I attend, or attend events remotely via Twitter feeds etc, for those events that I can't get to.
Do you have any further suggestions for me?


  1. Brilliant post - I totally agree with your point to be active to help your development and found myself nodding along as I read much of the post, particularly this part...

    "Get out there, contribute, participate, organise, debate, discuss, visit, praise, question, support and constructively shake-up these networks"

    Yes, totally!

    1. Thanks Jo! It's been hectic in work and so I'd deferred CPD23 Things for little while. Hence this belated thanks.

      Any tips for me on improving my networking skills?

      Best wishes, Stephen