Wednesday, 27 July 2011

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

Slowly catching up with the backlog and even managed to catch up with a couple of my favourite blogs: Joeyanne's posting on networking for introverts (really interesting stuff!) and another fellow cpd23-er's blog (Growth of a Librarian) - really enjoyed reading about how the concept of 'networking' can actually be a little cringey, but once you get past the rather horrendous images it conjures up, then there is a lot to get out of it....

As per my Thing 6 post, I'll just talk briefly about the face to face networking I have done, and then what I would like to do going forward, having read through the latest cpd23 blog - some great ideas there to explore.

Without a doubt the most important association that I am part of is BIALL - British and Irish Association of Law Librarians. Membership is paid for by our firm as my managers fully support the opportunities BIALL provides in terms of events, seminars and the 'Legal Information Management' journal. I have been a member of this organisation in every law firm I have worked for, and consequently have attended quite a few seminars and other events, such as the annual cheese and wine party and a quiz night. All of these occasions offer the opportunity for networking. I have to admit I have had varied success in this respect, and I agree with many other cpd23 participants - networking as a concept is a daunting thought, and it can be - for many people, myself included - really difficult to walk into a room full of people and get talking to some or even one of them. It is definitely made easier when I attend the events with someone I know - but it's a double edged sword, because if you are with someone, it's all too easy just to talk to that same person all evening (especially in my case when the person I often go with is a close friend with whom I used to work - turns into a chance to catch up on the gossip!) Therefore I am the first to admit that although it's definitely harder to go to these events alone, you probably do get a little bit further in terms of meeting new people. A couple of months ago I attended an event on recruitment organised by BIALL, and because I was on my own, I was forced to make conversation with the person next to me, as well as a couple of other people in the coffee break. It was hard, but also satisfying because you do feel like you are raising your profile.

One thing I do find difficult to understand, however, is what defines successful networking?? Is it simply making conversation with a new person at such an event, or is it only defined as 'successful' if you come away with a business card/email address etc for that other person? Sometimes I feel it's simply not appropriate to start asking for contact details - again it simply feels to cliched and 'obvious'...but should we let that stop us? Is it better to just brazen it out?! It's unlikely the other person will refuse if you have been talking to them for some time - and after all, chances are they are hoping to 'network' just as much as you are!!!

I think CILIP offers quite a few opportunities for networking, but I have to admit I have very little experience of them - the main reason being that I have only been a member of CILIP for a year or so. My current employer is the only law firm I have ever know who supports CILIP membership. There does seem to be a great deal of people out there in the law library world who don't rate CILIP at all - all of my previous managers included! (We won't go into that now though - save it for another posting!) Anyway, I am in the process of Chartership as you know, and the one CILIP event I attended was one which introduced the Chartership process. I found it really useful, and it was also a fantastic opportunity to get talking to other librarians/information professionals. I was the only law librarian at that session, and I ended up chatting to school librarians, NHS was great! Everyone was really nice too and it was so enlightening to talk to people from those fields and hear about how different their jobs are on a daily basis to mine. So the upshot is - I am very 'pro' CILIP and definitely want to get involved in future events - not just those relating to Chartership.

City Legal Information Group is a forum for legal information professionals that work in the London area. This group is very inexpensive to join, and they offer many events throughout the year, including a spring party and an AGM that members can go along to. I have attended seminars on areas of interest to the kind of research I perform - for example, they arranged a fantastic presentation by people from Bloomberg on corporate debt - not the most scintillating of topics, you might think (and you are probably right!!) - but it gave a really useful overview of the terminology used by lawyers in this line of work. Again at the end of these sessions they usually provide drinks and nibbles and thus the opportunity to network. I have got talking to a couple of other people at such an event - and because they are generally attended by people who are working in very close proximity to me, it does provide an opportunity to make connections at other law firms....and you never know how this might benefit you in the future....

Organisations I didn't know of
I loved reading the long list of organisations provided by Bethan in the Thing 7 post - I have decided to explore LIKE - London Information Knowledge and Exchange and the SLA - Special Libraries Association. I'll let you know my thoughts on these in due course...

I definitely think there is a lot to be said these days for networking, and I find it quite intriguing that the information profession have really picked up on this concept - it totally goes against all the old stereotypes of librarians who don't want to have any contact with others!! Although at times I think it does sound like a very cliched idea, nonetheless I feel that the society is developing in such a way in terms of virtual networking, that face to face networking is equally important - making connections and raising your profile can lead to many other things, be it simply just being able to ask a fellow professional for advice or assistance with an enquiry, or even find out about job leads. It's not something that I would say I actively enjoy at this stage, but this particular Thing has definitely given me a bit of inspiration to really make an effort to do more of it....

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1 comment:

  1. Interesting that you ask what defines successful networking. For me, it's any interaction with another professional that makes me feel more positive about the profession - even if it's just a quick friendly chat.