Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Networking for (Insecure) Dummies

I suppose, on a social level,  most people consider themselves worth knowing. I certainly do. I’ve said before that it takes some effort to get to know me. As is probably the case with a lot of writers, I’m more confident on paper than I am in person. I find small talk with strangers excruciating. I’m trying to work on that because I hate being the person at the party alone in the corner or hovering around the one person I know. I don’t want to stand around with the other outsiders; I want to participate. As usual though, I’m starting slow. I made a joke with the barista at my regular coffee house. I comment on the weather with my softball teammates (most of whom I don’t know). By the end of the season, I might ask about their weekend.

But there’s another way to look at this topic, and that is being worth knowing career-wise. I’m talking about professional networking.

To aid in my job search, I have “liked” and subscribed to a number of advice columns and library list-servs. I followed the advice about “branding” myself and establishing a professional presence online. I joined relevant groups on LinkedIn and followed big names in the library profession on Twitter. I made business cards.

What I haven’t done is joined in the conversation. In the job seeking circles there are numerous threads and discussions about the effectiveness of personal branding etc. There are also a lot of complaints about the economy, library closures and long-term unemployment. I find these topics depressing and unhelpful. If I sit around participating in the whining circle, I start to remember that in addition to being unemployed,  I’m turning 30 in a few months, I live with my parents and I am single. The male version of this cliche would be playing video games in the basement. But I’m writing blog posts in the shed about how I have nothing to contribute.

This is all the more frustrating for me because I used to be worth knowing. The community of prison librarians in the UK is  small, but  active. When I worked at the prison, I was on the national committee. I was a person other people called for help, for advice, and for information. I helped plan and execute training days and annual conferences. Professionally, I had a lot of potential and I was ambitious and … I totally burned out. But that was because of the prison, not the job.

Anyway, next week I’m going to New Orleans for the ALA annual conference. I will be volunteering in a school library and attending a job fair. I will make jokes and talk about the weather. I will go armed with a fistful of resumes and business cards and if anyone follows the address to my website they’ll be directed here.

Um.  I may not have thought this through. 
*This post was originally published at The Daily Theme on June 17, 2011

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