Student Snippets A Window Into The Daily Life & Thoughts of SLIS Students


One thing I have not been very good at while at Simmons (and that I have mentioned here several times before) is networking.  The idea of going up to a stranger in my field and talking about myself pretty much makes me break out in hives, and I know I’m not the only person who reacts that way.  The unfortunate part is that networking, especially in the libraries and archives spheres, is a huge career booster, and the sort of thing that you pretty much need to know how to do, no matter how much you might hate it.

Our NEA mentoring group recently talked about ways to network at our last meeting, and there were some concrete suggestions on ways to do it that I think are a little less unpleasant than having to make awkward small talk with complete strangers.  Here are some of them:

  • Join professional organizations like New England Archivists, Society of American Archivists, the American Library Association, etc.
  • Once you do, join the professional discussion lists, like NEA Discuss, the ALA lists, or SAA lists.  Joining in the discussion on those lists can be intimidating at first, but even just lurking on them can be helpful professionally, since they talk about a lot of topics that can be helpful to early professionals. 
  • Any professional organization has committees relevant to any interest that you can join and contribute to, often virtually.
  • Professional organization board meetings are often open to members, and can be a good place to go and learn about the org’s priorities and personalities.

When you do talk to people, professional conferences are a great place to do it – possibly the best place.  Bring business cards to hand out to people, so they have something to remember you by.  Have your elevator speech ready, where you describe who you are (professionally) and what your interests/goals are.   If you do find yourself at a conference, and it has a Day of Service or other activities that get you out of the conference center with a group.

For professionals who aren’t complete strangers that you may want to talk to about questions or other archives or library-related issues, there is nothing wrong with emailing them and inviting them out for coffee – the worst thing they can say is no.

There are lots of ways to network; the nice thing is knowing it doesn’t always have to be the worst thing in the world.  The more you do it (so I’m told), the easier it gets.