It’s important to be a part of a professional community.
I give presentations fairly frequently to LIS students and new professionals about networking. Not just creating a network, but sustaining one as well. That’s a good start to get involved with your professional community, but it goes beyond that. To me, it means actually getting involved with a group. That could mean volunteering with a professional association or at a conference. It could also mean engaging with fellow professionals on social media and keeping up with them, whether you’ve ever met them in real life or not.
But, I’m an introvert. Some people whine.
Ain’t nobody got time for that. Shout others.
Groucho Marx famously said, “I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as one of its members.” Some days, I really feel that. I really do. Yeah, sure, it can be exhausting at times. Especially if you are a pathological volunteer like myself and maybe sometimes (only sometimes) take on a little more than you should be handling. (But, you totally think you can do it!)
I’m here to tell you that the benefits of belonging to a professional community, as an active participant, strongly outweigh any of the negatives you are probably going over in your head as you read this. I’ve met people and have had experiences that have made my volunteering very rewarding. It’s still more than that. It’s knowing that you have a whole group of people, maybe even strangers, to use as a sounding board or a resource for questions. It’s that satisfaction of when you Tweet a joke that only you and your professional community of nerds would get, and you see all the likes or favorites pile up in your social media. You know that there’s a group of people out there who get you.
It’s like Google+, that’s still a thing, right? People have different circles. Those circles are all the different communities of which we are a member. Family, friends, neighborhood, etc. To some people, the professional community is one they cast aside as being the least important. To me, that seems like an unhealthy balance.
This has been on my mind lately because we are entering what I call “conference season.” There are a lot of LIS conference coming up in the next few months. These are great opportunities to reconnect with your tribe, your peeps, and your posse. But, don’t let it turn into a “same time, next year” sentiment. Cultivate those professional relationships. If you want to go far in your profession, you should go together with your community.