I’ve said this before, that you need to maintain and cultivate your professional network as you would a garden. You have to tend to it to keep it healthy and active, but also be careful not to overuse it and have it wither. See my original blog post about that here: https://librarysherpa.wordpress.com/2014/05/25/silvergoldsla2014/
I saw this article today that also addresses that same idea. See this piece from Fast Company written by Laura Vanderkam.
I like what the author did with her article. She provided seven very easy ways to cultivate your network and keep it healthy to grow. In particular, I’d like to point out that I think #6 is really key. “Be helpful,” she wrote, “focus on what the other person needs.” Nothing turns me off to networking with someone quicker when they make it all about helping them and their needs. As I also wrote in my original blog post, networking needs to be a give and take relationship. You could soon find yourself without a network if you don’t cultivate it wisely.
The Girls Scouts taught me how to move large quantities of product quickly using cash-only sales. (Cookies, of course, what were you thinking?) They also taught me this haunting melody about friendship and networking. Although, I’m sure I didn’t know what networking was at age 10. But, let’s face it, “Make New Friends, But Keep the Old” is about networking. As I Tweeted recently during an #INALJCHAT, a professional network is like a garden that needs to be cultivated in order to thrive. Sure, you can keep tending to the garden of old gold friends. But, you’ll never grow beyond your current borders. Then, at some point, those roots will dry up from overuse and from depleting your resources without replenishing them. (Come on, I’m not the only one who ever had a 4-H experience, right?)
A professional network, much like crops, not only needs to be planted new, but also rotated, replenished and sometimes even left fallow in order to maximize longevity and usefulness. With a major professional networking opportunity for some of us on the horizon, the SLA Annual Conference & INFO-EXPO in Vancouver, keep these ideas of network tending and cultivation in mind.
Make New Friends: Even if you are a seasoned veteran attendee of SLA conferences, you must meet new people. If you see a person wearing a “First Timer” ribbon on his or her lanyard, go introduce yourself and say hello. If you see someone generally looking lost, bewildered or just standing alone at an open house, go say hello. I know it’s easiest just to stick with the people you already know and that talking to new ones is an effort. Get over yourself; you’re not that important that you’ t can’t manage a few minutes to make a new person feel welcome.
But Keep the Old: Go on, faire la bise with your old friends at the conference. If you don’t already keep in touch, then find out what he or she is up to professionally and personally. A true network is all about give and take. Act like your reunion is a reference interview. Listen closely to what he or she is saying, then think if you have any ways you can help them. It’s also ok to listen closely for what he or she could also provide for you, but don’t be greedy about it. Give before you take. Polish that gold before you go and do something with it.
At the end of this conference, you’ll come out of it with a lot of new silver and old gold contacts for your network. Man, that’s a lot of bling.