Thursday, 12 September 2013

Career Paths and Networking

Back in July 2012 I attended the CILIP Career Development Group/New Professionals conference and had intended on blogging about it, but I never got round to it and now so much time has passed it doesn’t really seem worth it. Plenty of people who attended wrote up their own thoughts on the event, a couple of which you can read here or here or here.
However I thought one of the sessions I attended might be useful to share as it focused on Career Paths and Networking and was presented by Jeremy Clarke of Sue Hill Recruitment. It aimed to highlight some of the ways in which you can approach career development regardless of whether you are just starting out or more established.

To begin with Jeremy highlighted the importance of planning, and asked these questions;

  • Where are you now?
  • Where do you want to be?
  • How will you get there?
Once you begin to answer those questions you can target areas that perhaps need improvement, and focus on trying for jobs that will help your progression. He also mentioned that it might be worth doing a 'skills audit' at this stage to help you answer some of those questions.
If we accept that the idea of a ‘job for life’ has pretty much gone, then the idea of training for just one particular type of role makes less sense. Transferrable skills and the need to be more flexible in our career choices is becoming increasingly important, so Jeremy suggested we think more in terms of ‘portfolio careers’. Selling your skills and experiences, and trying out various job roles and ways of working to demonstrate your flexibility.

He also gave us a number of practical tips on where you can find out about job opportunities, such as;

  • Local & national papers, and trade publications
  • Websites such as Lisjobnet
  • Recruitment agencies – although these are often better for temporary positions
  • Social media – LinkedIn, or Twitter accounts such as @UKLibraryJobs or @LISNPN
  • Listservs such as LIS-LINK, or ARLIS-LINK if you’re interested in art librarianship
  • Organizational websites – as it’s increasingly expensive to advertise through traditional channels, some organizations will only advertise on their own website
  • Direct approaches – some organizations will keep a database of potential applicants and let you know when vacancies arise
  • Word of mouth – networking and personal contacts

The second part of his presentation focused on networking, a skill which many people can find off-putting or uncomfortable, so he shared some practical tips he'd picked up over the years that had helped him to get started;
  • Learn to smile & say hello – basic but important, and the easiest way to get chatting to someone
  • Ask someone you know to make introductions – you probably won’t have to ask outright, just mentioning that you don’t know anyone else there might result in them offering!
  • Approach singles – always less intimidating than a group, and often grateful for someone to chat to as well
  • Prepare in advance – if you have a couple of topics/questions in mind it can help fill the dreaded ‘empty silence’
  • Go with your boss – I’m guessing this depends on how well you get on with your boss
  • Learn to listen – try not to fall into the trap of panicking so much about what to say next that you forget to pay attention to the conversation

Some of Jeremy's recommendations for successful networking included;
  • Picking the right event – some events make it easier to network than others
  • Realize that there are ‘sliding scales of networking success’ – you shouldn’t expect all networking experiences to be the same, and never compare yourself to others, what you need to achieve your goals may not be the same as someone else
  • Set yourself targets – ie I will try to talk to at least 3 new people today, as it can help you to feel less overwhelmed and keep you focused
  • Consider what it is you want to find out – having a goal or purpose can help focus your thoughts
  • Have an idea of what you want to communicate – networking is a two way thing, you’re not just looking to find information from others, but you are also taking the opportunity to advertise your own skills and experience
  • Follow up afterwards – a good way to ensure that you don’t get forgotten, particularly if your networking has been done at a large event with lots of people
And a related tip I remember from a similar training session – always have an ‘out’, a way to disengage naturally from the conversation, rather than see it flounder. Common examples include, 'I'm going to get another drink/visit the toilet/check out the trade stands/find the next presentation or session'. Personally I’m not a fan of the ‘there’s so and so I just need to go and have a word with them’ method as it can come across as a bit rude!