13 Comments

Online Networks, Or: In Cyberspace, No One Can Hear Your Awkward Pauses

This post is part of 23 Things for Professional Development.

I’m a very active user of online networks, and have been for several years. For introverts like myself, online networking is invaluable: it allows me to make connections with people who I’d have been too nervous to approach in real life, it lets me dip in and out when I want to, and crucially it allows me to spend time thinking about what I want to say before I say it!

Online networking has also given me more confidence in face-to-face situations. It’s rare now that I go to a library-type networking event where I don’t recognise people I’ve met online, which makes things a lot easier when it comes to approaching and speaking to people. Using online networks has also given me a way to boost my professional profile, as well as making new contacts and reinforcing the contacts I already have.

So, here’s a bit about the networks suggested in Thing 6:

LinkedIn

I like LinkedIn a lot. I know I may be in the minority with this, but there we go. I like having a space on the web that is purely professional, and that thanks to the magic of LinkedIn’s SEO I can be fairly sure will be near the top if anyone googles me. I also find it a really good way to keep up with former colleagues and other professional contacts who aren’t as active on Twitter etc. I get a weekly email that tells me which of my contacts have updated their profiles, which gives me a heads-up as to who has changed jobs or is doing something else new and different – I often use that as a prompt to get back in touch with someone, even if only to say a quick “congrats on your new job”.

My profile is pretty much complete, although there are certainly improvements I can make. My photo is pretty old and I’ve cut my hair short since it was taken, so I should probably change that. I have added my most recent job on there, but I haven’t filled out the details of what I do yet – I need to get round to that at some point. I could probably do with a better “tagline” too – under my name it just says my job title, but you can edit that to say whatever you want. I’d like to put something more descriptive there, but I’m not really sure what!

One thing that LinkedIn keeps telling me I need to do to “complete” my profile is to get some recommendations, which so far I’ve not tried to do. I’m not hugely comfortable with asking people for recommendations, it feels a bit pushy to me! I know it isn’t really, I just need to get over my hangups here. Has anyone else asked for recommendations for their profile? How did you go about it – i.e. who did you ask and how, and was it hugely embarrassing or am I worrying over nothing?

I use the Groups quite a lot on LinkedIn – I lurk mostly, but I like to keep an eye on what conversations are happening and will drop in if and when I have something to add. My current favourite group is LIS Career Options – it’s a subgroup of the American Library Association, so has a very American focus, but there are some great discussions going on there about careers and job hunting tips.

Facebook

Ah, the Book of Faces. I hate it. I’m on there – grudgingly – because a lot of friends and family who I otherwise wouldn’t hear from much are on there, but I barely use it. I occasionally post photos from social gatherings where a lot of my Facebook friends were there, because it feels kind of expected to do that, but I don’t really update my status or post on people’s walls unless I’m replying to something. I have my profile pretty well locked down, so if you don’t know me you can only see my photo and name, and I don’t add people I don’t know in real life. I do nothing at all professional on there – it’s personal use only.

I’m not sure exactly when I started hating Facebook – it may have been around the time I started using Twitter! I just don’t really see any value in it any more, at least not for me. I’d probably have to look into it more if I worked in a sector where most of my clients were on Facebook, such as a school, FE or HE library, but as the use of Facebook is generally frowned upon in the legal world I don’t see the need to try to make myself not hate it!

LISNPN

I love LISNPN. I’m not as active on there as I should be – I tend to lurk rather than post anything on the forums, mainly because when I see something interesting someone else has usually chimed in with what I was going to say already – but I find it really valuable for catching up with others at the start of their careers. I’ve also organised a few face-to-face meetups for LISNPN – a couple in London when I lived there, and a couple in Leeds since I moved here at the start of the year. The meetups have been great – usually a good mix of people with varying levels of experience, and from diverse sectors, and it’s always a good chat. The meetups I’ve organised have all been very informal affairs – held in a pub, no nametags, no agenda, just a free-flowing chat about anything and everything. At the first one I organised, I think we mainly talked about cats… I’d be interested to hear how people feel about that approach. I get the impression that some LISNPN meetups in other areas have been a bit more structured, with at least an idea of topics of conversation to focus on – would people prefer that/would that make the meetups more valuable?

Librarians as Teachers

I did join LAT in my old job, but since moving to my new place of work I don’t really have any involvement with user training, so I haven’t looked at this network for a long time. It’s a great idea though, so I’d urge anyone who does have involvement with teaching/training in their roles to give it a look. I’m inclined to agree with the divine Library Wanderer, although I’ll not put it half as entertainingly as she managed – LAT is a network that you won’t need until you really need it.

CILIP Communities

I’ve tried to like CILIP Communities, I really have. I just don’t quite see the point. I think it’s a good idea, in theory, I just don’t really have a gap for it with the way I currently use online networks. I must admit, I was impressed recently, when looking for a chartership mentor in my area, to find that a few of them did have full profiles on CILIP Communities that were linked to from the lists of mentors on the CILIP website. It made it much easier to get a sense of who they were and if we’d be able to work together – certainly more so than from just the name and place of work, which is all you’ve got to go on for most mentors! That seemed like a really valuable use of the resource. I also like the idea of the CILIP Bloggers landscape, although I don’t really use it (even though I’m a CILIP Blogger myself!) – I prefer to subscribe to blogs individually.

So: nice idea, just doesn’t really fit with my life right now. Sorry CILIP!

Actions:

So, in line with my last post about reflective practice, I think I should set myself some actual tasks based on this Thing:

  • Complete my LinkedIn profile – add an updated picture, fill out the description for my most recent job role, come up with a descriptive tagline
  • Maybe, possibly, at some point, if it’s not too scary, think about asking for some recommendations… (can you tell my heart’s not really in this one?)
  • Make more of an effort to contribute to LISNPN – maybe set a goal of one comment per week? That’s not too hard, is it?
  • Update my profile on CILIP Communities – I’m not really using it, but I am on there and I’m fairly certain my profile is horribly out of date! If I’m not going to delete it – and, on balance, I think it’s just about worth keeping – I should at least keep it updated, even if it’s just basic.
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13 comments on “Online Networks, Or: In Cyberspace, No One Can Hear Your Awkward Pauses

  1. Hi Laura,

    I thought I’d chime in on the recommendations thing.

    I asked someone I did work experience for to recommend me and found it really awful. That said, I really like having the recommendation there. And he still talks to me so I think the awfulness might be all in my head!

    I was debating asking my boss (who has joined LinkedIn) for a recommendation but decided it sounded a bit too much like asking for a reference and I was worried it’d look like I was job hunting. I then decided I would ask committee colleagues. This is about a year ago and I’ve got no further but I think I should just do it!

    Tina

    • Ah yes, that’s another thing that concerns me – I am not job hunting, but if I start asking people for recommendations on my LinkedIn profile, will my employers assume that I am? Oh, it’s a minefield!

  2. According to friends who use LinkedIn regularly, the etiquette is to offer to exchange recommendations. When approaching a former manager, colleague or professor, you can offer to write a recommendation about your experience working with/learning from them. 360 degree appraisals are still the thing, so your contacts will find it useful to have recommendations from people who worked for them and with them.

    Keep in mind that managers still employed at your former workplace may be constrained by HR policy from writing a recommendation for you on LinkedIn.

  3. I’ve not bothered with LinkedIn reccomendations either (been asked to write a couple; said yes to one and no to the other) and there are a few other things which LinkedIn chides me for not having completed when I log in – but I figure, we don’t work in an industry where people get head-hunted too often so it is really worth the bother?

    I know that employers check job candidates’ social media profiles these days but given how formal the recruitment process is in most places, are you really going to win or lose a job because of another librarian’s reccomendation? I can’t imagine it. There’s too much other stuff they have to take into account (like your actual application, and your references).

    I view this along the lines of, if a potential employer finds something significant on LinkedIn that they didn’t already know from my application, I didn’t do a very good application…

    Like you, I’m on there because it’s good to have a professional space and because of the deal-with-the-devil SEO rankings. I don’t think it’ll get me a job.

    • Oh yes, I’m with you on that! I do find LinkedIn useful for the reasons I’ve outlined above, but am under no illusions that it will, by itself, get me a job!

      Having said that, job hunting in the private sector is slightly different – you don’t generally have the detailed application forms that you get for e.g. university jobs. The last few jobs I’ve got, all I had to sell myself on was a CV and covering letter, and in some cases, when going through an agency, just a CV by itself. I do include my LinkedIn ID on my CV, because it’s a good way to draw things to the recruiter’s attention that wouldn’t fit on a CV.

  4. I’ve similarly never got as far as asking for a recommendation, but I really like Tina’s idea of asking a committee colleague to write one, particularly if they can endorse different skills and achievements to those you demonstrate through your job.

    • Agreed – I think that’s an excellent idea! Would also get around a lot of the “will they think I’m job hunting even though I’m not really” angst surrounding asking line managers or other colleagues.

  5. […] I’m getting there with LinkedIn and I share the view of Woodsiegirl (Laura Woods) in that I like having a purely professional online space. I mentioned my LinkedIn […]

  6. I umm-ed and ahh-ed about the asking for recommendations thing, but then I thought, if a colleague or co-worker asked me for a recommendation on LinkedIn, would I mind? And the answer was ‘of course not!’ I was quite selective about who I asked – I only asked co-workers whom I already had a good relationship with, and in all cases I emailed them at the same time as sending the LinkedIn request just explaining why I was asking. And in many cases, people asked me to reciprocate, which was fine by me!

    I don’t think it’s a bad idea at all to include information like LinkedIn, blogs etc on CVs or applications. You’re so limited these days with what you can put that any opportunity to expand that is important – and I don’t know about you, but if I was reading an application that linked to a blog or website, natural curiosity would impel me to visit the site!

  7. […] for an introvert to discuss “putting the social” in anything, but like woodsiegirl wrote in Thing 6, I have found that social media is essential to my networking efforts. Even The Atlantic is talking […]

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