Changing the Way We Do Business: As Information Professionals Become More Active in Online Networking, They Must Balance Personal Interests with Professional Goals

Article excerpt

Networking begins with making connections and aims to keep them over the long term. To many people today, networking means participating in online forums for sharing information, discussing issues or socializing. For information professionals, networking encompasses all of these goals but is also an important part of career and professional development.

Today's new information professionals and library students started using social networking tools in their early years, still participate in them now, and expect to continue using them in their professional environment. Established information professionals also use online social networking services, and many associations (including SLA) offer social networking applications for use within a professional context. Many professions, including lawyers, journalists and librarians, are now using social networking as an important part of identifying sources, experts, witnesses, and more.

For some new professionals, the length of time required to realize success from traditional networking practices can be a daunting prospect. It can be years before some networking efforts actually have an impact on your professional career. For example, an early work experience can turn into a successful full-time placement in midlife, based on connections made within the first organization.

Online networking, on the other hand, has the ability to highlight an individual's ideas and quickly change perceptions of who the "experts" are in a given field. Whether that is a good or bad thing is debatable. What is clear, however, is that while the social nature of the medium is still the predominant factor, more and more business applications are being developed.

Making a Subtle Impact

The explosion in online networking tools and opportunities makes it easy to forget about in-person networking, but this is still an important practice in our profession. We are creatures of the physical world, and as such we rely on a number of our senses to understand information, make decisions, and more. In-person social networking allows us to make a stronger connection with others, to broaden the relationships that we establish remotely. Most people also make a more "complete" impression face to face and thus are more successful in their in-person networking endeavors.

Online networking, on the other hand, is very effective at allowing you to maintain long-term connections when in-person contact is not feasible. Information professionals have colleagues and peers spread throughout the world, and services such as LinkedIn make it easy to network within groups and with individuals. Keeping up with others' activities is easy, as the information is "pushed" to you. Opportunities for communication, such as responding to news of someone's career move or offering a peer an opportunity to work on a project with you, are readily available. …