Jamia Williams: The Introvert Network: Tips on Networking as an Introvert in the Library Profession
Currently, Jamia works as a Librarian and Diversity Fellow at SUNY Upstate Medical University’s Health Sciences Library. She earned her Master of Library Science from North Carolina Central University in May 2018. Her research interests include: equity, diversity, inclusion, accessibility, health, and health disparities in librarianship. Read her blog @ https://diversityfellow.blog/and find her on Twitter @LibrarianJamia.
I am an introvert, but didn’t know it. One day, I read an article that gave me the language to name this part of my personality.
I have discovered that there are 8 common signs to recognize that you may be an introvert:
1. Being around lots of people drains your energy
2. You enjoy solitude
3. You have a small group of close friends
4. People often describe you as quiet and may find it difficult to get to know you
5. Too much stimulation leaves you feeling distracted and unfocused
6. You are very self-aware
7. You like to learn by watching
8. You are drawn to jobs that involve independence
If these 8 signs of being an introvert apply to you, then you may find this post helpful!
While we all have “…some degree of both introversion and extroversion...people often tend to lean one way or the other.” As an introvert, I have been mistaken of being shy, “stuck up,” or quiet. However, once people get to know me, I can communicate to them that my happy place is simply to be by myself.
As early career librarians, we are encouraged to attend conferences to enhance our professional development. Attending so many conferences, particularly for introverts, can be a draining experience. I wanted to offer some tips about how to navigate social networking as an introvert in this field.
My introvert networking advice starts with positive self-talk. I want to highlight this strategy, first, because it is a great way to build the courage to put yourself out there and meet new people. I have suffered from a fear of rejection and as a result, have avoided and refused to meet new people. However, through positive self-talk, I reminded myself that I am not for everyone. I most certainly value the relationships that I have created with the people I already connect with, but I am not for everyone.
Networking is essential to me because I have something to offer my fellow colleagues and they also have something that is beneficial. Often, successful collaboration leads to strong project outcomes. As the saying goes, “teamwork makes the dream work.”
Librarianship is not my first career. I came with a lot of experience, but most of all I came with a great support system. My life partner and husband has supported and nudged me on this journey. I did not want to waste any time; he sacrificed so much for me to earn my MLIS and to become a librarian. Conferencing is an expectation of the job; I knew that my interactions with folks had to be intentional. I want to be a librarian that folks want to work with. Seeing the value in networking, I cultivated a formula that worked for me. I am excited to share my “introvert networking tips:”
1. Seek mentorship - I think it is always important to have multiple mentors, preferably ones from our profession and a few outside of it. Find a mentor at the director or dean level, even if you do not see your career moving in that direction. As a librarian, embrace having more than one mentor in our profession. This will expand your network and they get to know what your interests are. Mentors often see the potential that we do not see in ourselves.
2. Use business cards - When you become a librarian, your employer should have these for you. However, if they do not or you are going to go into business for yourself, have some made. I have heard that Vistaprint or Moo are great companies to use for business cards.
3. Take advantage of social media - I realize that everyone does not like social media, so this is for those that use it. I created a professional Twitter account because I noticed that the hashtags #librarytwitter, #critlib, #librarylife, etc. provide access to so much information that I need to know as a librarian. Also, this is a way for me to engage when I attend a conference. Likewise, when my librarian followers cannot make a conference, I can share a tweet about a presentation or cool idea at a session. This information is greatly appreciated. Twitter keeps me informed about webinars and events if I am not subscribing to certain listservs.
4. Put yourself out there - Put yourself out there by attending events. Attend conferences and training workshops--both local and national. Apply for travel grants and scholarships if funding is limited or not available at your institution.
5. Join interest groups - Interest groups can be found in different library associations like the New York Library Association, the American Library Association, the Central New York Library Resources Council. As a student, I took advantage of having a dual membership with the New York Library Association and the American Library Association at a discounted price. I wanted to work in an academic library, so I joined the Academic and Special Libraries section of NYLA
A Success Story: “The Introvert Network”
When I attended the Upstate New York and Ontario Chapter of the Medical Library Association Conference, I met Karen from the Western New York Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. She talked about how death by suicide is affecting teenagers at an alarming rate. Hearing about the work of this organization inspired me. Suicide has affected my family, so I wanted to network with her and find ways to help.
At the time, I had a great relationship with a school social worker so I connected the social worker to Karen because I knew the school would benefit. As a result of this connection, the school hosted staff training on suicide prevention and brought in a guest speaker that discussed his battles with suicide. He met with some of the students in a small group setting. I think this connection has been my biggest success so far.
Whatever your identities and interests as an introvert are, work to find groups that will support you. Step out of your comfort zone and join an interest group that caters to identities other than your own so that you can learn to become an ally. This helps you to be informed and broadens your perspective. Networking connections can truly be life-changing. I encourage you to connect. It is worth it! Just a friendly reminder that this is not a “…one-and-done thing.” You want to sustain these new relationships so following up after conferences is important.
Networking for an introvert feels like an odyssey, but the rewards make it worthwhile. We have so many incredible people in our field. You are one of them! Continue to reach out. I will continue pushing myself to step out. I wish you well in doing so, as well and, I would love to connect if you have any questions. If all of this is new to you as an introvert, you can start by reaching out and connecting with me!