Hello from Houston! The conference has been great. There are so many sessions to attend and with the little free time I have had, I have been frantically trying to complete one of my last papers due before graduation. I attended both the Speed Mentoring and the Getting More Out of Networking Events as I felt both of those were areas I needed to work on.
Mentoring is such an important part of our profession and we should all do as much as possible to encourage each other to grow and share our knowledge. The Speed Mentoring session was a fun way to get career advice. It worked like speed dating, in that us "mentees" had 8 minutes with each mentor to ask career advice before they rang the bell to move on. Each of the mentors were experienced librarians from public, school, or academic libraries and were all Tall Texans so they had plenty of tips and advice to share. One of the most important idea I came away with was how important it is to create a brain trust. What is a brain trust? It's finding a group of like minded librarians who are doing the same thing you are. Email librarians who work at the same position you do and ask to meet over coffee and then share experiences and tips. Having a support network is very important. What else? Get involved at the district and state level. Volunteering helps to get you noticed, builds your brain trust, and helps to grow your network.
The second session, Getting More Out of Networking Events led by Maureen Sullivan, was also an interactive session. Networking events mean you have to actually talk to people. As an academic librarian, I will be attending faculty events and will always need to be a champion for the library. This may take a lot of us out of our comfort zone and this session gave us tips and practice developing our skills. We learned how to break the ice and also how to gracefully exit the conversation. It's important at these events to not hug the sidelines are just talk to the one person you recognize. Get out and mingle, that's what networking events are. So how to break the ice? Talk about what book they are reading or what was their favorite childhood book. Pets are always a safe topic. Most everyone likes animals and talking about pets is a great icebreaker. What do you do if they say they're allergic? Commiserate and ask if they have ever had an aquarium. What do you like to do in your spare time? You get the picture, don't you? After we discussed these ice breaking strategies, we were given a handout and had to practice what we learned. Maureen knew we were all apprehensive but said we had 15 minutes to meet 8 new people, get their names and contact information, and learn something about them before moving on. When she said time's up, to our surprise 30 minutes had passed and we all were talking and moving without any problem. Surprisingly, I found I had a lot more in common than I thought. I found people who had lived in my home state, liked bassets (who doesn't), and loved baseball. It wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be. If this is something you feel is out of your comfort zone, try it out at your next gathering and I think you too will be surprised at how easy it actually is to talk to strangers.
Guest post by Deborah Hathaway, a GLISA member who will be graduating in August (whoohoo!). Check out more library posts on her blog, Musing from Within the Stacks.