The Power of Loose Connections in Networking

Do you every think –“I’m really not crazy about going to that networking event. I don’t know any one and don’t need any more cheese in my heavily cheese-dibbled diet?” Me, too!

But, every once in a while, I’m reminded that social media shouldn’t be the end of my introverted networking adventures. I recently attended a great networking event in Portland specifically geared to the athletic and outdoor industry, and came away thinking just the opposite of my usual response. This time I thought, “I should do that more often.”

Here’s the set up.

Prosper Portland is a city-sponsored organization focused on building the Outdoor and Athletic industry in Portland. The Portland metro area already has many legendary brands such as Nike, Adidas, Columbia, and now Under Armour, which just opened their footwear headquarters here. Other well-known brands such as Keen and Nau started in Portland as well. Added to that energy are loads of new and growing startups and dreamers, sometimes comprised of veterans who left the bigger campuses and launched their own endeavors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check this cool interactive graphic for a snapshot of the A & O ecosystem.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The group recently hosted a celebration that brought together a group of young entrepreneurs who pitched their product, seeking funding for their dreams. You had to admire their passion and enthusiasm. It easily rubbed off on the 300 or so attendees.

Even with my 16 years at Nike, I was unsure if I would run into anyone I knew. But I was pleasantly surprised to see several familiar faces, and I ended up having a great time. I heard encouraging news from a couple of contacts about interesting work they are doing.

Loose connections in your network are the people that you know, but that you don’t necessarily deal with frequently. You probably have more people who are loose connections than tight connections. Hopefully, they have a positive impression of you and your work. These are the people that you worked with x-number of years ago or that you know from a professional association that you participate in. Loose connections are a great way of finding out about new projects, sharing job leads, and gaining insights you can only get from the inside.

For me, the Prosper A&O event turned out to be a great way to touch base with a few people I have loose connections with. All in all, it was a great chance to reconnect with people and forge some new friendships. Don’t discount the impact of loose networks! You can be a great resource for them and get up to speed on new activities in your industry.

Library Drove Massive Revenue Increase in ’90s – Lesson Applies Today

Author: Mike Reid
Storyteller: Jim O’Conner, Head Librarian, Kennametal in ’90s

True Story – Several years ago, the CEO of Kennametal, a company with advanced metal cutting technology, had dinner with the CEO of General Motors. This was during the time that the Saturn automobile manufacturing plant was being established. In the course of the meal, Kennametal’s CEO said that he could guarantee in writing that none of his competitors would ever have metal-cutting technology more advanced than Kennametal’s.

The GM CEO was stunned, as this was such a strong and unequivocal claim and he asked the Kennametal CEO how he could be so sure.

The response was as strong as the claim. The CEO explained that his corporate library had:

  • Huge databases with scientific and technical peer-reviewed literature, grey literature, technical reports, patent information, and more, all updated monthly or faster.
  • Automatic “Current Awareness” services that let information professionals monitor the latest technical advances with full access to the right information.
  • The latest thinking from world-class experts collected from technical conferences around the world.

Kennametal’s CEO continued to explain he had created a culture where materials scientists, physicists, and engineers were all closely aligned with his information professionals.  The information professionals were expert in efficiently finding and delivering relevant content to help avoid known problems. The information professionals help select optimal development paths, and allow the company to be “smarter and faster” from design through development, to product delivery, maintenance, and operations.

The Kennametal CEO was pitching the impact and value of the library to the CEO of General Motors.

From this interaction, Kennametal successfully won the only “sole-source” contract for GM’s Saturn plant. As the only cutting tools vendor for the Saturn, Kennametal’s revenue growth was in the tens of millions of dollars.

To truly be Future Ready, you need an information professional. It’s that simple.

Get Yourself Into the Race

 re·sil·ience

Pronunciation: \ri-ˈzil-yən(t)s\

Function: noun

Date: 1824

1 : the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress
2 : an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change

In anticipation of a presentation I will be giving, I talked with Kim Dority about the essential ingredients for a successful information professional. Without hesitation, she said “resilience.”

I nodded to myself and added it to my PowerPoint presentation. But since then, I’ve been thinking: what does resilience really mean? It could mean that, like a punching clown, when you get knocked down, you have the wherewithal to get back up again. Certainly, this is a good trait as it takes character to “get back in the race”, but when you are down, you know there’s got to be a better way. 

Last week I heard a sustainable energy engineer talk about “building resilience into a system.” He was saying that rather than optimizing a system, you could increase strength and increase the possibility of success through building alternative pathways. Alternative pathways to success –now that is very relevant to the information professional right now. 

So, I asked Kim for a little more insight on her version of resilience, and here’s her take on it: 

“The ability to “get back up” is a part of the definition of resiliency, and especially speaks to issues of character and determination and confidence. But I also think that an ability and willingness to learn from our experiences, good and bad, is what turns the “getting back up” into making forward progress toward wisdom, and greater success, however one defines it.”

 Resiliency to Kim means:

  • Ability to get back up when life knocks you for a face-plant
  • Ability to accept setbacks as a natural and welcome part of growth, rather than as a sign of failure – it means you’ve got the courage to try new things, which is requisite to achieving anything in your life
  • Ability to move beyond comfort zones in order to respond to new opportunities
  • Ability to manage our usual reaction to change – i.e., fear or defensiveness – and instead embrace the adventure
  • Ability to see obstacles as momentary delays, for which you will seek alternative solutions. The engineer’s “alternative pathways,” are an on-target analogy

Kim continued with a good metaphor: body surfing, which has passive and active components. “I liken resiliency to body surfing, where your goal is to use the energy of the wave to achieve your goal. Everything I need to know I learned bodysurfing in Southern California… 

  • Anticipate
  • Position for opportunity
  • Paddle like crazy
  • Enjoy the ride, but know it will end
  • Don’t take the sand in your suit personally
  • Know that a new wave is always on the way

 That’s kind of how I think about resiliency! I think its critical issue for information pros!”

jobs, Jobs, JOBS!

If there was one message that came through loud and clear on my recent road trip, it was Employment, with a capital E.  SLA has a robust Career Center , which I hope every unemployed, under-employed, or barely-employed member knows about. SLA has done a good job of providing members with access to tools that can help with resumes, job searches, and information-gathering. Still, sometimes, you just need to hear a success story or two from other members.

For example, last weekend I attended commencement exercise for the School of Library and Information Management of Emporia State University in Portland, Oregon. Now that I’m running for SLA president-elect, the commencement ceremony affected me in a new way. I’ve been visiting SLA chapters, hearing their suggestions and advice, and as I said, one message has risen above the din: members want jobs, Jobs, JOBS.

What can we do to inform these newly-minted information professionals about the best options that lie in the road ahead? Is there anything we can learn from them? Here’s a short burst of ideas that I’ve been exploring.

We can inspire them

The commencement keynoter was my friend, colleague, and client Kevin Carroll, who is an amazing inspirational speaker and author of “The Red Rubber Ball.” Kevin engages people all over the world on the power of play and creativity, and he never ceases to raise the energy level of whatever room he’s in. Kevin’s life story is like a made-for-TV movie, as he has risen from the poverty of the inner city to tour the world, teaching people to believe in themselves.

Kevin told the graduates, “You are going to impact people’s lives.”  He gave each graduate permission to “chase your dream and be a catalyst — a human agent for change.” He recognized that knowledge and learning is their play—and play is serious business. My guess is that every one of those students was ready to go out and scale a mountain or slay the nearest dragon.

We can offer them advice

Here are a couple pointers from Jan Chindlund, an SLA colleague in the Illinois Chapter. Jan has been mentoring library and information professionals for many years.

1) Look in places that are not so obvious. Information research professionals could be called anything. In fact, there are nearly 2,000 different job titles in the SLA database, so look outside the usual terminology.

Here’s a success story to illustrate this point: Reece Dano, a member of the Oregon chapter, met Jeremy Snell, a South Carolina library school student at the   2009 SLA Conference in Washington, D.C. They talked about Reece’s position as a Information Specialist at Ziba Design in Portland, Oregon, which interested Jeremy as he did not know that this type of job existed.

A few weeks later Jeremy applied to several design firms in South Carolina for a research internship. Reece offered this advice: do not sell yourself as a librarian first and foremost, but rather as a multi-dimensional researcher who can leverage the ancient and time-tested skills of library science to add value to retrieving information.

A few weeks later Reece saw that Jeremy was starting his internship at Post No Bills, a design consultancy. To me, that’s proof that participating in SLA — especially early in one’s career — can have a positive impact.

What’s the big insight? As Jeremy told me, “There a lot of other things outside a traditional library that I can do with this degree.  I would not have been exposed to these possibilities without SLA.”

2) Volunteer at an institution or non-profit. You’ll get great experience and they will get to know you, your work habits, and your skill set. It might lead to paying work, or to another opportunity. Build your network!

Here’s a success story to illustrate this point: Dianna Wiggins, a member of SLA’s Illinois chapter, told me that she volunteered at the YMCA headquarters in Chicago two days a week for five months. She learned about the need from a colleague from the Chicago Knowledge Management (KM) group. The work was challenging, but she kept with it. When a position came available at YMCA for a Social Networking Manager, Dianna was in a great position to capitalize on the time she had invested in this relationship. She is now working with the Resource Directors in the field, assessing knowledge-sharing needs for high-risk communities.

As Dianna said simply, “It was worth the wait.” Congrats! Great job title, by the way.

3) Conduct zillions of informational interviews. Always wanted to work with XXX? Call a company in your area that does XXX. Through your SLA network, learn the names of hiring managers in your area and get on their calendar. Conduct yourself with the utmost professionalism, ask insightful questions, and who knows? It could lead to an interview.

And we can get out of their way

Jim Scheppke, the Oregon State Librarian, also attended the Emporia State graduation. I buttonholed him afterwards and talked about the state of our profession. He predicted that the Boomer generation will start to retire in greater numbers as the economy begins to rebound. I asked him if those jobs will become available or will they be lost to attrition? Jim couldn’t say for sure, but he predicted that libraries have more potential than ever, and his “bullish” enthusiasm was catching.

What advice/inspiration/stories do you have for finding and landing jobs?