Networking: A Skill, Not a Personality Trait

Want to land a better job, get more professional recognition, and earn more money? It’s largely a matter of who you know—and who knows you.

According to Ronald Burt, a professor of sociology at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and an expert on network science, being in an open network—that is, continually meeting new people and exposing yourself to new ideas—is a leading predictor of career success. People with better networks, in other words, receive higher performance ratings, higher compensation, and better job opportunities.

SLA member Leslie Howerton-Hicks learned this lesson firsthand after being laid off from a public library due to budget cuts. A staffer at a large athletic apparel company—someone she knew from her networking activities—told her of an opening at the company. The job was not labeled a library position, so it was not advertised on any library job sites. She applied for the position, and her contact talked to the hiring manager before Leslie interviewed. The result: Leslie was hired as the footwear materials librarian, a position that aligns well with her professional goals.

Leslie recounts this experience in “Network Like Nobody’s Watching: Demystifying Networking as a Skill for the Librarian and Information Professional Community,” a contributed paper she co-wrote with Tracy Z. Maleeff, the library resources manager at Duane Morris LLP in Philadelphia. The paper was judged the best of the 12 contributed papers presented at the SLA 2015 Annual Conference, earning Leslie and Tracy free registration to the SLA 2016 Annual Conference.

“Networking is the most important weapon in your career arsenal, no matter what stage of professional development you are in,” the paper states. “… It is a skill that can be particularly difficult for information professionals to master. Too often, the label of ‘introvert’ will be used as an excuse as to why someone hasn’t mastered this skill. In this paper, the important of networking as a skill, not a by-product of a personality trait, will be discussed.”

To read this or any of the other 2015 contributed papers, click here. To learn more about contributed papers, click here.

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