Thursday, November 30, 2006

Networking: Wash, Rinse, and Repeat

Yesterday over my triple non-fat caramel macchiato from a popular chain café, I was reflecting on my one-year anniversary as a professional in the museum world. So many things happen in just over a year, I’ve attended 1 AAM conference, 2 AMM conferences, the NAEA Museum Education Pre-conference, and the list goes on. You’d think after those networking opportunities I have a Rolodex filled with potential collaborators and wisdom providers. I don’t. That is not to say I don’t have some because I do. Let’s be honest it takes more than one session with a colleague to make a connection. So, how do we as Young Museum Professionals break into these groups of professionals and get to know each other?

Wash, Rinse, and Repeat.

This direction is not only for shampooing but also for networking: if you feel you didn’t have the opportunity to connect with those you networked with, try again. I’ve found sending out a personal note to those individuals you’ve made contact with at conferences is very beneficial. How many times do we get hand-written letters? Not often. We live by emails but if you switch it up this will make you different and memorable.

Attending more than one conference every couple years is also very beneficial. (Understanding sometimes it’s not financially feasible) Connecting with someone after a hiatus is great, if you can still put a face with a name and put him or her into context (What is your common experience, how did you first touch base). My first AMM conference, I met a very interesting colleague from Chicago, the following year I was delighted by his presence at the conference! A familiar face in a crowd, an anchor point, what’s better than that?

Hopefully these experiences will provide you with the opportunity to ask advice, to share stories, to find common ground, and maybe come up with potential programming opportunities.

Remember, networking takes time. So wash, rinse, and repeat if needed.

Please share your networking experiences and questions.


K. A. said...

Good topic— I've wondered how to handle the networking thing. It intimidates me quite a bit; I never think I'll have anything interesting to say to professionals with more experience or reputation than myself. Thank you for the tips.

Anonymous said...

I find the big national conferences less useful for networking than the small local or regional ones. You're much more likely to have ties or aligned interests with attendees at a conference with a specific theme or with a geographical focus, I think.. Plus you can get involved with the planning of such conferences, which are a great way to get your name out there.

Diane Gutenkauf said...

Nathan, this blog is a great idea and I think this networking thread a particularly apt one. If you'll pardon the words of "wisdom" from an oldster, I think joining professional groups at the local or regional level is another great networking opportunity. It's how I started meeting people in the field. We're blessed in Chicago to have a lot of local groups. If there are none in your area...start one. Meet informally a few times, choose topics to discuss, and invite total strangers to join.


Jay Heuman said...

Ah, "networking." I dread it, not feeling like the most extroverted guy out there. But I've got three tried & true methods for warming the cold shoulder some younger museum professionals experience in the company of more established museum professionals. First, I've telephoned (or emailed) my "equivalent" at other museums in my area. It might start and end with a phone call; but it might progress to having coffee or lunch together to talk about their approach(es), their observations of audience response, successful and failing programs, etc. As Diane suggests, it might develop into an 'ad hoc' group, not only to socialize with peers, but perhaps develop into collaborative programs either at your museums or co-presenting at a conference about something specific to your city, county or state (i.e, two different approaches to teen programs; two entirely different "family day" events for the same holiday or season; two different 'structures' for volunteers; etc.). Second, in a museum professional setting (i.e., conference, seminar, symposium, etc.), I feel like I've got a bunch of ready-made questions: What type of museum do I/they work at? What era(s), collection(s) or exhibitions they work on? What area of specialization (curation, education, collections, administration, etc.)? Third, ALWAYS offer your card if you've got one. You just never know when that person might think to contact you for something, or might pass on your card to someone else who might contact you. After all, there's "direct" networking and there's "pass the buck" networking. *grin*

Anonymous said...

Any thoughts on having a YMP meet-up at AAM this spring?