Imagine a large room, filled with light, buzzing with electric conversations. You hear a shout from across the room, saying "come sit over here!" and someone is waving you over, pulling out a seat to a table. As you navigate through the crowded path of circular tables covered in pieces of paper, you hear impassioned voices saying things like "I've wanted to try that forever - how did you get it going?" or "that is rough! But maybe if you tried..." or "we have to talk next month - what's your email?"
You might imagine this is chaotic, but as you sit down to the table, you are met with a warm welcome and asked "So what brings you here?"
You have arrived at the session at the Western Museums Conference next month in Hawai'i, "Peer Advocacy and Networks without Borders" led by me, Kristen Olson, along with colleagues Rachael Faust, Jason B. Jones, Sara Kabot, and Louise Yokoi.
For some, networking means: handshake, trading of business cards, 30-second elevator speech, make the introduction memorable in hopes of a job/raise/interesting opportunity/project. The actual definition of networking is "to interact or engage in informal communication with others for mutual assistance or support." (I like the latter definition; the former gives me performance jitters.)
Perhaps others prefer finding out about what people are interested in, what they think about, what makes them tick. I really get a kick out of the fact that not everyone thinks like me (not you either) and just talking to someone about a museum-y shared topic is fascinating.
This session sprang out of a series of conversations last year at WMA 2010 about networking. Truthfully, the conversations ran all over the place, but the undercurrent was that we all sought professional connections that had little to do with comparing our resumes, and much, much more about seeking support.
And thus, "Peer Advocacy and Networks without Borders" came to life. We all had questions about the field, the future of our different-stage careers, finding avenues for success - in however we defined it - and found that having a colleague to chat with who wasn't invested in the scenario was really helpful.
We believe that by simply talking about ideas and challenges, you are reclaiming ownership of the situation as well as creating your own group of powerful advocates. In formal-speak: our goal is to structure a session that addresses your professional challenges, be they dealing with internal politics or wishing to try new ideas within your institution, you are meeting your own goals while forging new connections. In this informal session, we'll make networking as easy as we can - and coming from a natural introvert, that is saying something.
So bring your challenge, an idea you've been mulling over, your curiosities, your listening hat, and yes, your business cards.
Will I see you there?
More to know:
- WMA 2011 Conference Preliminary Program now available online.
- WMA 2011 online registration: click-click-click.
- Feeling facebook-y? Invite yourself and your colleagues here.
- Can't make it to the conference, but interested in this idea? Contact me.
- Curious about the story behind the photo? Check out more about "Pie Town."