|Flier from the conference|
So I attended my first Student 2 Business networking conference at the London Convention Centre, March 6, 2013. The conference gave me the opportunity to network and speak about my research interest and listen to business professionals in ICT, Marketing & communication. Basically, from my conversation with a handful of business professionals in these industries, two research questions came up :
- how can one (a company) make money from social media? and
- how can LinkedIn be better exploited as information source and tool for companies and businesses?
I met no library students at the conference. Only business, computing, art and graphic design students. This was despite the fact that there are potential jobs in the industries represented for librarians.
Since it was the first time that I attended a networking conference, it was a unique learning experience. I learned about networking for jobs in Canada just by observing the Canadian students asking the professionals questions. I also tried my own approach, not really asking questions about the industry, but just sharing my interests to find out who or which company had similar interests.
However, I also received feedback from the business professionals on some of my ideas as well as to what they as outsiders saw as my key strengths: analysis and problem solving .
Based on my experience, I have three recommendations:
- I would like to see Caribbean universities also stage networking conferences for students to network and mingle with employers. I know we have career fairs and mock interviews, but I think we must also teach our students networking skills. I must note however that this student2business conference was not hosted by universities, but more so by an agent or institution of the London municipality. Despite that fact, I feel that universities must also consider the need to teach and give students the practice and the skill of networking, which is a most crucial skill required in today's global world. This is especially important considering the importance of social networks in helping one to get work done as well as to identify opportunities and create innovation.
- I would like to see separate networking conferences for graduate students from undergrad students. Networking conferences have the potential for being spaces where grad students can share their research /research interests via posters and get feedback from professionals, who could also indicate some of the research questions and problems that they would like answers to. Undergraduate students are primarily interested in getting jobs and/or getting advice about jobs and their fields of interest or industry. As such, when the two are hosted in the same conferences, employers are there primarily with the expectation of finding out who they can hire soon. However, practitioners could also benefit from hearing and networking with graduate researchers, as well as graduate researchers could also benefit from getting feedback about the feasibility of the application of their research in the real world. I think, as such, we need to create such connections that research and practice will converge, and a networking conference seems to be a place for such connections to occur.
- LIS schools need to encourage their students to attend such networking conferences to get jobs in places they may not necessarily think about, as well as to promote the profession. It is not good for LIS students to only network among librarians and library employers, but we also need to mingle with businesses, nonprofits and government institutions, who are alternate employers to public and academic libraries. Especially in a time where libraries are facing severe financial and economic constraints, with threats of closure, LIS schools need to start enabling our students to think more about how we can apply our skills in other domains apart from libraries. In addition, LIS schools need to help students learn the same networking skills that business students learn and practice, which can help them get jobs in any field or industry. Hence, we can not afford to isolate our students to talking solely with library professionals, but must also push our students to share what they are learning in library school with persons in other sectors, and get feedback about how what they are learning may be transferrable to jobs outside of traditional librarian jobs.