Networking can begin online, locally in regional groups, or nationally/internationally at conferences. Connecting with fellow conservation professionals can introduce you to the field, to different sub-specialties, and to new applications of materials or techniques. Networking activities also provide a platform to build confidence and exchange different perspectives. This page focuses on the aspects of building and maintaining a professional network. The information presented will provide tips and advice that can be beneficial to conservators at each stage of their career.
Building and Maintaining a Professional Network
Here are some tips compiled by ECPN for building and maintaining your professional network:
Join in. Becoming a member of professional organizations is a great way to meet new people and expand your professional network. Think local to global: consider joining a regional, national or international professional organization for conservation professionals; join an organization for professionals in allied fields (museums, science, digital imaging, information science, libraries, archives, archaeology, etc.); or attend events for local interest groups or craft guilds.
- Regional professional organizations for conservation often hold annual meetings or conferences. For a list of Regional organizations see the "Regional Groups" Wiki page or a list on AIC's website.
- International professional organizations for conservation include the International Council of Museums - Conservation Committee (ICOM-CC; note: there are specialty-specific groups within the committee) and the International Institute for Conservation (IIC). Consider participating in IIC's Student and Emerging Conservator conferences held biennially. Or participate in the International Network for the Conservation of Contemporary Art's (INCCA) Mentorship Program which features "speed-mentoring" sessions at conferences or a more in-depth partnership which pairs the mentee with a mentor in the lead-up to, and during, a major conference at which the mentee is presenting a paper or poster.
Also consider joining online discussion forums to connect with fellow professionals (e.g. Facebook groups for special interests).
Give back. Professional service is rewarding work that also provides an opportunity to meet and collaborate with new people. Volunteer for leadership positions, join committees or working groups, or offer to assist with special projects.
Log on. Keep your online profiles up-to-date with your current position, project, institutional affiliation, and if appropriate, contact information and personal website or blog. Managing your online presence includes updating public social media profiles (Facebook, Twitter), professional networking sites (LinkedIn, Academia.edu), and member profile for professional organizations (e.g. AIC Directory/online Member Center). Social media and professional networking sites can be useful tools for keeping up with former colleagues and forging new connections.
Follow up. If you’ve connected with a new person at an event and exchanged business cards, follow up via email soon after. Keep it simple: let them know it was a pleasure to meet them and to reach out if you can ever be of help.
Check in. When making a professional change (taking a new internship or job, moving to a new place, starting coursework or a training program) or starting on a new project, use it as an opportunity to reconnect with former colleagues, supervisors, or old contacts. Reach out to provide an update on your activities and check in on what they are working on.
Attending conferences, meetings, and symposia are important ways for conservators at any stage of their careers to stay current on issues the field, learn about new research, and connect with colleagues. Attending conferences, however, can be daunting. Below are some tips assembled by ECPN to help emerging professionals maximize their conference experience. These tips were initially designed for first-time attendees of the AIC Annual Meeting, but are broadly applicable to all professional conferences.
Before You Go
- Familiarize yourself with the program: Read through the program list and highlight the events you are interested in attending. Some events may be scheduled at the same time as others. Take some time to create a schedule for yourself and decide which events you would like to attend and which presenters you would like to listen to or meet.
- Update your resume or C.V.: Make sure your resume or C.V. are updated with all of your current activities. Have a few copies with you in case you meet a potential employer and want to pass it out.
- Update your social media accounts: In addition to your resume and C.V., make sure your social media accounts are also updated with your current information. This includes a LinkedIn profile and a Twitter or Facebook account. If you are passing out business cards, people may go on to check out your LinkedIn profile while you’re at the conference and you want it to be up to date! Your Twitter and Facebook accounts will also be helpful in keeping up with conference information. If you have a Twitter or Facebook account, tweet or post if you’re meeting up with a group from the conference for lunch or coffee. Maybe others can join you and you can meet expand your network that way.
- Manage your online presence: There are various ways to establish a digital presence - from social media to personal websites. It is advantageous to utilize these resources, as they provide opportunities to stay connected with colleagues or share your online portfolio with potential employers. Online portfolios are websites that are designed to showcase your conservation experience, publications, and other relevant information, such as biography/CV and art portfolio. Be creative! This portfolio is a representation of you! If you are unaware of how to begin this process, spend some time looking at online portfolios of your colleagues. This will give you a good idea of what information to include and how to organize the information. Some platforms commonly used are Squarespace, Weebly, and Wordpress. All have advantages and disadvantages, so be sure to research the platforms before committing. Remember that your digital presence is a tool that can be used in networking. If you have an e-portfolio, include a link on your social media pages and/or include this information in your business cards.
- Bring business cards: If you have business cards, be sure to bring them with you and distribute them as much as you can. You will also be receiving a lot of business cards. Make sure you keep them all in a safe place that you will remember once you are home. Don’t have business cards printed out? Make a digital business card! Simply fill out the information that you want on your business card and download the QR code to your phone (or print it out on a slip of paper). When you meet someone else with a smartphone, they can scan your QR code and automatically save your information to their phone. This ensures that they won’t lose your contact information and saves you the time and money of printing business cards.
During the Conference
- Network with people: Though this may go without saying, meetings and conferences are great places to meet new people. Instead of staying with the same group of people you know, network and make new contacts. Take the opportunity to ask others what they think about the conference, what they are hoping to learn there, and why they decided to attend this year. When receiving a business card , jot down some keywords about the person on the back of their card. Once you get home and are looking through the stack of business cards you have collected, you will remember exactly who they are and how you met them.
- Take notes: Be sure to take notes during the sessions. Conferences pass quickly and are packed with new information. It can be easy to forget the details.
- Volunteer: Talks and poster presentation are not the only ways to participate in a conference. During the AIC Annual Meeting, bloggers are always needed to summarize talks for those unable to attend. Similarly, some specialty groups and networks host discussion panels and seek volunteers to take notes on these sessions. These can be a great ways to engage more deeply with a presentation and connect with a speakers and program organizers.
- Ask questions: The conference is a great opportunity to talk to other conservators and learn more about various aspects of the field. Asking questions during or after a talk is a great way to learn more about a topic and network with the presenter.
- Attend workshops and special activities: Often workshops and special activities (e.g. Angel's Projects) are organized immediately preceding or following a conference. The number of attendees is usually smaller and the environment more interactive than a general session, making it easier to connect with other participants.
Other Aspects of Conference Attendance
- Attire: The Annual Meeting conference attire is business casual, including the evening events. Our friends at the Emerging Museum Professionals had a great post about how to dress for conferences – check it out! Also, dress in layers and always have a sweater handy for overly air-conditioned hotel meeting rooms.
- First time attending a conference?: If you’re nervous about meeting new people at such a large event, check out Lisa Petrelli’s Introvert’s Guide to Attending a Conference.
ECPN Handout Tips for Attending the AIC Annual Meeting
The National Emerging Museum Professionals Network published the blogposts "Networking in a New City" and "Informational Interview Etiquette" in 2018. Together these posts offer great tips for connecting with fellow professionals.