professional identity

Don’t take it personally

I’m sure the participants, Matthias and I could have chatted well into the afternoon at our workshop at the New Librarians Symposium last month about building and managing a professional identity. I would have happily done so. Of course, we couldn’t cover everything in three hours, but there is something I’d like share now, my own challenge and small tip for those who are yet to discover the wonders of Twitter, the professional online community and personal learning networks. There have been times since I started venturing in the online space when I’ve had to tell myself, ‘Alisa, don’t take it personally’.

As a newbie entering the Twitter-verse and the engaging conversation to be found there, it can be difficult to grasp the fact that just because you follow someone, doesn’t mean they will follow you back.  There will be times when you follow someone who you genuinely think is awesome – as a person, professional, for their skills or knowledge, whatever that took your fancy, but they don’t follow you back. This can be disheartening at first. It was for me. Thoughts like I wasn’t good enough circled through my mind. You can feel stumped and struggle to try to figure out how you can “meet” this awesome person. It can be difficult to not to take this as a reflection of your worth in the conversation and online space.

There are people who I’d really like to converse with, get to know better but haven’t followed me back. In the few months when I first started using Twitter to communicate with the profession, I followed a particularly popular librarian from the UK. I followed this person because I was interested in what they had to say, what they’ve done and generally wanted to learn more about them. They didn’t follow me back. Well, not until recently, over two years later. There is a person who I met not long ago who I really wanted to continue our conversation and establish a relationship. I look up to this person, have a lot of respect for them. They didn’t follow me back on Twitter. I could possibly email this person, but I’m quite shy in these situations and need to muster a lot of courage to take this step. Even at work I sometimes don’t speak unless spoken to for fear of interrupting them (something I need to work on).

So try not to take it personally. It is not a reflection on you. Things will be as they’re meant to be. Let it go.

In the first few months, or even up to a year, it’s easy to get caught up in the buzz when you gain a new follower. I’ll say right now that the value of an online presence is not in the numbers – the number of people you’re following and the number of followers you gain. The value of the learning experience, learning from one another lies in the connections and strength of the relationships you build, not the number of followers. Don’t use the numbers as a validation for your professional worth. Numbers are no measure, believe me. Know thyself. My thoughts are to not take much notice of the numbers. I suggest worrying about the people and your relationships. Focus on the great people you connect with, converse with and exchange ideas with. Authentic connections count much more than simply the number of followers you gain.

My activity on Twitter is that I don’t tweet willy-nilly, most of the time. I tweet when I have something to say. I guess you could say I’m introverted in both my offline and online lives. I tweet when I find a useful resource I’d like to share. I tweet when I have my ‘Alisa’ moments, such as watching the footy or reading on the beach of a Sunday morning while my partner surfs. I enjoy sharing what I know, my thoughts and experiences and bits and pieces of my personality. If you seek authentic connections and relationships, you can only be yourself. Be genuine in your interactions. Mean what you say.

No matter what, at some point people are going to disagree with you. 

Don’t take it personally.

Disagreement is natural and healthy. Strength of a network and its resulting knowledge is in diversity. Different perceptions open new ways of thinking. Take it in your stride.

There will be times when you’re misunderstood, people may misinterpret what you say. It hasn’t happened often so far to me, but this is a really difficult thing to not take personally. I tend to take this as a reflection on me and poor communication. I get disappointed in myself for not communicating my ideas clearly enough. This is learning too. It is learning about your peers. These are opportunities to develop ideas further.

Don’t take it personally.

And finally (for now), find your own style. This takes time. I’m still trying to find my own. Be true to who you are as a person, the professional you are or becoming and your contributions.

But just remember, don’t take it personally. Take your time finding your feet. It’s all good.

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