I am a member of CILIP and have been continuously since I was studying for my library and information MA 11 years ago. I was a student rep for the North East branch of the Career Development Group, then continued to serve on the committee for some time after completing my masters. I edited a couple of issues of the newsletter, took part in sponsored walks, attended the CDG's annual meeting one year, and helped to organise the NE branch's AGM for a couple of years (I sorted out the venue, solely because my then place of work had a suitable meeting room and was handy for train and transport links).
I enjoyed doing it all. I felt like I was making an active contribution to my new profession and got warm fuzzies from the feeling that I was making a difference, however minor. In return I was able to develop and gather practical evidence of a variety of soft skills (organisational nous, communication skills, ability to meet deadlines). I had something to put on my CV that beefed up my day-to-day work experience and evinced a commitment to professional development.
And then my involvement slowly began to wane. For no good reason at all, really. It was quite difficult to get to meetings: the only evening that everybody else on the committee could attend was also an evening that I worked late, and it became a bit of a faff having to leave work 15 minutes early and hoof it across town. I gave up my committee position, but with the vague intention of continuing to take part in one-off activities like the AGM and the charity events, determining that I would reignite my involvement when my work circumstances changed.
That was in 2006.
I really would like to become more professionally active once again. I know it's a cliché - indeed I'm wincing a bit even as I type this - but the benefits you derive from professional membership are commensurate with the effort and commitment you put into your involvement. I am hoping to begin chartership later this year (it's next on my professional development to-do list once I've completed cpd23) and obviously taking an active role will be an important part of that.
Handshakefulness: a vital character trait for the aspiring networker
Special interest networking
I occasionally do a spot of networking in the form of attending conferences, training courses and suchlike. At the moment, part of my job involves the day-to-day administration of my institution's open access repository. There are quite a lot of networks and groups developing around repositories and the open access movement in general, perhaps because it's a relatively new, relatively specialised area and we are all learning the landscape together. A lot of networking takes place online, via Twitter and mailing lists. I am a member of UKCoRR, principally so I have access to their very useful discussion list. But there are also regular opportunities for face-to-face meeting. I went to the Repositories Support Project conference Doing It Differently last year and would like to go to some more of their events in the future (time and staff training budget permitting). There is also a group for repository staff at North East universities which meets regularly, and I'll be going to my first meeting in a couple of weeks. I find this sort of contact with other repository practitioners immensely helpful; apart from anything else it is reassuring to hear others' experiences and know that you are not the only person slamming your head onto your desk on an hourly basis as you try to decipher the convoluted legalese that comprises most publishers' copyright and archiving policies.
Going to the pub
Aaah - my preferred method of networking. A couple of weeks ago I went to the north east cpd23 meet-up, organised by Shannon Robalino, to coincide with this cpd Thing. Although I know some other regions' meet-ups were centred around formal activities such as lectures and presentations, ours was a bit more informal and basically involved meeting in a room in a pub. Hence, it was great. I swapped news with a recent colleague who's now working elsewhere, met a bunch of totally new people, and generally had a lovely time. There's talk of doing it again in the future (especially as not everybody who wanted to could make the last one) in which case I will be there bagging a table and providing the pub salad (bag of crisps, bag of nuts, shake together and then tear open bag to facilitate communal consumption).
The sign of a successful networking event