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Career Networking Tips from Beth Middleton Rizzotti MLS'91, '89, SVP at Lee Hecht Harrison
“Agility, flexibility, and a commitment to lifelong learning will be critical skills for today’s grads,” Rizzotti said.
“Agility, flexibility, and a commitment to lifelong learning will be critical skills for today’s grads,” Rizzotti said.

Beth Middleton Rizzotti MLS'91, '89, senior vice president of Business Information Services at Lee Hecht Harrison, graduated from SC&I with a Master of Library Science degree (now the Master of Information) in 1991. She also earned her bachelor's degree from Rutgers, in anthropology and English, in 1989.

Following graduation from SC&I and until 1997, Rizzotti was a librarian with Seagate Associates. She then became the VP of the Business Information Center at Lee Hecht Harrison, and later transitioned to SVP.

While in the master’s program, Rizzotti was a member of Beta Phi Mu, an International Library and Information Studies Honor Society. 

An expert on the ways information is collected, organized, and disseminated, and how people seek, consume, and act upon information, Rizzotti also has a great deal of knowledge and expertise on ways to develop and leverage networking skills to advance career opportunities.

Rizzotti remains positive about the importance and effectiveness of networking during the COVID-19 pandemic, and said, “I actually do not think that the pandemic has made networking more difficult! In some ways, the explosion of virtual events has expanded the opportunities to meet people you likely would not have ever met in person. The dramatic move to work-from-home means that it’s easier to connect with people, who may be a bit more available at the “edges” of their workday than when they’d been commuting/traveling.” 

Read our Q&A with Rizzotti below to benefit from her expert tips designed to help students (or anyone) land their first, or next, dream job.  

SC&I: What are some of the best ways to network?

BR: Networking is a critical, but misunderstood, skill. It’s a mindset. It’s about being curious, being a good listener, and being a lifelong learner. It’s a way of approaching relationships and connecting with other people that will make your entire career journey richer, more meaningful, and more rewarding. 

People perceive networking to be some kind of zero sum, transactional game – you “do something” in order to “get something.”  That’s the wrong way to think about it.  This is also why a lot of people are intimidated by the prospect of networking.

The biggest myth is that you have to be a raging extrovert to be a good networker. Think of networking as “making friends” – something we all know how to do. Cultivate a group of people around you as you move through your career simply by seeking opportunities to be helpful. Treat your contacts as you would friends.

 Here are 10 baby steps students can take to build their networking confidence:

  1. Be kind.
  2. Be yourself – and create an online “brand” that reflects who you are.
  3. Be very clear about what you know, what you can offer, and what you need.
  4. Be curious.
  5. Listen.
  6. Be a “connector.” Pay it forward.
  7. When you meet a new person – think “who else do I know that this person should meet?”
  8. When you learn something new – think “who else would find this interesting?”
  9. When you talk to anyone – ever! – think “how could I be helpful to this person?”
  10. Say thank you. Better yet, write a thank you note.

SC&I: What networking or professional skills are crucial for students to have that they may not realize are important?

BR: Students tend to focus, understandably, on acquiring the hard skills required to complete the MI degree. But, the reality of today’s job market is that hard skills are becoming obsolete at an accelerating rate of speed. It is clear that upskilling and reskilling will be a routine part of work going forward. Agility, flexibility, and a commitment to lifelong learning will be critical skills for today’s grads.  

In addition, employers are seeking individuals who are critical thinkers, skilled in analyzing situations and identifying solutions.  Problem-solving skills, resilience, the ability to work independently, and emotional intelligence are also essential skills for today’s talent. Students should be prepared to talk about themselves and their experiences and accomplishments in a way that demonstrates these highly-valued skills.

The ability to communicate effectively- verbally, in writing, and virtually – is a critical success factor. Students should ensure that their written communications with prospective employers are flawless and seek feedback from a trusted advisor on their verbal and virtual presentation skills. A little proofreading and practice can pay big dividends when preparing to enter the job market!

SC&I: What specific classes and instructors had an impact on you and why? 

BR: I was fortunate enough to take courses with some SC&I legends. I particularly recall with great fondness and respect the late Dr. Pat Reeling, who not only found a way to make “Government Documents” interesting but was also our wonderful Beta Phi Mu Advisor for many years.  Dr. Betty Turock was the LIS Department chair at the time and always took personal interest in the academic and professional aspirations of each student in the program.  And, finally, John Ganly, who was an Assistant Director of the New York Public Library’s business collection, taught a memorable SC&I course in Business Librarianship – which was my concentration.  It culminated in a class trip into the closed stacks under Bryant Park. 

I know that the SC&I faculty today is as deeply accomplished as it has always been – and I suspect they are just as engaged with students today as they were when I was there.  My best advice to students is to take every opportunity to connect with faculty personally.  And use your network to get guidance when you are selecting your concentration.

SC&I: What advice have you received (perhaps during your time at Rutgers) that has served you well in your current role?

BR: The best advice I received when I entered the master’s program at RU was to work in a library while I was pursuing my degree at SC&I. It’s definitely a challenge if you are a full-time student.  But, working in the field gives you access to a real-life “laboratory” where you can test the skills you are learning.  It will give you the context you need to make what you are learning more meaningful.  It will also present you with opportunities to build your network.  I was fortunate to work (for another SC&I alum, actually!) during my entire master’s program. 

SC&I offers amazing opportunities for students to connect with the hiring community.  Invest in yourself and start to participate in those opportunities as soon as you arrive at SC&I. You will be planting seeds that will “yield fruit” for years to come.

SC&I: How do you apply your MLS degree and what you’ve learned to your current role? 

BR: Despite the fact that I completed my degree even before the internet was a mainstream tool, the foundational parts of my SC&I education remain relevant today.

The Rutgers SC&I program – even 30 years ago - taught me a lot about two things – information and people. Specifically, how information is collected, organized, and disseminated, and how people seek, consume, and act upon information.

In a business setting, throughout the entire course of my career, I have repeatedly found opportunities to sit in “the middle” between creators of digital/information tools and the intended users of those tools and to help clarify requirements so that the right tools are created and adopted – a place that my SC&I skillset uniquely prepared me to bring some value. 

Learn more about the Master of Information at the Rutgers School of Communication and Information on the website

 

 

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