The Small World of Local Networking
By Carol Reed
In October, a small group of Michigan indexers met near Lansing for an afternoon of informal networking and peer review. This was the second such gathering—admittedly after years of agreeing, “We really should get together sometime.”
The group consisted of new and experienced indexers as well as Wayne State University indexing faculty Hermina Anghelescu and Mary Peterson. In past years, Hermina and Mary have hosted a panel discussion in which their students can interact with freelance indexers. As the course has now become an online offering, they wanted to record a similar panel discussion so their students could view the video online.
Panel members Ann Neff-Rohs, Katy Balcer, Devon Thomas, Shana Milke, and myself took turns fielding the types of questions new indexers usually ask, such as “Do you need an MLIS degree?”, “Is it best to specialize in a particular subject area?”, and “How do you market yourself?”. What surprised me were the answers to the question, “How did you get your first indexing job?”
Katy Balcer was working as an in-house editor at a publishing company when she completed the USDA course. She built a small portfolio from indexes she did in-house (most were done by freelancers). “I had met someone at my company who had come there from Georgetown University Press, and was still in contact with the managing editor who was able to hire indexers for their titles. With his kind introduction and ‘seal of approval,’ as it were, plus the fact that I was already a working indexer, I booked my first freelance index.” A few more titles for Georgetown helped her round out her portfolio and gave her a respected reference as she started marketing to prospective clients. Now a full-time freelancer, Katy has a steady supply of work.
Shana Milke’s first indexes also came about as a result of networking. While she was taking the USDA course, she did an unpaid index for a friend who was writing a book on children’s activities. After Shana finished the course, her ASI membership listing was noticed by Hermina Anghelescu, who was looking for local indexers for her panel discussion at Wayne State University in Detroit. “My paltry experience didn't deter her,” Shana recalls, “and I was included in the panel. One of the other panelists was an editor at a publisher, and we got to chatting. He is the one who offered me my first paid project. From there, I was able to parlay those first two projects into a respectable marketing effort and am happily indexing today, ten years later.”
Devon Thomas also participated in Hermina’s panel discussion after completing both USDA courses. She had been referred to Hermina by another Michigan indexer, Linda Mamassian, whom Devon had met at a Chicago/Great Lakes workshop. At the panel discussion, Devon also met Shana. “She mentioned my name to a database indexing firm that was looking for new people. I followed up and have worked for them fairly steadily over the last five years.”
If this is beginning to sound like six degrees of separation, maybe it is. My own first paid freelance index was a job that Linda Mamassian didn’t have time to take on. Because the job was for a Michigan government agency, Linda referred the editor to a few Michigan indexers on the ASI membership list. I had recently completed the USDA course, joined ASI, and was among those the editor contacted for a bid. The book’s content was a good fit for my background, and I got the job. That index helped fill out my portfolio and boosted my confidence as I started marketing my business. Six years later, I’m indexing as many books as I can handle; in fact, I’m currently editing and indexing a project for that same editor. And I was happy to finally meet Linda face-to-face at our first Michigan gathering last spring.
After we finished videotaping the panel discussion, we broke into smaller groups for peer review. Everyone was enthusiastic about the feedback received, the discussions that cropped up, and the common ground discovered. Now that I’ve seen the high-quality indexes my peer reviewers produce, I’ll be confident collaborating with them or referring work to them in the future. I’m excited to get to know the newer indexers as well, and look forward to encouraging and supporting them as they get started freelancing.
Our neighborly gatherings are a microcosm of the same kind of networking that happens at each Heartland meeting—interconnected relationships that are not bound by event or geography. So next time you find yourself saying to another indexer, “We should go out for lunch sometime,” make the time. You won’t be disappointed.
See you at the next Heartland meeting!
© 2010 by Heartland Chapter of ASI. All rights reserved.
"The networking that matters is helping people achieve their goals."