Monday, 28 November 2011

Thing 23: The end of the cpd23 road

Well, I've finally made it to the final thing of cpd23 and I'm amazed how far I've come. The programme has been interesting, enjoyable and engaging, even if making time for cpd has been more challenging. Although I'm not using many of the tools we had to explore I'm blogging and will try to keep it up to record the progress of my Chartership, tweeting (if rather intermittently) and have gone along to some events and met some fantastic people. Although my network is only small at the moment I'm certainly not the Disconnected Librarian I was.

Ok, maybe taking over the world is thinking a little too big!

For the final thing we were asked to put together a personal development plan. At the recent CILIP Career Development Group conference in Bristol David Clover spoke about thinking big and expressed the importance of having a personal development plan separate to your work appraisal - after all your career aspirations beyond your current role and organisation are unlikely to be of interest to your current employer. I couldn't agree more and have already started putting together my PPDP for Chartership with this advice in mind. I'm however guilty of not really thinking big enough. Part of the problem is I haven't really pinned down where I would like my career to go in the future and do need to think about this more. I love Niamh's tip from the cpd23 post of looking at the requirements of the next job you are aiming for to help identify your skills gaps and will be looking through some old job adverts for inspiration.

So where next? cpd23 has provided an excellent way of getting to explore different "things." Without it I wouldn't have come across things such as Evernote or Prezi, but now is the time to crack on with my Chartership and think about my needs and skills gaps.

Thanks to all at cpd23, it's been a great way to kick of my continuing professional development.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Thing 22: Volunteering to get experience

Thing 22 of cpd23 is about volunteering to gain practical work experience. 

When I sought my first professional library post I already had experience of working in a public library and had worked as a Health Information Advisor at NHS Direct. Whilst the later wasn't a library role it provided invaluable experience of answering enquiries and I'm sure it helped me get my first professional post which came along whilst I was finishing my dissertation. I've therefore never found myself in the vicious circle of needing experience to get a job and not being able to get experience without one - I know I was very fortunate.

Whilst I've not done any voluntary work as yet I'm keen to in the future. Working in a commercial library has allowed me to have a go at everything from cataloguing to subscription management, however there are gaps in my skills that would make it difficult for me to change sectors. I think voluntary work would be a great way to develop skills and gain experience beyond what I can do in my current role. It would also provide insight into other sectors (vital for Chartership) and allow me to make new contacts. 

Volunteering can fill skills gaps

Working full time however doesn't make voluntary work that easy to do. Instead I'm planning a few library visits which will at least allow me to meet new people and see what skills/experience is needed in other sectors.

In the new year I would like to get involved with either my CILIP branch or one of the groups. Depending on what opportunities are available, volunteering could prove useful in developing my transferable skills. 

In the cpd23 post Jo mentions that another advantage of volunteering is to "get a foot in the door". In such a difficult job market it can only be a good thing to have a large network of people that know you can do a good job. This alone provides a good enough reason to take up a voluntary post.

I couldn't agree more though that volunteering needs to be mutually beneficial to both the volunteer and the organisation. We'll soon be taking on an intern and although it's a paid post the same principals apply. They will provide us with a much needed extra pair of hands and in return we're hoping to provide them with some valuable experience - it will also provide me with some managerial experience. Fingers crossed it should be good all round. 

Friday, 18 November 2011

Thing 21: Promoting yourself in job applications and at interviews

Thing 21 of cpd23 is about promoting yourself, your skills and abilities to potential employers.

Interests and skills

Maria's first point on the cpd23 post is that the skills you are good at and your strengths are intrinsically linked to your interests - if you enjoy something you tend to be good at it. We were therefore asked to think about our interests inside and outside of work and what skills we need to do them. From this we could hopefully work out our strengths as well as have a better understanding of how to combine our interests and our future career.

When I first started to think about this I wasn't convinced - there's lots of things I enjoy doing but am hopeless at, however once I began thinking about the things I do in work Maria's philosophy rang true. I enjoy enquiry work and get a real sense of satisfaction when I can provide information that I know will help win business or fill in the blanks of a report. I also enjoy the buzz of being busy and working under pressure. My weaknesses though aren't generally things I don't enjoy, instead they tend to stem from lack of practice or confidence. One thing I've realised in doing this exercise is that if you enjoy doing something and you are relatively good at it you will be able to talk with confidence and passion about it and that can never be a bad thing in an interview.

Applying for a job

I've been hopeless at keeping my CV up to date. If an interesting opportunity came along I'd have to search through various print outs of online applications and old versions of my CV and ultimately start a fresh. When you're first starting out and have relatively little experience I don't think this is too much of a problem, however once you've had a few relevant jobs in your chosen profession it becomes easy to forget what you have achieved.

I really like the idea of a "CV database" in which you record all the things you have achieved, along with your skills and strengths. This can then be used to update your CV with relevant information depending on the requirements of the job you are applying for and ensures you don't forget anything. I have already started doing this as I'm currently working on my CV to go in my Chartership portfolio and have found it a really useful way of pulling together various skills and experience in a succinct way.

There's lots written about what you should and shouldn't include in a CV and equally as much about how it should look. The one thing I'll add is that it's important to find a style and format that clearly conveys your skills and experience - don't try to shoehorn your information into a ready-made template, some bits will work for you, others won't. If you've had few relevant jobs a skills based CV may work better than one where you list your achievements under the jobs you have had. I'm only in my second library role and therefore a mixture of the two seems to be working for me.


The final part of thing 21 is interviews. I've had relatively little experience of being interviewed and don't feel the ones I have done have gone well (including the one for my current role). Whilst I've prepared for them (listed my strengths, read and analysed my skills against the job spec, researched the organisation and thought about the questions I might be asked), I've never really rehearsed my answers to the questions I knew I'd be asked. As a result I've ended up waffling and not giving the best examples to demonstrate my skills or awareness of the job in question. In his post What's the Key to a Good Interview, The Wikiman provides a great list of questions that I'll be using in the future to make sure I'm better prepared.

Another really handy tip is one provided by Maria in the cpd23 things post. When answering competency-based questions remember the acronym CAR which stands for Context - Action - Result. First describe the context (the situation you were in), followed by the action you took, then explain the result, including what you learnt and what you would do differently next time. I'll definitely use this in the future.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Thing 20: The Library Routes Project and Library Day in the Life Project

Thing 20 of cpd23 asked us to write about our library roots (how and why we got into the library profession) and our library routes (the path our career has taken so far) and to add a link to the Library Routes Project wiki. 

I'd already written about how I came to be a Librarian for thing 10, however thought I'd take the chance to tart it up a little bit and give it a post of it's own. See my Library Routes and Roots post.

Reading through other posts made me realise how few people make a conscious decision to become a librarian, many like me just seem to fall into it. Even working in a public library I didn't understand the diversity of roles out there until I carried some research - I went on to complete a MSc in Information and Library Management and now work in a business library. People are genuinely surprised that I need a Masters degree to do my current role and I bet most of my surveyor colleagues don't know that I'm a qualified librarian. It seems a shame that so few people know about librarianship as a career option, however I guess with all of our other experience we librarians must be as varied as the library posts we fill, which can only be a good thing for the profession.

Thing 20 also mentions the Library Day in the Life project, a wiki which contains links to posts about a day or week in the life of a librarian at a given point in the year. The last day in the life took place in July. In my current role I have two types of days, enquiry days and non-enquiry days so though it would be a good idea to blog about both. My entries were Monday for a Commercial Librarian and A Day on Enquiry Duty.

Library Routes and Roots

This is a post for The Library Routes Project, a wiki set up to provide links to tales of how and why people got into the library profession (library roots) and the path their career has taken so far (library routes). 

My Library Roots

Growing up I never thought of Librarianship as a career. I always wanted to be a solicitor or a barrister, but in the final year of my law degree I decided it wasn't for me. 

I worked part time in the travel industry whilst at uni and was lucky enough to get a full time management post on completion of my law degree. It was only a stop gap until I worked out what I really wanted to do, however a year later I'd still not worked out what that was. I took a career break and started going to my local library to use the internet. Penniless and with a mortgage to pay I realised I needed to get back into work even if I hadn't found the perfect career. All the time spent in my local library made me think that a library would be a great place to work. 

My Library Route

I ended up working as library assistant in a Gloucestershire library and was hooked. I finally felt I was doing something enjoyable and worthwhile. I loved the children's summer reading challenge, organising storytimes and even managed to overcome my fear of signing in pubic and ran weekly baby bounce and rhyme sessions.

A few years on I was looking for a change of scenery and soon learnt that an Information and Library Management Masters would open up my career options. I realised that I might even be able to make use of my law degree in a commercial library. I applied for the course at the University of the West of England and continued to work almost full time throughout the one year course. Many sleepless nights later (there's nothing like leaving assignments to the last minute), I swore I'd never go back to uni again, never.

Whilst finishing my dissertation a post came up in Bristol at a commercial property firm, whilst not law I knew it was going to be hard to find a commercial library job in the South West. I applied and convinced my now manager to give me a chance, although I wasn't yet qualified and had no experience in a business library. 4 years and a promotion later I'm still there. I love it. No two days are the same and the variety of enquiries we receive help keep it interesting. Working in a small team I get to do a bit of everything; cataloguing, enquiry work, subscription management, current awareness etc. I probably should have moved on by now, however the jobs just haven't been there. So long as I'm still developing and I'm enjoying my job I can bide my time until a really exciting opportunity arises.

Back on the CPD Wagon

It's been almost six weeks since my last post and wow, it's been a busy 6 weeks. It started with an amazing US road trip, starting in Vegas, driving over to San Diego and working our way up the breathtaking Californian coast to San Francisco.

Oh, to be back at Venice Beach...

Since getting back it's been non-stop at work and all I've wanted to do at the end of the day is crash. Niggling away at me though has been the feeling that I need to get on with the final 5 things of cpd23 and get my CV finished so I can start contacting potential mentors for my Chartership. The fact that I've only managed a few tweets (mostly holiday related) and read a handful of blog posts in the four weeks I've been back has made me realise a few things I need to do if I'm going to take my continuing professional development seriously. I need to:

  • Plan my cpd - I need goals and some kind of structure to my cpd, otherwise my development gets neglected. My PPDP for Chartership will of course provide structure for my cpd over the coming year or so, but I will need to think carefully about my objectives and how I'm going to work towards them. Oh no, I'm uttering the words SMART objectives! 

  • Set deadlines, otherwise cpd will always, but not intentionally, slip to the bottom of my to-do-list. 

  • Put aside time each week to blog, catch up on my professional reading and generally have some me time for my development.

NB. I'm not talking about day-to-day development which almost happens by itself (the above would be overkill), instead I'm thinking about cpd that will make a real difference to how I work and how I interact with the profession and will hopefully make me start thinking about my career again rather than my job.

Reading this back, it's no more than the plan-do bit of the plan-do-review cycle, but thinking about what I need to do in my own words should help me get on and do!

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Thing 19: Are we nearly there yet?

At last a time to stop and reflect on the cpd23 programme. I have to admit it's been a bitter sweet experience. I've gained a lot from taking part, had chance to play with lots of different things and have started to integrate some of them into my daily routine. On the flip side I've struggled to keep up. I could have taken things slower, but I'm trying to get into the habit of putting time aside for cpd as I've just started Chartership. In a nutshell I've learnt that continuing professional development is extremely rewarding, but time consuming!

So, what things have been integrated into my everyday life and what things need a little more work? With the help of a few GnR song titles here's my thoughts...

"Mr Brownstone" 

Things that have become a habit:

Blogging - I wanted to create a blog to capture anything Chartership related. So far my posts have been predominantly cpd23 ones, but at least it's here and I'm getting into the habit of blogging regularly.

Twitter - Ok, I've still not really found where I fit in on Twitter. I'm not finding much to respond to, don't know what I have to contribute and still feel like I'm eavesdropping. But, and it is a huge but, I do feel like I'm making progress. I'm following people, I have a few followers and I'm finding it's a great way to keep up with the general mood of the library profession and what's going on. The most important lesson I've learnt is that you only get out what you put in; the more you tweet and the more people you follow the more useful it becomes.

RSS Feeds - I'm using Goggle Reader and it's very useful indeed. I'm now reading more library related posts than I ever imagined were out there. I'm just not commenting on other people's blogs enough.

Attending events and networking - since starting cpd23 I've been to a LISNPN meet up and attended a "building your portfolio" workshop. I've made a few useful contacts and am looking forward to some library visits I've signed up to. I've not yet managed to commit to getting involved with my local CILIP branch or one of the groups, but this is definitely on my to do list.

"You Could be Mine"

Things I'm trying to integrate or would like to, but aren't there yet:

Google Docs, Dropbox and Evernote - all have a slightly different function and come in handy in different ways. I've however not worked out which one to use or come up with a strategy as to how to use these different tools and as a results I have bits saved all over the place and am not really using any of them.

Screen capturing tools - Jing or something similar could really be useful in work. They could be a great way of showing people how to use databases or carry out searches but I need to explore them a little more first.

Brand Disconnected Librarian - when I started cpd23 I didn't have an online presence. Now if you search for me you do get some hits, but I could do with making my online self easier to find. I noted in my thing 3 post that to build an online reputation you need to comment, tweet and generally put yourself out there, which I'm not really doing.

Reflective Practice - my reflective practice is just not cyclical. I'm doing, thinking about next steps but not following up. I need to start showing I'm learning from my experiences, otherwise my Chartership attempt will be doomed.

LinkedIn - I've not had chance to look at LinkedIn since I set up my account and I'm still not sure where to go with it from here. It's the first hit you get if you Google me, so I should spend some time looking at it again.

"I Used to Love Her"

Things I'm going to bury in the back garden, for now at least:

I either haven't found them useful enough or simply don't need them at the moment.Google Calendar:


To Do List

  • Comment on other peoples blogs
  • Find some new people to follow on Twitter and get involved in discussions
  • Think about how to use Dropbox, Evernote and Google Docs and whether I need all three tools
  • Get involved with my local CILIP branch or one of the CILIP groups
  • Spend some time familiarising myself with LinkedIn and it's features
  • Have a look at some alternatives to Jing and check if I can use them in work
  • Do the things on my to do list and reflect on them!