Friday, 25 May 2012

Start with the end in mind

Other than 'what skills do you have to offer', I've noticed that the question 'where do you see yourself in three or five years time?' is probably the one that leads to the most scratching of heads and baffled looks during interviews to register to look for work.

This question is asking the job seeker to articulate their career goals.  What is their vision for themselves in their career in a few years?  Many of us have given little thought to this question, or somehow hope that it is something that will sort itself out over time, so long as we work hard and do a good job.

In the past (well, not so long ago really, maybe 10 or 15 years ago) this approach may indeed have been perfectly fine and led to a nice career looking something like this:

These days, however, with everything changing so fast around us, such a 'work hard and hope for a just reward' approach is more likely to lead to being left stranded up a dying backwater than cresting the wave of new opportunities (if I can mix metaphors!).

So how do you create a vision for yourself?  This sounds all high-faluting and a bit 'corporate-speak', but it really means having some idea where you are heading before you set out - which is just common sense really.

In order to start with the end in mind, it pays to spend a bit of time imagining what sort of life you'd like to lead.  Do you have loads of ideas of how the library service could be run that you'd love the chance to put into practice?  Do you really enjoy mentoring junior members of staff and seeing their skills blossom?  Does creating an effective taxonomy or information architecture and seeing users find what they want without having to learn to be 'mini-librarians' to get there bring you great satisfaction?

What sort of job would you need to have in order to do more of these things? Don't worry whether you have the skills, qualifications, experience (or confidence) to do that job right now - just keep it in the back of your mind as you do your skills audit, prepare your CV or sift through job adverts.  Think about what the in-between steps might be to help you move in this direction. Evaluate promotions or new jobs against this eventual end goal - will they help you on your way?  No?  Don't apply for them then, find something more useful.

Some links to posts with other useful ideas and tips around goal-setting:

#Chartership chat on Reflection

Well formed outcomes

Mindtools Personal Goal Setting

Top Achievement's Powerful Written Goals

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Information Conferences 2012

Here are just a selection of the forthcoming library  & information sector conferences:

Also not to be forgotten, LibcampLS is on in a couple of days:

For a good selection of international conferences (USA and Global) check out this page:  or this one:

If you know of any more, or are involved in organising a conference or other event, please add the details in a comment.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

So you want to do a Skills Audit?

Bethan Ruddock spoke recently at the CILIP New Professionals Day 2012, on the topic of her book The New Professional’s Toolkit published recently by Facset. Although I wasn’t present for her talk, I followed events on Twitter and noticed several mentions of her advice to carry out a skills audit. 

Over many years working in library recruitment I’ve noticed that people often find it hard to answer the interview question ‘what skills do you have?’ Sometimes people offer one or two software packages that they can use (an LMS or online database, for example). Often people look blank or get embarrassed and can’t think of anything. 

I believe there is a clear and direct linkage between someone’s skills (proficiency acquired through training or experience) and their ability to progress in the career direction they want. This sounds obvious but, if so, why do so many CVs focus on a historical recounting of experiences and sideline or ignore skills? 

I think this is because many people find it very hard to analyse themselves, to tease out what their skills really are, and to articulate those in a concise way. It is easier to say what you’ve done, rather than what you’ve got out of doing it. 

So, how do you do a skills audit? As a career coach I offer people a range of exercises and worksheets to help, but in essence you need to review your experiences, and break down large chunks of experience (eg, “I do online research” or “I’ve managed an intranet”) into smaller tasks (eg, doing a reference interview, selecting online source(s), conducting searches, collating results, etc). For each of these tasks, you then need to think about what skill(s) you used to carry out each one. I find that imagining you were training a complete novice to carry out the task helps to envisage what skills you’re actually using. 

Once you’ve gone through all the tasks, for each of your experiences, you will have teased out all of the skills that you have. Of course there will be duplicates where you use the same skills to accomplish different tasks, which you can weed out. To get from this (probably long) list down to your key skills, I advise people to consider both how good they are at performing each skill, and how much they enjoy using it, then tally those two to reach a ‘score’ for each skill.

This article will be published in the CILIP SW Group newsletter shortly and is reproduced here with permission.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Media savvy?

On the programme for the upcoming Library Camp Leeds I noticed that a session has been proposed on how to advocate for libraries on camera and / or off the cuff (presumably to politicians or other influential people one might meet on the train, etc).  
This got me wondering about whether librarians in general, or at least those working at industry bodies or in campaigning or leadership positions, feel they are in need of media / PR training?  Do courses exist already to help people learn how to present effectively to camera, talk in memorable soundbites, and get key messages across quickly?  Is this something CILIP should be offering?  Does anyone at CILIP have the skills themselves?

Checking the CILIP website under 'training' I found a section of onsite courses offered, including a sub section on Marketing Skills, which included using multimedia to promote your service, and one on branding your library service (which includes creating brand messages) but nothing apparently for appearing on camera or advocating generally 'for libraries'.

Hunting around Google for any other organisations that might offer media training for librarians, I came across VolResource, a site offering support for voluntary and community organisations.  They have a page dedicated to media support - perhaps a resource page similar to this would be useful for librarians?