Significant Experience: I attended (and full disclosure hosted) CILIP North West’s Member Network Study Day: The Next Chapter: Growing your Career in Libraries.
What Happened?: Due to weather issues, we were a little light on numbers and one presentation down but we had speakers looking at career paths and how CILIP can support your progression. Helen Kiely has produced a very excellent summary of the day and key themes, so I am going to focus on the presentation that most stuck out to me was Michelle Madden’s on her career and non-traditional career progression. I would strongly recommend catching Michelle speaking about her career path and for CILIP NW – (her presentation can be found here CILIP Log in required), especially about her perspective on key skills and characteristics
So What?: Michelle’s discussion of her career was fascinating, and I found many parallels to my own (though not as outstanding as Michelle’s!) in terms of non-traditional development and working beyond a traditional setting. In her presentation Michelle mentioned ‘luck’ numerous opportunities though I would politely disagree and frame it as bravery for taking new opportunities coupled with a love of learning! The key messages I took from Michelle were:
Doing what you love (and making it work)
The most important message I took was the importance of finding something you love doing. Having a strengths based career approach is not a given, and I am very fortunate to have been given the opportunities to follow this path like Michelle. I think this has breed passion in what I do, which is visible to others and can often serve as a motivator.
Many of us have been on the receiving end of the Peter Principle – having a manager promoted beyond their ability due to what they *were* good at, rather than what they *are* good at. I suspect many of us also worry about becoming Peter (if we get the chance of course).
Should career progression be linked to increased responsibility, especially those of becoming a line manager? Not everyone is suited to become a line manager, and it was refreshing to see development around excelling at a particular set of skills (not networking) and even if it is not always vertical progression it is good to see opportunities there.
That is not to say I would rule out a managerial position in the future. Having being a library manager in the past, my line management skills (or lack of perhaps) have weighed heavy on my career choices after that. It took a while to reflect on the fact I have strengths as a line manager – the ability to develop people who wanted to develop and that I should not hang my whole experience on my failures, without resolving my self of blame for the failure – especially if the failure has proved to be unmanageable elsewhere. An important lesson from my time as a manager is that there are times that it is equally important to allow people to fail for the longer term benefit as it is to give people platforms to succeed.
Be the ‘Evidence Expert’
Knowledge was one of Michelle’s key skills. Something I have shouted from the roof tops is for librarians, especially librarians who may be in non-traditional settings such as embedded within a team or as part of an outreach offer, is the need for us to sell ourselves as the ‘evidence experts’ within that setting. Often we as a sector suffer from impostor syndrome and are afraid to stick our hand up, but something I have learnt both from personal experience and from the Knowledge for Healthcare Leadership Programme is that we need to be our biggest advocate – especially away from a traditional setting. We need to be able to sell people on what we do, why it matters to them and their work, and why we should be doing it.
Now What?: I think there is scope to examine career progression for talented Library and Information professionals who do not wish to manage to progress and succeed. I have joined the CILIP Leaders Network to see what resource is available on this beyond the walls of LKS and I may speak to a few colleagues who are in a similar situation to see what we can do.
When & Where?: 1st March 2018