On Friday I attended the CILIP New Professionals Day which is a free event aimed at people who have recently entered the library and information profession. This was my second New Professionals Day as I also attended one in 2010 when I was a new graduate trainee. It was at the first of these events that I learned about the growing importance of social media within the information profession, and this was a message that was reiterated in many of the presentations that were delivered at the event this time around.
It was also at the 2010 event that I first learned about personal branding and about the importance of controlling your reputation by creating a positive online identity. This knowledge encouraged me to make myself more visible online by continuing to write posts for my fledgling blog and by building a larger network of fellow library professionals on Twitter. At this year’s event there was another presentation on personal branding, this time delivered by Ned Potter – but this year the message was slightly different. Ned explained that there was no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to personal branding and that the focus of our personal brand would depend on our own individual goals and ambitions. He said that none of us ought to feel the pressure to become ‘super-librarians’ and that although continuing professional development (CPD) could often be valuable for its own sake, it was even more so if it helped us to develop skills that would be relevant for our ideal future job.
For me, this was a welcome message because I know that I’ve often felt under pressure to do as much CPD as possible in order to make myself a more attractive candidate for future job opportunities. However, despite this I think that part of me must have already realised that the most valuable CPD was that which related directly to my career ambitions. At the moment I’m really interested in working in a school library, but as I have limited experience of working with young people, I know that I have a skills gap which needs to be filled. This is why I’ve been volunteering for the last few months to run a school book club rather than investing my time in other CPD opportunities. I agree very much with Ned that although CPD can be valuable for its own sake, it doesn’t make sense to pour all your energies into, say, presenting at conferences or doing committee work if you’re not genuinely interested in doing so. As Ned suggested, your personal brand should be a by-product of doing whatever it is that you feel passionate about, and by pursuing your true interests in a public, networked way you can create a personal brand that is a genuine reflection of your identity, rather than one which is only the result of a strategic effort to make yourself appear more employable. I think that this was the most useful message that I took away from the New Professionals Day this year.
After Ned’s presentation in the morning we were all given a short break and then it was on to the day’s workshops. I was pleased to be able to attend my first choice workshop entitled ‘Moving Sectors: Practical Pathways to a Different Role’ because, as mentioned above, I’m interested in moving into the school sector after I graduate from my Masters. The session was facilitated by Adjoa K. Boateng who is the Collections Development Manager at the University of East London and who has worked in several different sectors throughout her career. During the session we were given job descriptions for positions in different sectors and asked to record any similarities between the skills that were required for each position. After this, we were told to identify the skills gaps between the positions and to suggest ways that these could be filled, such as, for example, by engaging in CPD activities. I found the session really useful and it was heartening to see that there were in fact many similarities between the skills required for library positions across the different sectors.
After this I attended a workshop about working in careers information. This was not one of my first choice workshops but nevertheless I found it pretty interesting. The facilitator, Megan Wiley, explained that although many people working in this sector do not necessarily identify themselves as librarians, there was nevertheless a lot of overlap between careers information roles and more traditional library roles in terms of the skills that were required. Megan is an Information Specialist at the University of Bristol and she helped us to understand what her job entailed by quizzing us on what we thought her responsibilities were and then scoring our answers using a Blockbusters style game, which was quite fun! I think that a job in careers information would be quite rewarding because a lot of time is spent working directly with the students, and this is always the most enjoyable part of library work for me.
My final workshop of the day was also one that I didn’t choose because unfortunately the facilitator for the original workshop on developing professional skills was unable to attend. Instead I attended a session on ‘The Art of Reflection’ which was about the importance of recording and reflecting on our learning experiences to enable us to incorporate new insights into our daily working practice. The workshop reminded me of the blog post on reflective practice that I wrote for CPD23 and it reaffirmed my belief in the value of blogging as an exercise in reflection.
After the workshops were over, everyone gathered back together to hear two final presentations from Bethan Ruddock and CILIP President Phil Bradley. Bethan talked about the need for new information professionals to each assemble their own personal ‘New Professional’s Toolkit’ and she argued that the key elements of such a toolkit were a network, a mentor, resources, a plan and a voice. Bethan emphasised the fact that with these basic things in our toolkits, we would find it easier to carve out our own pathway in the information profession. There was a lot of useful advice and information in this presentation and it was certainly interesting to conceptualise my professional development as a toolkit as Bethan suggested.
Phil Bradley gave the final presentation of the day and he talked about the important role that social media would play in our future careers. He argued that social media was a vital resource for communication and information and that it was our responsibility as information professionals to understand it and use it effectively in our jobs. He argued that more and more information was being made available through social media rather than through traditional websites and that it was up to us to convince wary employers that social media sites were important professional tools that would enable us to help our library users more effectively. Phil suggested that this was an exciting time of change for the information profession.
I really enjoyed the New Professionals Day this year and I came away with lots of new ideas and things to think about. As ever, it was also a great opportunity to meet and chat with other new professionals and I had lots of interesting conversations throughout the day between the workshops and presentations. I hope that there will be another similarly inspiring event next year!