On Friday 11th May I attended the 2012 New Professionals Day organised by CILIP, a day for anyone new to the profession to learn, network, be inspired, and eat burritos. There was a fantastic mix of people there; I met one other person who, like me, was just entering the profession but hadn't yet begun, along with current graduate trainees, library assistants, librarians, information assistants, students, people returning to the profession or moving from very different sectors.
The key speakers were all fantastic, as were the workshops, and I would highly recommend the day to anyone thinking of attending in the future. There were so many great ideas to come out of the day that I couldn't possibly list them all so I thought I'd do a brief summary.
Ned Potter is well known to a lot of people already, but as this is the first library event I've attended this was the first time I've had the opportunity to attend one of his talks. He really is as good as the rumours would have you believe - engaging, funny, thought-provoking but not in a dominating/preachy way, I found his talk incredibly interesting and could certainly have listened to more. The central theme of Ned's talk was DON'T PANIC!!! Speaking about your 'brand', Ned let us know that - we already have a brand, and we have no control over it....but remember, DON'T PANIC!!! For me, the key things I took from his talk were:
Learning that your brand is essentially "what people say about you when you're not in the room".
When considering if you need to develop a 'brand' for yourself, consider what you want to achieve.
Find out what your ideal employer cares about and extract the parts of your experience that match this.
Match your brand to your path!
Don't worry about that others are doing - it's unlikely this will be relevant to your goals
A successful brand is a by-product of your goals being developed (in a networked way)
You should be an open resource - nothing is gained by keeping this you develop secret - Be part of the community!
Get online (control what people find, interact - have conversations, be useful and interesting)
If you're not sure you should put something online - imagine your boss is reading it!
Link all your social media together
You can create a brand by publishing something, organising something, sharing something, presenting something.
The clear advice from Ned is that, you don't need to do all these things, they're just possible paths. The main this is that you should "Just do something...Anything!".
I personally found this talk incredibly uplifting and optimistic, there were many useful suggestions on things you could do and how you could get more involved.
Bethan Ruddock spoke in the afternoon about developing your new professionals toolkit. She highlighted five key aspects to your kit that you need to develop: a network, a mentor, resources, a plan, and a voice.
It was great to hear different ways of developing a network for yourself, not just online but in person. This can be done with your colleagues and through professional associations as well as through social media. Bethan gave some fantastic resources and ideas but the thing that stuck out for me (which I will be doing as soon as possible) is working out your plan. Bethan suggested the way to do this is to look at where you are now, where you want to go, and how you get there. One of the best ways she highlighted to do this is to give yourself a skills audit to work out all the things you already do. A lot of the themes in Bethan's talk were reaffirming the things we'd heard from Ned in the morning, so it's important to re-emphasise them and say, don't get hung up on other people's achievements - look at what you're doing and what you can achieve.
Phil Bradley's talk was the final one of the day, and I think it's safe to say it was, for some people, the most terrifying. The scope of social networks he presented to us was astonishing and I think more then many people realised existed. But if we brush aside the fear, he made some interesting points:
As information professionals we must use social networks. We work with information, and social networks are information!
You need to change your fear of things online into curiosity.
There is too much information online and that is why it is important to develop our own networks, so we can learn from they and they from us.
We had the opportunity to attend three workshops on the day and there were too many great ones to choose from. I ended up only being allocated one of my top choices (Special Collections) but the workshops I was assigned were incredibly interesting and gave me a lot to think about. I've given a little break down of some key thoughts:
Moving sectors: Practical pathways to a different role - Five key stages towards working in your preferred environment;
The first workshop I attended gave a real insight into the many different sectors you can work in and Adjoa Boateng who gave the workshop seemed to have worked in them all. She guided us through how you might move from one sector to another and how surprised you'd be at how easy it is. Many of the skills needed are highly transferable and we looked at ways of developing skills you may be lacking (such as through volunteering or CPD). A really interesting workshop!
Special collections librarianship: What's it all about?
This was really the highlight of my day, for totally selfish reasons I loved this workshop! Special collections hold a real interest for me and it was good to hear how competitive the job market is in this area. I'm not sure yet what direction my career will take and am of course open to change, but for now I am continuing my career plan along the lines of working with (or in the near vicinity to) special collections. I think this explains why I'm totally biased in loving this workshops. Katie gave us a real understanding of what exactly constitutes 'Special Collections' and I think it may have surprised some people that it wasn't just old manuscripts and pretty pictures!
I would highly recommend you head over to Katie's Blog where she has put up various resources from the day. The main thing I have taken from this is that if I want to go more towards working within a special collection that handles manuscripts, I'd better brush up on my rather dodgy Latin, and in fact, grab some knowledge of Ancient Greek! Eek! But more importantly I learnt how wide the scope of special collections is and how much this area is still progressing and expanding.
A career in corporate libraries: The pitfalls and the profits
I'm probably not the best person to ask about my last workshop of the day, on working in corporate libraries, as this is not an area I have any real interest in. Which is a shame because the two presenters were absolutely fantastic and the information they gave invaluable. Those in the workshop who did have a real interest in corporate library careers seemed very engaged with the topics discussed and I think everyone got a lot out of it. Interesting to learn was that you do not need a specialist degree to work in a corporate library, but you do need a lot of awareness of the subject knowledge related to the company you work for.
Overall the day was fantastic, the only downside for me is that there wasn't more opportunity to chat to people, which I think was jointly the fault of the time (large conferences over several days lend themselves better to networking then short one day events) and of space (after eating my massive burrito I was just starting a conversation with someone new when I was asked to move on to allow other people to sit down and eat). But that is a very minor complaint on what was a well put together and thought-provoking day. Well done to everyone involved in the organisation and running of the whole event.