Sunday, 8 June 2014

On Meaning and Motivation...

I was recently having coffee with a friend in her early 30s, and she asked me what I thought she should do for a career. She'd recently finished up a job, and about to start another, but felt that she wasn't actually *that* good at her current field.

I asked what she actually meant by that, since she had the skills and experience to do her job well, and she said that it was more that the work just wasn't meaningful enough for her.

It made me think about what our motivation is to do our jobs well. For my friend, she was working in a fairly dry and repetitive field - one that didn't follow her personal values of social justice, etc - and that her role didn't afford her any opportunities to take on higher duties or play a part in strategic decision-making. It was basically an operational role that didn't require her to use her critical thinking skills. There were no chances to move up in this role, and the only way to do so would be to leave the organisation for a better one (which is what she's done).

And I think this is can also be a sticking point for some librarians. The phrase "I didn't get a masters in information studies just to spend all day... [insert crappy task here]!" springs to mind. Yes, it's an attitude of entitlement, and we've all been told that the age of entitlement is over, but if all we do is glorified admin work, then when push comes to shove, that's all we're going to be seen as - expendable admin staff. (See: University of Melbourne)

So, I would say this to all new graduate and disgruntled librarians - seek out those opportunities to be more than a cog in the system. Take on those projects where you get to make important decisions. Work for organisations that represent your personal values. These are all motivators that create meaningful work, and you owe it to yourselves as industry professionals.