Tuesday, 14 June 2016

My top five skills for future proofing a librarian's employment opportunities.


So, today I'm being lazy, and riffing off Kathryn's latest blogjune post, entitled "Top five skills for future proofing a librarian's employment opportunities".

This is a particularly apt topic for me, as I am soon to be going back into the job market, and I, naturally, want to have employment opportunities. At the same time, I currently work in an organisation where many people are very concerned about their employment opportunities. Some are anxious that every professional decision they make will determine their future career success - or failure. Others feel completely trapped, but have stayed so long that they don't have the skills to move to another sector.

When I started out as a new graduate librarian, I was very focused on my career path. I took opportunities to move up into management roles quickly, but soon found that this could only get me so far, and my career was, by no means "future proof". More recently, I've opted for the path less-travelled, which has made for a much less-conventional librarian career, but hasn't made me any less a librarian in my mind. The former was about establishing valuable core skills and experience. The latter has been about developing resilience and versatility. I suppose that time will tell how "future proof" my current career path has become, but for the time being, here are my top five.

Skill 1 - Competence. Yes, it's important to know your core principles of librarianship. That's what education is for. However, what takes time to learn is being able to get the job done, and get it done properly and on time. And part of this is understanding the barriers in the workplace, and knowing how to overcome them. These may be due to a limited budget, lack of professional capacity in the organisation, internal politics, or purely social barriers. The more you diversify your experience, the better you'll be at negotiating these pitfalls and getting things done. We all know the people in the workplace who are reliable, and the ones who aren't. You want to be the person that everybody can count on. Get a reputation for it, and people will remember you.

Skill 2 - Resilience. Even the most competent person has a breaking point, and we've all had times in our working lives where we've wanted to flip the table and walk away. But being able to handle constant setbacks, but return with a new approach until you succeed is an indispensable skill. No work place is perfect, and the more experience that you get in achieving results in imperfect work places, the more resilient you will become as a professional.

Skill 3 - Mindfulness. At the same time, as a renowned poet once said, You gotta know when to hold 'em, and know when to fold 'em. The more you challenge yourself, and build resilience, the more you're going to be mindful of where your own professional limitations are - where your strengths and where your weaknesses lie. You'll learn to be able to promote your strengths to prospective employees. You'll also know where you might want to take some professional development - or just decide that some aspects of the professional field are never going to be your thing. 

Skill 4 - Connectedness. Call it networking, schmoozing, or just spending too much time on Twitter. The more you connect with your peers, the more you'll appear on the professional radar. I'm not saying that you should be a big self-promoter - quite the opposite! Engage with others by responding to what they've been doing, whether it's writing a blogpost, or taking part in an online discussion. Share your own learning moments, and learn from others. Be the kind of professional that your peers will want to engage with.

Skill 5 - Heart. Yeah, I know, it's all very Captain-Planet-fifth-element-y, but when I think about what makes libraries future proof, it often goes back to Michael Stephens' core principle of the Hyperlinked Library - that the library should encourage the heart. And as facilitators, we need to have the skills to make these human connections between our services and the user. To do this, we need to express our own genuine wonder of our world, and be need to be passionate in the ways we pursue and create our own life experiences. Only then can we inspire communities that create, share and engage with one another with their own experiences.

So, that's me. Looking back at Kathryn's post, I think we perhaps have a different approach to coming up with our top five, but ultimately, when put together, they are very similar sets of skills.

What are yours?