Saturday 7 June 2014

The tyranny of distance...

So, I was having some interesting exchanges on twitter following my last post, where a couple of points were made to me, the first being that organisations need to change to stay relevant, and sometimes that means disruptions to staff, which is unfortunate but necessary - referring to the case of moving staff from the CBD to the outer suburbs.

To which I say, we're talking about the lives of real people here. Whilst the industry is fairly unstable, it's not so dire that we will take any old job we can get. Furthermore, there are staff who would have quit their old jobs for that inner-city role. I mean, cutting an hour or two of travel every day is as good as a pay rise! Not to mention the improvement to one's quality of life, living and working close to the centre of town. It's a major factor in the decisions we make about our jobs and the homes we buy / rent, and to substantially change that is a huge imposition on a person, affecting their mental health, attitudes and feelings of being valued by the employer. And now, many of those people are going to be considering new jobs elsewhere, and generally unhappy at work, which also impacts on the wider workplace. It's not just a case of people being fussy about distance, and whinging unnecessarily!

The second point made was that often, overlooking distance and taking jobs at a farther or less desirable location can open up your career prospects, and be a fast-track to developing valuable skills and experience.

Now this is something I can relate to! Moving to Darwin as a new graduate, I learnt heaps in a couple of years about collection development, digitisation, staff management, events programming and team leadership, not to mention a unique set of knowledge about Australia's heritage in the Top End. Things I would never had the opportunity to learn in Melbourne as a new graduate looking for that first professional role.

Others I know have gone overseas and worked on International Development projects to build and hone their skills and experience.


The problem is in the return to "reality" - that is, coming back to Melbourne and establishing oneself in a similar role with the same levels of expertise and challenges. It seems that we work in an industry where context is king, and just because you were able to lead a team or head a project in a regional or remote location, doesn't necessarily mean you can do the same thing in a more urban setting. Apparently. But here's a roster of reference desk shifts and shelving duties, if you don't mind! Try again once you've worked in our organisation for 3-5 years.

Or you could go interstate / overseas again...

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