Wednesday 1 June 2022

Blogjune Day 1 - Some useful advice.

I almost didn't sign up for BlogJune this year. Not that I'd necessarily forgotten that it was June... nor that I was lacking in things to write about. Whilst I find blogging to be a valuable exercise in reflection, it also feels a little like screaming into the void.

However, the wonderful Kathryn Greenhill has created #JuneQuestions, which has posed a question for each day of the month. Whilst the exercise encourages participants to take on one of these questions, I quite like the idea of having a shared prompt for these kinds of blogging exercises, so I aim to try to answer them all, and maybe reflect on others' answers.

So, the first question of the month: What is the most useful advice you have had from a mentor?

Firstly, I've never been one for following advice from mentors... I'll certainly listen to people describe things that have worked for them in their situation, and I definitely feel like mentorship relationships are more about sharing experiences of challenges and successes (and failures), and finding strength and encouragement through those shared experiences. But no mentor is going to have the perfect solution for their mentee / protege.

However, there was one particular moment that has stuck with when I was catching up with a former colleague over a coffee. At the time I was experiencing some level of frustration with work and career planning for the future. I knew exactly the kinds of jobs that I was good at and enjoyed doing - but such jobs were rare and extremely competitive with some substantial cultural barriers to employment. At the same time, there was plenty of work available that I was very capable at, but struggled with and didn't necessarily enjoy at the best of times.

Describing this to my (unofficial) mentor, they said to me, 'Maybe the right job for you is the one that you haven't thought of or found yet.'

It wasn't 'advice', per se, but they were absolutely right. Since I started working in the library and information sector, there has been so much emphasis on the status connected with holding a specific job title, and even though I've managed to finally shrug off the anxiety of being a 'real librarian', there are elements of this attitude that had pigeon-holed my approach to job seeking and career planning.

Over the past nine months, my focus has shifted away from a specific job title, level, or the idea of 'professionalism' that it implies, and instead looking at:

  • What kind of organisation do I want to work for? In what sector?
  • What can I tell about the people who currently work there?
  • Are there any roles on offer there that I could do?
  • What exact work does that role entail, and would I be able to do it well and enjoy it?
  • What working relationships are involved in that role, and with whom (both internal and external)?
This kind of approach has been huge in opening up the way I see the range of opportunities available, and encouraged me to apply for jobs that I would have otherwise not considered (including the job that I'm currently in).

It's also encouraged me to be open to suggestions from my peers. On several occasions, people who I know and respect have approached me about considering jobs that I wouldn't have otherwise considered, but think that I would be good in them. And it's an important reminder that I'm not always the best judge of what would be a good job for me - sometimes there are others that see my skills and strengths much better than I see them in myself. It takes a leap of faith to say 'yes' to those situations, but so far I haven't regretted it.

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