How much experience do you need to be characterised as a new professional; mid-career; and master? Answers on a postcard (how quaint!) or by email, tweet, Snapchat or Instagram.
I ask as I’ve been thinking about this for a while, in both a work & professional capacity. At CILIP conference I was wondering how people classified themselves and others in terms of experience. When does a new professional become mid-career? What stage do you become master and senior professional?
I have also had two opportunities to reflect on experience & how it’s measured during stints judging awards for SLA & CILIP this year. In particular, SLA Awards involved nominations for all stages: Rising Star (new professionals); Fellows (mid-career) and Hall of Fame (recognition of whole career).
I was struck by a Twitter chat this week, from teachers starting their summer holidays, & discussing how many years experience was needed to qualify them as experienced teachers. There is some synergy between info pros & teachers: both require postgraduate study, on the job experience & training plus importantly subject (for info pros read sector) expertise.
So how do you rate this answer? And where do you sit on the experience continuum?
It’s 30 years since I got my MSc, & set off for my first post qualification job. I’d say I hit most of the marker points outlined in this tweet. By that reckoning I’m a rock star! I do feel I’ve achieved that this year as CILIP President. I’m proud, honoured & lucky to have served as President of my two professional associations: SLA and CILIP.
Throughout my 32 year career I’ve worked in several sectors: media, health, government, health, charity and academic. I’ve always seen the power of my transferable skills. We’re very similar to doctors, as we possess basic skills, which we supplement with more specialist skills and knowledge as we develop our careers.
I think this tweet beautifully captures our basic skills, thanks @infoFaerie.
We then build on these skills and develop an understanding of our patrons/users/customers (choose your preferred term) needs and adapt our services and practice accordingly. Often developing our practice and career means moving sectors and I was excited to hear about Davis Erin Anderson and Ray Pun’s book: Career Transition for Librarians: Proven strategies for moving to another type of library.
This is a great book of interviews and essays from information professions in a variety sectors who have made the transition from one sector to another. It covers most of the sectors you can imagine, for example, specialist to academic and vice versa; specialist to public and vice versa; school media to academic/vendor services and more.
I like the mix of formats for the chapters: some are question and answer interviews; others reflections on careers with tips and advice lists; some are in-depth journeys from newbies or mid-career people, outlining all their moves and how they accomplished them. There’s advice there for every stage of a career and most sectors.
The recurring themes that resonated with me most were:
- know your organisation: learn how to find out how your organisation ticks and how you can utilise this institutional knowledge to improve your services;
- moving jobs gives you a good idea of what work environments suit you best;
- identify your strengths and skills and figure out how to reuse them in a job, either by creating a role for yourself, or broadening the scope of what you do;
- be flexible and take up chances to learn new skills;
- get involved in professional associations, for contacts when your unemployed, or job hunting, and for mentoring opportunities and support;
- patience is very important in job seeking process; it will take longer than you expect.
My main criticism is the North American focus, there are a few non-North American contributions, but I would have liked to have seen more as there are undoubtedly some cultural subtleties missing. This though, is a very minor criticism of an excellent book; a must read for anyone who is looking at making a move from one sector to another, or just reviewing their career.