#blogjune: post 14: Mind the gap: transferable skills & moving sectors

On 14th June I spoke at the CILIP London network’s AGM. I was asked to talk about something personal. As one of my themes this year is transferable skills. I opted to share my story, highlighting my use of transferable skills and tips on moving sectors. I entitled the session: Mind the gap: reflection on transferable skills and moving sectors.

The event took place at CILIP’s Ridgmount Street office in the early evening of a really sunny day, so attendance was slightly lower than expected, with about 15 people. We had a good cross section of attendees representing all career stages, a variety of different sectors, with most people having moved between at least two sectors. This made for an informal session which meant we had a great discussion after my talk about barriers to moving sectors (are we, information professionals, the main barrier?) the benefits of highlighting transferable skills, and tips and advice on how to get the best out of the interview process (it’s a two way process).

Thanks to those – you know who you are – who took part in my survey of transferable skills and advice on moving sectors. The three most transferable skills identified by my survey are:
Flexibility – be prepared to take on new roles and activities;
Curiosity and an aptitude to learn – you don’t have to be an expert on everything, just  use your information skills to ask the right questions and find an answer.
Organisational culture and influencing skills – it’s important to understand how your organisation operates and how best to influence key people.

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Advice on moving sectors included:

  • importance of using plain English in your applications and at interview. Make sure to practice describing what you do in language that resonates with those in other sectors;
  • don’t restrict your examples of activities to just work experience. Remember to include volunteer experience too; often you may have done something more challenging and impactful as a volunteer;
  • use your network for advice on how to learn about a new sector; what to include on applications and what to say at interview;
  • always ask for feedback after an interview, or if you don’t get shortlisted but expected to. You will always learn something that will help you with developing skills or improving your interview performance;

Finally, persevere. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again. We all have had to make many applications before getting the right job.






Hidden gems in London

Living and working in London it’s easy to walk past an area or building and not realise its history or what it contains, and thus to miss a hidden gem. This realisation came to me recently after undertaking a walking tour of Waterloo Station and its environs (Behind the termini: wonderful Waterloo) and listening to a talk on The Society Of Friends library and archive collection.

I’ve commuted daily in and out of Waterloo for some 20 years now, but I wasn’t  aware there had been seven stations there at one time, and one of them was the Station of the Dead. I also didn’t know that under the tracks on Leake Street is a public graffiti tunnel initially created during the ‘Cans Festival’ organised by Banksy in May 2008. I’m looking forward to doing some of the other behind the termini tours in this programme, led by Rachel Kolsky, to learn more about our major London stations.

Gresham College is running a series of lectures entitled ‘Special Collections’ focussing on some of the hidden gems of interesting and unique collections in London. The series covers eight very different collections ranging from Lambeth Palace’s library to the collection of anatomy at St Bartholomew’s hospital. All the lectures are free to attend, and the college makes transcripts and recordings of the talks available on their website. Here’s a list of the collections covered in this series:
    Anatomy Museums (September 2012)

    The Guildhall Library (October 2012)

    British Architectural Library, RIBA (November 2012)

    The Library and Archives of the Society of Friends (January 2013)

    New Scotland Yard Crime Museum (April 2013)

    Lambeth Palace (March 2013)

    The Royal Horticultural Society’s Lindley Library (May 2013)

    St. Paul’s Cathedral (June 2013)

David Blake, Head of Libraries and Archives at The Society of Friends, gave an interesting and engaging talk on the history of the Quakers and illustrated it with materials held by the Library. I was impressed the Library was founded in August 1673 and that early on it was decided that it should acquire two copies of everything written by Quakers; plus one copy of everything written in opposition to them, the ‘adverse collection’. In the early 1700s the Society was thinking about disaster planning with the purchase of bags to carry materials out of the building in case of fire. Further inventiveness was displayed by the provision of a card catalogue on wheels which could be put away in the strongroom overnight as until 1926 there was no permanent reading room at the Society. This all changed in 1926 with the move to Friends House, opposite Euston Station where the Library is now. Amongst the hidden gems in the collection are the Nobel Peace Prize medal awarded in 1947 and the Winchester Whisperer, a clandestine newsletter produced by conscientious objectors in Winchester Prison, written on toilet paper.