Now that have achieved FCLIP, I can pass on some of my hard-earned wisdom (such as it is) on how to avoid all the mistakes that I made and give yourself the best possible chance of getting your portfolio through the assessment board first time (unlike me…)
I have divided this into three areas: portfolio-specific advice, general advice, and advice for CILIP
- Critical evaluation: It’s not enough to say you’ve done an amazing thing and to provide evidence of it. You need to reflect on what you did, how it went and what you would do differently next time. Repeatedly. On multiple documents: your evaluative statement, your evidence (every single piece of it), the PKSB, your CV, your job description and through your supporting statements. If you’ve done Chartership recently (note I said recently i.e. in the last five years) you will already know this. Forget passive voice. You need to adopt the persona of a charismatic preacher convincing the congregation that you can heal their terminal illnesses simply by laying hands on them.
- Supporting letters: The handbook states that you need a minimum of two. Actually, the more letters you can get to prove your case and blow your trumpet on your behalf, the better. This should be explicitly stated in the guidelines. Ask everyone that had anything to do with anything in your portfolio. Those people will say extremely nice things about you. Their words are useful to refer to when you’re on your fifteenth go at doing your evaluative statement and you hate yourself, CILIP, all library workers (even the ones you vaguely like), anyone who already has FCLIP, and you wish you’d become a nail technician/writer/professional Sims player rather than a librarian
- Mentor: You need an FCLIP mentor – as in, you need someone that has been through FCLIP themselves, or at the very minimum has a proven track record of getting other people through it. I firmly believe that an MCLIP mentor (even a very experienced one) is NOT sufficiently equipped to know which areas to push in an FCLIP portfolio. I’m a Chartership mentor and I don’t think that I would have had the skills to support someone doing Fellowship before I went through the process myself. Moreover, I think that FCLIP mentors need more extensive training than MCLIP mentors and that they should refresh their training every 2-3 years.
- Evidence: You must link it to the PKSB and I mean by putting a paragraph at the top of every single bit of evidence stating explicitly which bits of the PKSB it supports, down to the numbers. So far, so Chartership. Additionally, you need to signpost the assessors and point out PRECISELY why this evidence matters. You also need to elevate the reflection so that it provides clear evidence of higher-level management and leadership thinking.
- Language: forget everything you’ve been told about not putting ‘I’ into stuff because there’s no I in team. In your FCLIP portfolio you are the supreme ruler of your realm. You did a thing? Great! You LED that thing. You’re an ADVOCATE! You’re a LEADER! You’re an INFLUENCER!. Modest people DO NOT ACHIEVE FCLIP. Even if you *are* modest by nature you must pretend that you’re an arrogant so-and-so. This is hard but there’s no way round it.
- It’s a selling job. You’re selling yourself and your skills to convince the assessors and the panel that you are worthy of FCLIP. It’s not enough to have done lots of innovative, interesting things. You have to tell them, through your portfolio, in glorious technicolour. Repeatedly. In self-glorifying language. Activate jazz hands, a chorus line and twenty-five tapdancing musical theatre stars WITH CANES AND TOP HATS singing at the very top of their lungs about your greatness.
- You need to be confident about your management and leadership skills: You need to demonstrate – repeatedly – that you have high-level management skills. Don’t assume the assessors will be able to read between the lines and see that you’re working at a significantly higher level than a Chartership candidate. You have to tell them repeatedly throughout your portfolio.
- It’s lonely: Some candidates set up FCLIP support groups and have find them extremely useful, but I know they wouldn’t work for me because they would enhance my already heightened feelings of inadequacy. Everyone I’ve spoken to has gone through a really difficult time with it and it does feel like you’re trying to navigate without a map. If you can’t face being part of an FCLIP group, perhaps buddy up with someone who already has already achieved Fellowship but isn’t your mentor, or with someone going through Chartership. Even if you just end up sending each other Gavin and Stacey gifs on Twitter.
- It’s emotional: someone said that to me early on and I was surprised. However, reflecting on your career and your journey pushes certain buttons. It forces you to go back and explore complicated unresolved feelings about projects that went wrong, significant achievements, and the reality of day-to-day working life over a period of time. It also reminds you of things that you’ve done that you completely forgot about. It’s an odd sort of professional therapy.
- You have to want it: I had two drivers pushing me towards FCLIP. It’s the last library-related qualification I plan to do, and I wanted to reflect on what I’ve achieved so far in my career and work out my next steps career-wise. I don’t think that I would have contemplated taking it on otherwise. You need your reasons and you need to be able to refer back to them when the going gets tough.
- You’re allowed to find it hard: I think it’s very dangerous for anyone to pretend that it’s a smooth process because it prevents others from sharing their fears and worries. FCLIP should not be easy. It’s a significant step up from MCLIP. It feels like you’re trying to free solo El Capitan at times and I worry that the step from one to the other is too high and that the expectations are disproportionate.
Advice for CILIP
All of the above plus:
- Mentor or tutor? I think the line is pretty blurred in professional registration and I don’t think it’s entirely helpful. A mentor advises and a tutor teaches. I needed both when I was putting my portfolio together. I’m not convinced that a one-day course or webinar teaches anyone how to support a candidate through FCLIP.
- The step (or rather, the sheer climb) between Chartership and Fellowship needs to be made clearer at the outset. The woolly expectations in the handbook don’t indicate how onerous it is in terms of time commitment and sheer mental and emotional effort.
- Make the processes and documentation clearer. The handbook is extremely woolly and there should be a separate FCLIP-specific version. There shouldn’t be a whole host of ‘Stuff you aren’t told but are somehow supposed to know’ hidden away. It’s not supposed to be a treasure hunt.
In Episode 40 of the Librarians with Lives podcast I chat to Phil Gorman, Technical Services Librarian at the House of Commons Library about working in law libraries, implementing Library Management Systems, the pain of combining a full-time job with studying for a library qualification, drifting in and out of CPD activities, attending conferences, the amazingness that is the House of Commons Library open day (I’m a fan) and whether Chartership is really worth the bother.
Phil won extra brownie points for actually coming to visit ME to record the interview back in September, a #LwLPod first. Take note, interested future interviewees. My campaign to get Phil to register for Chartership has, thus far, been unsuccessful…
You can find the Commons Library website here and Phil also blogs here
The next episode will be released on 20th November and features Lynsey Sampson.
Librarians with Lives in numbers:
[from 3rd September 2017 to 25th July 2018 am]
35 episodes released (plus the CILIP Conference Special)
72 people interviewed
Top 5 most listened to episodes:
- Nick Poole
- Helen Berry
- CILIP Conference 2018 special
- Katherine Burchell
- Jane Secker
50+ (the Soundcloud stats stop at 50) countries in which the podcast has been listened to
The top 10 are:
- United Kingdom
- New Zealand
10 things I have learned:
- How to spot who has enough ‘voice’ and personality to sustain an episode
- Once you get (most) people talking about themselves, it’s virtually impossible to stop them
- Being bold but polite gets results.
- People will complain about things that never occurred to you
- Social media personas can be extremely amplified versions of someone’s actual personality.
- Some people are *exactly* the same in real life as they are online.
- Everyone hates the sound of their own voice. Nobody has a bad voice.
- Occasionally, interviewees will drive you mad by not promoting, or mentioning to anyone, their own episode of the podcast when it’s released.
- Don’t go looking for the dissenting voices. If you’re *really* lucky they will a. Make themselves obvious and/or b. People will tell you about them. Honestly, I and/or LwL are not worth your hate.
- The Librarians with Lives alumni I have gone on to meet in real life have, without exception, been absolutely lovely.
27 Unexpected consequences…
…or things that wouldn’t have happened if the podcast didn’t exist:
- Co-delivering a workshop on networking at the CILIP Careers Day in April with someone I interviewed for the podcast, who I hadn’t met in real life until the morning of the workshop
- Subsequently co-delivering that workshop at the CILIP Conference in Brighton in July
- …and being asked to co-deliver it again at the CILIP New Professionals Day in October
- …and at a CILIP in London event in November
- Seeing the Welcome Zone at the CILIP Conference and thinking ‘I helped to affect that change’.
- Going back to Aberystwyth, 12 years after I finished my distance learning ILS qualification there, to deliver a plenary presentation about mental health, podcasting and resilience at the CILIP Cymru Wales Conference in May
- Standing up and telling 100+ people, most of whom had no idea who I was, about my mental health (see no. 5.)
- …and being asked to deliver a similar talk at a CILIP Scotland event in October.
- Recording an episode of Librarians with Lives at the CILIP Conference, where I interviewed 40 people, many of whom I had never met before and turning it into something coherent
- Submitting a very speculative proposal to speak at the forthcoming ILI Conference in October and for it to become a break-out session called Live, Love, Librarian!
- Appearing in three consecutive issues of Information Professional magazine in 2018 (sorry…):
- 60 seconds with…
- Revalidation and CILIP Cymru Wales conference mentions
- Networking article with Mike and being mentioned in Nick Poole’s editorial
- Writing an article for MMiT about the tech behind the podcast
- Being interviewed for a journal article about my experiences of being involved with a professional body
- Being interviewed for a case study for a forthcoming book on management
- Gaining two Chartership mentees
- …and a Fellowship mentor
- Hacking a shop-bought Guess Who game and turning it into a special Librarians with Lives edition for the networking workshop
- Hosting a Christmas Special of the podcast featuring previous guests and keeping it (mostly) in order
- Getting to see the inner workings of CILIP HQ (small, mostly open plan, desks, people) [Spoiler 1: it’s not Narnia. Spoiler 2: everyone I’ve met from CILIP is lovely]
- Being asked to guest on a community radio show
- Being asked to voice a small role on a comedy sketch podcast
- The Love Island DM group
- The Queer Eye DM group
- Chess: the musical with Clare “Wasn’t it good? OH SO GOOD” “Wasn’t he fine? OH SO FIIIIIINNNNNNEEEEEE” etc.
- Becoming (very) mildly ‘Library Famous’.
- Making new Library Friends who are now Actual Friends
2 negative things
- I have severe writers’ block with my Fellowship portfolio. If I could record me speaking about it, I could probably submit it. I firmly believe that I *will* be able to write and submit a successful application at some stage, but I’m not *yet* ready or able to do so.
- I probably won’t ever write my Mills & Boon ‘Love in a library’ bestselling novel now…
1 sad thing
I can’t believe it will ever be as good as this again. To watch something that I started as a tiny little CPD project grow into an actual podcast with listeners across the world and from different sectors of the information profession is mind-blowing.
Thank you to everyone that has taken part, listened to, promoted, and contributed to the Podcast in some way over the last year. There are too many of you to thank individually but it takes a
village small city to make a podcast successful and I’m incredibly grateful. This is the greatest CPD thing I have done, and will ever do, and I’m already looking forward to the next LwL Podcast season.
LwL will be back on 4th September after a little summer holiday.
I’ll leave you with a quote from Queer Eye.
In Episode 29 of the Librarians with Lives podcast I chat to David Clover, Head of User Engagement – Library and Learning Services at the University of East London. He has written a couple of posts about his career journey that complement this episode, which can be found on his blog: Part 1 & Part 2.
This episode was recorded in-person at the UEL in February.
The next episode will be released on Tuesday 5th June and stars Cassandra Gilbert-Ward.
In Episode 28 of the Librarians with Lives podcast I chat to Jane Secker, Senior Lecturer Educational Development at City University.
Jane is Chair of the CILIP Information Literacy Group and co-runs the UK Copyright Literacy group. Jane also blogs here.
The next episode will be released on Tuesday 22nd May and stars David Clover.
In Episode 11 of the Librarians with Lives podcast I chat to Tom Peach, Academic Liaison Librarian at York St. John University.
Tom is the second person from YSJ to have starred on the podcast. Clare McCluskey Dean who I interviewed back in Episode 3, ‘introduced’ me to Tom through a slightly surreal set of circumstances involving Kevin Clifton from Strictly (we love him) and me re-registering as a Chartership mentor. Tom asked me to mentor him so I decided I needed to go up to York and meet him (and Clare) and see the library he worked in (any excuse to travel on a train, meet like-minded info pros and visit a library.)
We recorded this podcast in person (I know! This hardly ever happens!) in the library at YSJ during Libraries Week back in October. I also got to meet Clare, who I have chatted to for YEARS on Twitter about Strictly and Eurovision but had never met in person and we both got slightly giddy about it all. So, all you need to do to meet all the excellent people you really love on Twitter is to start doing a podcast. Simple!
Tom started at YSJ in September and before that worked in FE libraries. He’s also doing his library qualification via the distance learning route at Robert Gordon University AND doing Chartership on the side. He is super-enthusiastic and as his mentor I intend to
mercilessly exploit harness this so that he eventually becomes CILIP President and I can say ‘I knew him when…’.
We chatted at length about information provision and inequality, the acquisition of facts, difficulties associated with working in an FE setting, rewards and challenges of providing public-facing services, the frustrations associated with being part of a profession that doesn’t advocate its worth particularly well, fangirling over Carla Hayden, and the transferable skills that being a confident performer provide (basically, winging it.) We get quite philosophical about information literacy and were having such a lovely time that this episode is
The next episode will be released on Tuesday 28th November and stars…er…Jo Wood.
I said in my reflective post that the podcast has taken on a bit of a life of its own and this is certainly true in Katherine’s case. She has very kindly given me permission to repost this from her blog Love Thy Library.
“This year I completed the first year of my Distance Learning MA with in Library and Information Service Management at The University of Sheffield and got myself my first permanent full-time library job. I then decided that it was the time for me to set myself a goal: to get more involved in the profession, get more confident and meet new people.
I started to become more involved in Twitter, follow more librarians, get involved in more chats, and this helped me to start meeting other librarians, other people who are / have been in the same position as me. It has been a great way to reach out for help / advice on jobs, assignments and ideas. It was on Twitter that I first “followed” and met Jo Wood. I’d been following her for a few months when I saw that she had started up again her blog Librarians with Lives .
It was then a few months later that I saw that Jo was reaching out to librarians and information professionals to get involved with a podcast she was starting that would showcase different people from the profession and allow them to have their voice heard and tell people more about themselves and their jobs. It was at this point that I thought to myself, it would be great if I could get involved in something like this, but I didn’t have the courage to put myself forward. If I am honest my brain was just telling me “why would anyone want to hear what you’ve got to say”. (I am honestly, my own worst enemy.) I sat on the thought of messaging Jo for a while, then I saw that she had tweeted asking for people who were new to the profession or doing a course to come forward and be on the podcast. I took this as my opportunity to just do it.
I was initially delighted when Jo said she’d love to arrange speaking to me for the podcast, this then soon turned into fear and nerves. I think Jo would agree with me that she could tell I was very nervous, I was frantically messaging her questions about the podcast. The week of my podcast recording Jo sent me the questions that she would roughly be covering and asking. I was lucky, as her first podcast interviewee did not get any questions in advance. So well done to Helen Berry for doing it all on the spot! I got answers organised for all the questions, which, when I look back on it was a lot harder than I imagined it to be.
The night of my recording came, I set myself up in my bedroom, told all my family to be quiet as I didn’t want there to be any background noise and I waited for Jo to call me via Skype. As soon as Jo started chatting to me before the recording started I instantly felt at ease. Jo started the recording and off we went, I didn’t even look at my notes once. It all came so naturally to me, and I felt just like I was telling a new friend about my job and my way into the profession.
Jo was keen to get my thoughts on doing a Distance Learning course and working full-time, something I was very keen to talk about. Ever since I started my MA I have loved talking to people about it and telling them about how I cope with doing it with a full-time job.
My episode of the podcast went live on the 18th of October. I can’t quite believe how popular my episode has been. I did not expect the reaction that I got. Lots of people have retweeted the podcast, sent me tweets to say they enjoyed it and even professional bodies have tweeted out the link to their followers. This is honestly something that I never thought would happen to me.
I thoroughly enjoyed being part of Jo’s podcast. I listened to it back, after telling myself that I wouldn’t and I am so glad I have. First of all, I do not sound as awful as I thought I would, and it’s really good for me to hear back what I have said and I can see room for improvement on my end but I think that’s because I need more practice of presenting myself. If I had the opportunity to do this again I would work on talking a bit slower and pacing myself. I’d love to do this in a couple of years time when hopefully I’ll have some more experience behind me and I can reflect more on my career so far.
This opportunity has given me an absolute confidence boost and made me more determined to get involved with things within the profession. I am going to continue to apply for bursaries for conferences and get involved in volunteering opportunities where possible to gain experience outside of work. I just want to say a big thank you to Jo for this opportunity and for her continuing support”.
When you’re presented with an opportunity to do some CPD it’s very easy to say yes. Here’s a brief lesson in why you need to learn to say no sometimes:
In the Autumn was asked to consider joining the committee of a particular CILIP group. As the group was one that I had an interest in (it dovetailed nicely with my new Mentoring role), I said I would attend a meeting and see how I felt. I went along and discovered that the Chair and Secretary posts (along with a couple of others) were vacant. As the meeting progressed my synapses started firing and I thought ‘I could actually do something here’. When the discussion about the vacant posts came up on the agenda, I opened my enormous mouth and declared that I would like to be Secretary. The Chair post was still vacant but I figured that if I did a good job as Secretary I would be in with a shout of the role at the end of next year, once I’d learnt the ropes.
Call me old-fashioned – call me crazy (many do) – but I think you need some experience before you take on a leading role.
Anyway. I went home, buoyed by enthusiasm and the chance to really achieve something tangible. I started thinking of ways of generating revenue, events we could put on, new initiatives. A couple of weeks later, reality hit. The Committee needed more work and time than I could possibly give it. I have an aversion to people that sit around telling everyone how ‘busy’ they are. In fact, can we all stop using the infernal ‘b’ word? We’re ALL busy. EVERYONE has a life outside work – if they don’t they should really get one. I worked out how much time the Committee would need from me, looked at what I was already doing and the numbers didn’t add up. If my job wasn’t as intense, if I didn’t have small children, if I didn’t have creative hobbies, if I wasn’t a Mentor, I could do it.
I was faced with a straightforward choice. I could either be a Mentor or I could be on the Committee. I couldn’t do both. I’m passionate about Mentoring. I believe it’s a really important role and I really like the idea of helping future leaders get to where they want to be and offering them some support on the way. I realised that getting involved in the Committee would mean that I would become the thing I dislike – someone that justifies inaction by telling everyone how unbelievably busy they are. I couldn’t give the Committee the time and attention it deserved, and frankly it needed someone with plenty of both.
I sent the person that recruited me an e-mail explaining my decision to not only step down from the Secretary role, but to also leave the Committee completely (I’d only attend meetings, get irritated and get over-involved again). I sent the Committee an apologetic e-mail and have heard nothing since. I hope that the Committee fills their vacant posts soon and I’m sorry that I reneged on my promises.
It’s hard to say no, but you have to be realistic about what you can fit into your life.