Evidence Aid secondment

During a virtual team meeting at the end of March mention was made of a list of useful tasks that the Knowledge and Library Services team could work on to support COVID-19 efforts within PHE and with external partners.  Knowing that, as the Knowledge and Evidence Specialist for Health Improvement my workload was likely to be quieter for a time*, I followed up after the meeting. “We have just the job in mind for you” is always a scary phase because it generally refers to a terrible task that no-one else wants to do. The conversation continued “We know you miss managing people, so you get to do that and use your organisational, tact and diplomacy skills as well”.**

Evidence Aid, a charity, needed someone to co-ordinate a team of volunteer literature searchers for their COVID-19 collection of systematic review summaries and had asked their contacts at PHE for help. I was offered to Evidence Aid on a part-time basis (2-3 hours per day) from 1st April – 31st May to support them with Phase 1 of the project.

Literature Search Co-Ordination – During an initial chat with Evidence Aid it became apparent that as well as co-ordinating the searchers, they needed someone to recruit new searchers and set up the workflows and processes. I did that within a couple of days. To explain, Evidence Aid has a core COVID-19 search that runs every day looking for new systematic reviews, but they wanted volunteers to perform literature searches on related topics of interest as well. I am extremely concerned about using library workers as volunteers. I did an Evidence Aid mini episode of the podcast and approached established groups for health library workers with a very clear message of “Please don’t feel obliged to consider doing this work if you can’t/don’t want to, focus on looking after yourselves and your loved ones”. PHE have kindly allowed me to ‘borrow’ a couple of my colleagues to do searches, and a few other people answered my call for help. (FWIW the searchers either have jobs in which they are already doing COVID-related work, have been redeployed and want to keep their hand in with searching, or want to develop new skills while they’re working at home.)

I’ve developed a small cohort of keen, committed searchers and I keep a careful eye on them. They are asked to consider whether they want to take on a search, not to worry if they can’t, and to take care of themselves. I also ensure that they have realistic deadlines to work to and that these can be changed as/when necessary.

Summary Writing Co-Ordination – Once the searching end of the process was set up and running smoothly, it became obvious that someone was needed to co-ordinate the other end of the process, the summary writers, as well. Once suitable systematic reviews are identified via searches, they are prioritised for summarising (the bar for inclusion is high and many COVID-related SRs aren’t up to scratch so are rejected early on), allocated to summarisers, edited by a small team, and added to the website.

Initially the summaries were written by two people and finalised by someone else, but this model of working was unsustainable. Evidence Aid put a call-out on the Cochrane Task Exchange and academics and students from all over the world offered their services as summary writers. Initially they were co-ordinated by the two original summary writers, but their workloads were huge and one of them was studying for exams, so I took over.

When I started there was a lot of confusion about who was working on a summary, who wasn’t, what stage a summary was at, whether it was a duplicate, who was editing summaries, and liaising with the summarisers. I created the workflows and processes so that a summary could be tracked from when it was prioritised for inclusion to when it was added to the portal. I’m the initial point of contact for the summarisers and keep a careful eye on their workloads. Draft summaries are sent to two people (a student and a health specialist) to edit, go to an academic for finalising, and are given the final go-ahead by another academic before being added to the website.

This means that I’m now co-ordinating the work of c.60 people across the project.

Managing my time – I’m balancing the Evidence Aid work with my PHE work. When the project was in its infancy my inbox was overwhelming and I spent most of my time dealing with email traffic and fighting fires. Two months on things have settled down, there have been some personnel changes, and I have far less traffic to manage. I have clear boundaries. If I have PHE work to do, I’ll turn off my emails for a couple of hours so that I can focus. I won’t work late unless I need to finish something urgent off, and I absolutely will not work weekends.

Feedback – I’m the main point of contact for the volunteers and I want to make them feel welcome and valued. If they say they will get a piece of work done by a certain date and don’t manage it, I’ll follow-up to gently ask if they’re ok. An awful lot can happen in someone’s life in a short space of time and piling in on them for not doing something they’ve volunteered for is never appropriate. I emphasise that they must look after themselves and thank them for their work. The relationship-building aspect of the work is key, as is the need for kind and constructive feedback. English is not necessarily the first (or second) language of the summary writers so I need to be mindful of how I phrase emails e.g. not using colloquial or confusing language. I don’t always get it right, though, and I’m learning all the time.

Emotional toll – I’m incredibly lucky and haven’t been personally affected – yet – by COVID. Managing emails from 60 volunteers, plus those from the Evidence Aid team, being part of team calls across two organisations, updating the workflows, advising on the project, doing my PHE work, managing my own wellbeing, parenting, supervising home schooling and trying to get through life in lockdown is far from easy though. There are days when the last thing I want to do is work.  I have imposed a routine on myself on weekdays to prevent the gloom from descending too severely.

Next steps – In May Evidence Aid received funding for Phase 2 of the COVID-19 project and asked if I would like to carry on working with them. It’s been agreed that my part-time secondment will carry on until the end of October and I’ll juggle my PHE work alongside. My original job title was Searching Co-Ordinator. In early April I became the Searching and Summary Writing Co-Ordinator. I’m now the COVID-19 Project Co-Ordinator.

Final thoughts – It’s no secret that I’ve been through a tough time professionally in the last year. In an ideal world I would be doing my PHE role full-time, a job that I was just starting to get good at before lockdown started, and we wouldn’t be coping with a global pandemic. However, we can only operate in the situation in which we find ourselves. I’m enormously privileged that despite the challenges outlined, I can do my PHE and Evidence Aid work from home, and that everyone I love is ok. I appreciate the opportunity that I have been given and I’m determined not to waste it.

It’s not appropriate to do so now, but perhaps in a few months’ time I’ll be able to sit down and selfishly, cynically, write a list of the ways that this secondment will benefit my career prospects and how I can use my new and enhanced skills in the future. For now, my stance is that if my work makes the lives of my colleagues and peers easier, that is enough.

*The HI work quietened down for a time as everyone shifted to new ways of working and/or was asked to do COVID-related work but picked up again from late April. I’m now at the point where I get a lot of repeat business from happy customers who like my literature searching and with whom I have built relationships so I’m keen to keep working with them.

**I would describe my skills in these areas as a ‘work in progress’ but perhaps my management team views me a little differently to how I view myself.

From there to here

This post was inspired by a conversation I had with my line manager during a 1:1 recently. I’m still in my probation period (four months down; two to go) and I get frustrated when I don’t know things. She said that I should remember and appreciate how much I’ve achieved since I started in October, and that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself.

I finally told her about the burnout and subsequent breakdown I had in 2016. How odd to be able to share it with rooms full of strangers at conferences but to feel like I can’t discuss it with people that know me in real life, as it were. Telling people face to face that I had (have?) a mental illness and a breakdown exposes a part of myself that I keep hidden away. I lose a protective layer of skin every time. Writing about it depersonalises my experience in a way that looking someone in the eye and telling them doesn’t.

Recap: In October 2016, after months of gradually falling apart, I broke down at my desk, went home and didn’t got back to work for six and a half weeks. I couldn’t write a simple email. I couldn’t read text longer than a page. I had no concentration span. I couldn’t function on a useful level. At one point I couldn’t see how I would ever return to work again because the idea of doing my job was utterly unimaginable. I’m still amazed that (with a lot of support) I was able to not only go back to work but to achieve everything I did between 2017 and 2019. Every single day I went to work was a victory; a triumph over the inner dialogue that told me I was done, that I should just give up, that I was no good to anyone.

[Side note: I had extensive therapy from an experienced, qualified psychotherapist, which I would highly recommend if you can access it. I don’t hold with anyone without a clinical background offering to help people deal with mental health issues on a one-day course costing £££.]

It would have been easy to settle. Indeed, it probably would have been safer for me to stay at my old job for the rest of my life. It didn’t tax my brain, I knew it inside out and I was entirely comfortable in my role. It was my safe little cocoon and on my down days I miss it, even now. [I’m still angry that someone was able to shit all over my recovery by telling me that I wouldn’t be developed further, that the library wouldn’t change and that if I wanted new opportunities I needed to leave. When I questioned that, they doubled down and made the situation worse, shattering the protective cocoon I’d developed to deal with life, taking me away from something I loved, and probably leading me to leave before I was quite ready to do so.]

I knew that at some stage (ideally when *I* was ready) I needed to test my recovery from everything that happened in 2016. Getting a new job was a huge deal for me because I would be out of my comfort zone. I now perform complex searches on a whole range of systems I’d not used before I started this role. I hadn’t used Endnote before; I now deliver training on it. I’m learning every day. My brain is still capable of learning new things and that’s both exciting and scary. I honestly didn’t think I could deal with this level of change. [Spoiler: some days I don’t cope, and I cry because it’s incredibly overwhelming.]

In the spirit of looking back to move forward, I think it’s important to acknowledge where I came from and where I’ve got to in the last three and a-bit-years. I know I’m incredibly hard on myself. I am my harshest critic and think I will never will be good enough. I regularly tell my inner dialogue to shut up. I still have bad days, but I remind myself how far I’ve come in a relatively short period of time.

In 2016 I thought I was done. In 2020 I know I’m not. I’m not finished yet, not by a long way.

Three months

During the interview for my job one of the set questions was along the lines of (I can’t recall the precise wording) “What would you hope to achieve in your first three months in the role?” It’s a standard interview question and I didn’t have a very good answer. I stumbled through a reply that included: working through the induction process, not being afraid to seek help when I was stuck, admitting when I was finding things difficult, understanding the role, and aiming to become a useful part of the team. At the end of my response I apologised for not answering the question better.

I’m now (just over) three months into the role and it’s a useful point at which to reflect back on this interview question. Quite honestly, in October and the early part of November I couldn’t imagine still being in this job in January. I honestly thought I wasn’t worthy of the job. I can now look back and reflect on how badly my confidence had been dented by what came before, and the significant impact of this on my transition to the new role.

  1. Working through the induction process – I got through the checklist stuff very quickly, because it was a useful distraction from how terrible I felt at the time. Of course, there’s an the less structured, ad-hoc, unwritten stuff and I would say that I’m working through that because it takes time to understand a large organisation.
  2. Not being afraid to seek help – I used to be the person that people went to for advice. Becoming the newbie again was/is hard after such a long time. I am buddied up with a very experienced, kind colleague who I can message when I’m finding things hard and she regularly contacts me to make sure I’m ok. I’m part of a geographically dispersed team but we use Skype extensively and everyone is at the end of an email or messenger.
  3. Admitting when I was finding things difficult – after (what I perceived to be) a terrible first week/month I decided to be honest with my colleagues about how I was feeling. We have regular Skype sessions where we share information on a theme. As part of a ‘Day in the life’ session in November I delivered a presentation on being a KES (Knowledge and Evidence Specialist) Newbie on which I received good feedback.
  4. Understanding the role – I would say that I understand it *more* now but I’m not there *yet*. I have dealt with several literature searches of varying difficulty including one for a systematic review, I’m in the process of setting up a current awareness bulletin, I’ve provided 1:1 and ongoing support on Endnote, I peer-review publications as part of the in-house publication standard committee, among many other tasks. Lots already done, lots more still to learn.
  5. Becoming a useful part of the team – I would tentatively say yes but you’d have to ask my colleagues what they think.

I was involved in an incident at the beginning of December that, if it had happened month before, would have seen me walk out of the building and not return. Briefly, I was on the receiving end of some unexpectedly unprofessional behaviour. It was one of those moments where you check with the people around you whether the behaviour was acceptable and if my reaction was appropriate and professional. The response was, respectively, no and yes. I subsequently received excellent support from my manager and colleagues. I know from previous experience (a long time ago) that this isn’t necessarily a given*. The fact that I was able to bounce back from it (I went from the bad incident at 10am to a lovely moment at 2pm) shows how far I’ve come in the last couple of months.

My feelings towards my previous role versus my current job have evolved since my last post. I can miss bits of my old job whilst simultaneously enjoying  my new role. I’m particularly missing managing people and collections. I can’t do a lot about the former but it’s no coincidence that I’m playing at lot of Sims Freeplay in the evening**. I’m visiting one of our libraries to help with some stock work next month. As long as I can top up my hardcore librariany goodness from time to time, I’ll be just fine.

I was chatting to a friend recently who said it takes six months to understand a new job, rather than three. I’m hoping to be able to report further progress in April.

*If I’d known what gaslighting was in 2010 it would have applied here *shudder*

** It’s extremely therapeutic controlling other people’s lives WHICH IS NOT THE SAME AS LINE MANAGEMENT. Combined with watching the Press Gang boxset it’s the perfect way to unwind.

It gets better

It has taken eight weeks for me to feel like I’m finally enjoying, and can be good at, my new job. On Monday I realised that I no longer miss anything about my old job at all.

As I indicated in my previous post, October was a write-off as I was a complete mess. Luckily, I was on holiday for a week during that time, which acted as a wonderful distraction. At the beginning of November, I saw some glimmers of hope and over the last week I’ve realised that I actually, finally, really like my new job. I might even love it. (No job is perfect of course, but this is pretty good.)

There was a creeping realisation that I deserved better. I need to make a distinction here between being too good for my previous role (that’s not something I can necessarily say) and feeling that I deserved to be treated better and, frankly, looked after a bit more. Some of this is professional pride kicking in, but a lot of it is being in a new situation and realising that the old one really wasn’t as great as I thought it was.

The best analogy I can come up with is that it’s like dumping a no-good partner, going through the terrible phase where you’re worried you did the wrong thing, and finally realising you’re much better off without them. I had people close to me telling me that I needed to leave my job two years ago for the sake of my health, confidence and self-worth, but I wasn’t ready to make the break at that point. My old job was comfortable and familiar but in hindsight it didn’t respect or treat me very well.

The impact that my old job had on my physical and mental health (particularly the latter) should not be underestimated. I was ground down and tired after many years of fighting the same battles. My old line manager and I likened it to Blackadder Goes Forth, where the soldiers battle for months on end to move the general’s drinks cabinet (the library) six inches toward enemy lines, only to have it (and my ambitions) pushed back.

I’ve been a complete pain to be around over the last few weeks. Interventions have been staged at various points. In October I cried on a lot of people. I have realised a few things as a result of this process though.

Learning points:

  1. Starting a new job is bloody awful,
  2. No matter how bad it seems at the outset, it will get better, or at least less worse
  3. It takes time to get used to a new role, particularly if you were in the old one for a long time
  4. It’s good to talk about how you’re feeling and share concerns
  5. Writing about what you’re going through is incredibly cathartic

I still have so much to learn about my new role, but I have already developed a whole host of skills over the last few weeks that will be incredibly useful regardless of what happens in future. There are huge benefits to being part of a larger team in terms of expertise, mutual support networks, opportunities and information-sharing. Having the management support and budget to get proper training and development is eye-opening. I gave up asking for training in my old job because I knew it would be a no unless it was free, I could get a bursary, I spoke or podcasted at it. Now I’m actively being encouraged to attend all kinds of training events. It’s made me realise how short-sighted it is to expect people to learn on the job without access to training opportunities. It’s a cost-saving to the organisation but it makes services far less efficient.

I am soon to celebrate A Birthday and to be perfectly honest I’m not massively happy about it. One good thing about getting older though is that you realise and value your self-worth. I put up with a lot of nonsense before, but I’m simply not prepared to do that now. I am worth more and deserve better.

First-world professional grief: Part 2

I don’t think I’ve cried as much as I have this year as I have…well, ever…really. I spoke about the first world professional grief I experienced over Fellowship earlier in the year. What I didn’t expect was the gut-punching, air-gasping, all-consuming grief I would experience over leaving my old job. I refer to it as first world grief because nobody has died, I’m still in gainful employment and everyone is healthy.

I wrote about feeling calm about the decision I’d made but I don’t think it really hit me until the very end of my last day. EVERYONE expected me to cry at some point during my last week. I’m fairly certain that some people tried to make me feel sad ON PURPOSE to make me cry. I remained dry-eyed throughout the leaving speeches, presents, cards (the lovely messages!), leaving do, laughing, dancing, hugging and then…It was all over and I was broken.

I started crying at approximately 10:30pm on my last day and essentially didn’t stop crying for a week, which was awkward as I started my new job during that time. My new colleagues (who have been lovely) must have wondered what they’d taken on. I had a panic attack one night (the first in a year) where I screamed and sobbed as the walls closed in. I felt disoriented, frightened and overwhelmed.

The grief I’m experiencing is complicated. I went through a difficult time during the last few months in my old job and while I ultimately won the battle I was fighting, it directly led to my decision to leave. The crux of it is, there’s some unresolved ‘stuff’ that I can’t deal with or change. I’m having coaching to help me work through it to find solutions and offer some level of peace. This stuff can eat you alive if you let it and I’m determined to feel my feelings and move on.

I’d taken the library as far as I could without additional support, development and funding and it was made crystal clear to me that I wouldn’t be developed further and that the service would need to remain as it was for the time being. I was bored, frustrated and stifled. I was tired of fighting the same battles on a never-ending loop. I hadn’t learned anything new for a long time (years, probably) and everything was easy and utterly routine. I could have stayed there for the rest of my career quite comfortably but that wouldn’t have been healthy for anyone.

In May I was so mad at myself about Fellowship that I ran a marathon. In October I ran a trail lap event and covered 18.5 miles through woodland, brambles, clay-like mud and leg-busting hills. I planned to do 4 laps (I like events where you can do as many or few laps as you like) and realised I wasn’t done yet so I went back out for a fifth because obviously an additional 3.7 miles would cure everything and I have a unique ability to hurt myself through running. It didn’t cure anything (obviously) but I was quite “SCREW YOU AND ALL WHO SAIL IN YOU” (inwardly) at the end so maybe that was a positive outcome.

The library was my third baby. I planned it, birthed it, parented it, got mad at it, it broke me, I cried over it, and I was proud of it. When I’m passionate about something I really love it and I don’t have that thing any more. I’m angry with myself for the time I missed with my girls when they were tiny because I was setting the library up and working ridiculous hours with no support. They don’t seem to be particularly scarred by the bath and bedtimes I missed but I’m mad at myself for letting that happen. I sacrificed an awful lot and for what, exactly? Perhaps it will be clear one day.

One of the many reasons I left my old job was that I felt my contribution to the organisation and my professional achievements weren’t appreciated in some quarters. When the interviews for my replacement were carried out, three of the four candidates apparently mentioned that they had seen me speak at conferences, knew me through professional networks, listened to Librarians with Lives, or highlighted my achievements. It shouldn’t have taken my leaving for this to become real. I’d hardly hidden any of it.

During the third week in my new job I realised something valuable. I’d spent the previous couple of weeks thinking I was a complete idiot and that I didn’t recognise a good thing when I had one. I *had* to stay put for a long time to ensure stability for my family when my girls were smaller. Moreover, after 2015 when my world fell apart, I craved safety and routine. My job was a safe, fixed, reliable place in an uncertain and frightening world. The loss of control that I’ve experienced over the last few weeks is quite scary. I was the queen of my domain, the person that knew everyone and everything. Now I’m the most stupid person in the room.

A month on the grief is less intense. I don’t feel like my brain is full of thick fog that isn’t going to clear. I still have moments where I feel very sad and angry. I’ve got good coping mechanisms in place and am developing new routines. I’m hoping that one day I’ll look back at this time and be proud of myself for doing something brave and for challenging everything I thought I knew about libraries. I think that leaving my old job, whatever happens next, is actually a bit of a baller move.



New job and reflections on interviews

Since I submitted my Fellowship portfolio I’ve been feeling quite ‘What next’? As I said in a previous post it feels like the end of an era and the right time to move on and do something else. As a result, I’m leaving my current role to move to Public Health England as a Knowledge and Evidence Specialist in October.

Having been in the same job for a long time in a niche sector (social care/work) I didn’t quite know how to pitch myself. I was put forward by recruiters for some terrifyingly grand jobs and was rejected by them. I gained considerable insight into structuring an application.

I wrote a key skills document for one role that I was approached to apply for, which highlighted areas of my current role that I really enjoy (my FCLIP portfolio was a good starting point, proving that it is useful beyond the qualification): building relationships with colleagues across departments, internally and externally and getting them to buy into and become advocates for a service; compiling literature searches and really getting under the hood of a subject; and (cheesy alert) helping to make other people’s lives better and supporting policymakers to affect positive change.

I picked up advice from friends. You shouldn’t overinvest in a role you’ve been ‘found’ for because it’s a recruiter’s job to find you, encourage you to apply for a role that’s well beyond your reach, help you craft a great application and then send you a rejection email prior to the first interview stage. If you’re very unlucky you won’t get an email, but you will see the role advertised by a different recruiter. Also, go for an interview if you’re offered one. The worst-case scenario is that you hone your interview technique and get to see a different workplace and the best-case scenario is that you get offered the job.

Since 2003 I have had four jobs; five if you count an internal promotion. I’ve been in my current role for ten years and I didn’t have to interview for it as I was TUPE’d over from my previous employer. During the LwL 50 AMA I talked about turning down a job a few years ago. I don’t regret the decision I made as my dream job in my twenties was no longer right for me in my thirties.

There are good and bad interview experiences. The good experiences make you feel better about yourself even when you don’t get the job. The prospective employer goes out of their way to make you feel comfortable, doesn’t act like you’ve shot them if you ask questions at the end of the interview, procedures are followed and promises of feedback kept.

I’ve had a few bad interview experiences over the years. Usually you get a ‘Please prepare a 5-10-minute presentation on X and Y’ in the interview invitation. On one occasion, with no warning, I was given 30 minutes prior to the interview to write an on the spot scenario-based PowerPoint presentation. I got about half-way through delivering the presentation, was enthusiastically outlining my plan for saving a failing, fictional but not really, library service and saw the HR representative on the panel roll their eyes. The interview got worse from there. I think they wanted someone to slash library services and I was all about saving and improving them. I didn’t get the job. Three and a half years later I’m still waiting for the promised feedback that I requested twice afterwards.

I was once asked to value a book in an interview, for a post that was mis-advertised as a library job but was really a curatorial role. The book dealer on the interview panel painstakingly explained how I should have been able to value the book he gave me based on the binding and some other subtle clues that I had absolutely no idea about. The ability to value books was not a requirement in the job description and I didn’t indicate that I possessed such a skill in my application.

Early in my career I had an interview for a library assistant role and it was clear the moment I walked through the door that they were just going through the motions of interviewing me. The interview lasted twenty minutes. At the time I thought I’d done something wrong (I requested feedback but didn’t get any) but now I think they’d already found someone amazing and I was simply making up the numbers.

Feedback tends to be along the lines of ‘The skills of another candidate more closely aligned with the job description than yours’, which roughly translates as ‘We liked someone else better than you’. I was once told to contact an email address for feedback on a job I didn’t get. The address they gave me was for a no-reply mailbox.

I saw an advert for the PHE role and crafted an application. I received an interview invitation before I was due to travel up to Manchester for the CILIP Conference, for the following week. The fact that I was so busy may have worked in my favour because I had less time to overthink the process.

Everyone I met at the interview was lovely and put me at ease. I raced through my presentation (the nerves!) and felt that I answered some of the questions better than others. I took myself off for a consolation Frappuccino afterwards. I was kicking myself because I thought of a really great example for one of the questions and it completely fell out of my head during the interview. I braced myself for a rejection email and feedback. I was shocked when I received a phone call offering me the job. I went away and spoke to my brains trust as I have three other people to factor into any decision I make. Their unanimous verdict was that I should accept the role.

I leave my current role on 27th September and I am actively supporting the recruitment process for my replacement. I start my new role on 1st October. I’m excited and terrified but most of all I’m looking forward to a new, very different, challenge.


What studying for (and deciding against) an alternative career taught me

In my living room a framed print of a painting by William Hodges, called A Waterfall in Tahiti, hangs above the television. Hodges painted the scene when he travelled with Captain Cook on his second voyage and I fell in love with it when I worked at the National Maritime Museum. The print was part of my leaving present. I resolved to visit the waterfall depicted, which is in the Tuauru Valley, one day.

In 2012 I decided to re-train as a sport psychologist. The dream was to qualify, get a job with the English Institute of Sport and become good enough to go to travel to the Olympics as part of the Team GB ‘Team behind the team’.  Only…it wasn’t quite as simple as that.

I had absolutely no background in psychology, so in 2013 I did an introductory course recommended by the British Psychological Society as a way of accessing the Sport and Exercise Psychology MSc and was duly given a place on the latter in 2014. There are two paths to accessing the MSc: the traditional route for those that had already studied psychology at degree level, and the ‘applied’ route, for those that had transferable qualifications and skills. I fell into the latter category.

There are several steps to becoming a fully-qualified sport psychologist: Introductory course/undergraduate degree – Sport Psych MSc – Conversion course – BPS registration. I was funding all of this myself and each stage cost more money. BPS registration alone would have been several thousand pounds. [If you’re weeping over the cost of CILIP Professional Registration, it’s an absolute steal compared with BPS registration.] There was a more straightforward (and cheaper) route, which was to do the MSc and join BASES (The British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences) although it was made very clear that this was regarded as a less professional path and that those who chose it wouldn’t be regarded as ‘proper’ sport psychologists.

Several of my course mates were already practising psychologists. The introductory psychology course had given me some idea of the basic concepts, but many of my peers were already working in clinical fields. It would have been very easy to feel intimidated and I certainly experienced ‘Imposter Syndrome’.

To survive, I fell back on my well-honed information professional skills. If I didn’t know something I knew where to look to find the answer. I relied on being able to write myself out of trouble. I’d done enough presentations over the years to be able to put together a half-decent talk on a subject that I barely understood. My grades were decent (I got a Merit for all but one of the assignments.) I faked it until I (nearly) made it.

I made the right decision to finish the course before I embarked on the dissertation though. I’d decided on a topic (the impact of fitness trackers on mental health) but there isn’t a magic money tree, I don’t own a time-turner and I’d fallen completely out of love with the subject. Also, I realised that I still really liked (and was actually good at) being a Librarian.

I got the most out of the assignments that allowed me to use transferable skills:

  1. Designing a workplace activity intervention that focused on Prochaska and DiClemente’s stages of change model (I’d still like my organisation to implement my intervention)
  2. Writing and presenting a voicethread presentation on team cohesion in cycling (team building; getting the right personalities in the right roles at the right time)
  3. A case study of skill breakdown in diving (why things go wrong, why they get into your head and exploring ways to put them right)

I’m in the process of planning a family holiday for August 2018. I’m dreaming of cruises to Tahiti but I’m a. A Librarian b. I’m funding 4 people c. We can’t disappear off to travel the world d. I spent quite a bit of money on trying to become a sport psychologist.

Still, I think it’s absolutely fine for me to spend my downtime researching cruises, like this one, or this, or this. Some dreams aren’t meant to work out but teach you to appreciate what you already had. I suspect this one might have to wait until I retire. Or win Euromillions. Whichever comes first.