CILIP Careers Day 2018 – Networking for the Rest of Us

…aka The One Where I Co-Led A Workshop On Networking…

In the radical cheese dream that my professional life has been since July 2017 (Start a podcast! Release 25 episodes! Engage with listeners worldwide! Get invited to speak at stuff! Bother @CILIPInfo on a daily basis!), speaking at Careers Day last week was definitely a highlight.

As a result of all my podcasting, online professional engagement, CILIP-bothering (and my – frankly shameless – pleas to ‘Let me come and do stuff at your events because I’m doing FCLIP and unable to go to anything unless I can attend them free please please please pleaaaaaaaaase) I have good relationships with a number of their staff (in my role as mad lady in hat who they very sweetly indulge) and Helen Berry asked if I’d like to do something for Careers Day.

I kicked around a few different ideas but the one I kept coming back to was networking. Feeling awkward at conferences is such a recurring theme on Librarians with Lives that it’s almost become a meme. For those that play LwL Bingo, it’s up there with (get your jotter pens ready) ‘Fabulous’ ‘Bursaries’ ‘Does my head in’ ‘Own your achievements’ ‘The young people’ and ‘I shouldn’t offer advice but…’.

Back in November I recorded two episodes of the podcast very close to one another: Mike Jones one evening and Nick Poole the following day. Mike and I had been chatting on Twitter for a bit since he’d been to ILI and found the bits between the talks hard and I’d *shamelessly* plugged LwL on the conference hashtag (as I said, no shame) and it was a topic we explored at length during his episode. I was able to relate as I’d had my own experience of the horrors of having to talk to strangers at the CILIP Conference in July. Networking was a subject I raised with Nick during his episode and so the idea for ‘Hungry hippos and hot chocolate’ was born.

I didn’t think it was right for me to do something on networking on my own so it make sense to approach Mike and ask him to co-lead it with me. Luckily he jumped at the chance (turns out he’s a Yes Man fan) and so we put together a workshop. We were determined that what we delivered would be relatable and practical, rather than theoretical. Mike did a survey on networking and the findings became the backbone of our presentation. From there we developed a toolkit of tips and advice that (while admittedly Twitter-heavy at the moment) could be adopted by anyone that struggles with social situations at professional events.

One of the huge benefits of co-leading a workshop is that you have someone else to bounce ideas off. It also meant we could play to our strengths and divvy up tasks – I wrote the slides and Mike made them look fantastic. When I questioned whether I should include certain bits of information he could offer a balanced view. Mike also added in information that I’d overlooked. Hands-on activities were a large component of the workshop and I spent a couple of evenings putting together a special LwL-themed version of Guess Who for participants to play with. I raided my children’s board games and selected those that could be played without too much thought and wouldn’t impede conversation. I also took along a jigsaw puzzle and a large colouring-in poster with plenty of pens and colouring pencils.

During the preparation stage it didn’t really occur to us/me that the first time we would ever meet in real life would be at Careers Day itself. Thanks to the podcast and the Joy of Twitter, it didn’t feel like an issue though. We delivered the workshop twice and were really pleased with how it went, once we got over the ‘People have actually come to this and are engaging with it and we can’t believe we’re here because of a couple of blog posts and a podcast’ feeling.

So, what went well and what would we improve next time?

What went well:

  1. The presentation was really well-received, with lots of nodding along and laughing (hopefully with not at…) when we told our stories and offered advice
  2. Participants engaged with the practical element of the workshop and seemed to be enjoying themselves
  3. We got lots of really good, useful feedback, both online and in person from  participants
  4. We’ve been asked to deliver the workshop again at the New Professionals’ Day later in the year

Even better if…

  1. We took slightly too long with the slides the first time which didn’t leave enough time for game play, which we were able to remedy in the second workshop (so successfully that we finished early..)
  2. Ideally we’d have longer to let the conversations flow during the interactive element
  3. Originally we said that we wanted participants to find out three facts about the person they were conversing with, but that took too long so we cut it back to 1-2 facts for the second session
  4. The second session was really well-attended and there weren’t quite enough activities for everyone to do, so we’d either limit numbers slightly or include more activities next time

Overall, Mike and I were absolutely thrilled with how the workshops went. My biggest fear was that our advice might appear patronising and homespun, but the survey results underpinned everything we said and we were very honest about our own experiences, which really resonated with participants. As I said at one point, it would be hard to argue with anything we said.

I’ll write a separate post on Careers Day from a participant perspective at some stage. Huge thanks to Mike for being such a brilliant co-leader and to Helen from CILIP for inviting us along. I think a (friendly, helpful) beast has been unleashed!

 

 

 

Advertisements

LwL Episode 19: Jo Cornish

In Episode 19 of the Librarians with Lives podcast I chat to Jo Cornish, Development Officer (Employers) at CILIP.

We chat about her previous life in public libraries, managing staff, qualifications, fellowship and baseball.

Links:

The next episode will be released on Tuesday 20th February is a graduate trainee special, featuring Elle Codling, Rhiannon Williams and Hannah Smith.
Happy listening!

LwL Episode 16: Nick Poole

In Episode 16 of the Librarians with Lives podcast I chat to Nick Poole, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP). Nick was kind enough to give me 1.5 hours of his time back in November to record this episode in person at CILIP HQ.

We had a wide-ranging discussion (I asked some of the usual questions but several of them felt quite redundant, so it made sense to follow the flow of conversation for much of the episode) that included: the acquisition of and access to knowledge and information, routes into the information profession, efforts to diversify the workforce, living and working in the information age, “Librarian on Librarian Violence”, being part of CILIP, professional ethics, funding models for library services, and celebrating achievements without fear of ridicule. You can find out more about the CILIP Action Plan 2016-2020 here.

Nick also offers advice to both new and mid-career professionals, we chat about networking and speaking at conferences (please note my – frankly – shameless plea to be able to speak at the next CILIP conference), and the dreaded Imposter Syndrome rears its ugly head yet again… If you have any questions, Nick is happy to answer them. Just click on his name at the top.

I’m very pleased to announce that this episode contains some exclusive news, but you’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out more. No spoilers…

If you’re new to the profession, you can join CILIP here

The next episode will be released on Tuesday 16th January and stars Alisa Howlett (we’re going international again, this time to Australia.)
Happy listening!

LwL Podcast Episode 6: Juanita Foster-Jones

In Episode 6 of the Librarians with Lives podcast I chat to Juanita Foster-Jones, Development Officer (VLE) at CILIP. It is very apt that in Libraries Week Juanita acknowledges – and namechecks – the brilliant school librarian (Mrs Haynes) who not only provided a brilliant, personalised service but also offered a safe space for those who found school difficult. SAVE SCHOOL LIBRARIES.

We discuss accidental librarianship (yes, teaching-avoidance crops up again), getting employer support to study, balancing work and part-time study (and latterly parenting and work), strategies for applying for jobs and the importance of building up career experience and grasping opportunities. Juanita had the perfect job, which she gave up for her ideal lifestyle and couldn’t quite marry up the two for a while, but she’s now in the lovely position of having the best of both worlds

[Note: academic librarianship sounds ACE]

We recorded this episode in September, in person, at CILIP HQ. I couldn’t do a lot about the sporadic background noise but – great news – CILIP are through to the International Door-Banging Championships, so yay for that! This was the second in-person interview I’d done so there’s a lot less of ‘me’ in this episode, which is probably for the best.

 

After the interview I joked on Twitter that Juanita should be prescribed on the NHS. She’s the reason I’m still trying to progress my own Fellowship and she’s a brilliant sounding board for ideas as well as being a great shoulder to cry on. Juanita is genuinely interested in other people and their progress and achievements and it was lovely to sit down with her and find out how she got to where she is.

 

Don’t forget that you can subscribe to the LwL podcast via Soundcloud and iTunes so that you don’t miss an episode.

The next episode will be released on Wednesday 18th October and features Katherine Burchell.

Happy listening!

 

 

CILIP Conference 2017: Part 4 -Day 2 sessions

My notes for Day 2 are (mercifully) brief as I was absolutely exhausted (see the Day 1 and lazy networking posts for more details), although a lack of sleep didn’t prevent me from going for a run in the morning.

An insiders guide to professional registration – Kate Robinson & Dan Livesey

I didn’t plan to attend this session as I thought it would be about Chartership and Revalidation and I’ve been there, done that. Juanita set me straight though and there was plenty of advice on Fellowship, too.

I now have a to-do list:

  1. Fill out the PKSB on the VLE (not all of it, just 6-8 sections that are most relevant to me)
  2. Annotate my job description
  3. Annotate my CV
  4. Find a mentor (this still feels insurmountable)

Learning points:

  1. The portfolio doesn’t need to precisely match the PKSB and evidence of change is good
  2. Be really obvious about your journey and how it meets the assessment criteria
  3. Think strategically when evaluating service performance. Don’t be too operational and adopt a high-level mindset
  4. The ‘So what?’ principle: which criteria does a piece of evidence actually match? Learn to be selective and let go of biases about favourite bits of evidence if they don’t fit the criteria
  5. When going on library visits, reflect on your understanding of how they work and how it fits into what they do.
  6. For fellowship, you can draw on a body of work, developed over a number of years.

Information Mismatch workshop – Jonathon Berry & Jane Fox

  • There’s a huge gap in understanding between clinical staff, patients and their families around the language used. This doesn’t surprise me as I’ve seen it in action. It’s very easy to overestimate intelligence (both intellectual and emotional.)
  • SMOG – Simplified Measure of Gobbledegook calculator. Online tool that aims to reduce nonsense and unnecessary wordiness [Won’t be using it on this blog any time soon.]
  • Good quality information requires the following elements: Information production, evidence sources, user understanding, user involvement, quality control, feedback and review

My specialist colleagues use a lot of acronyms (the name of our organisation is an acronym!) and specialist terms at work. As I have a different background to them it took me a while to adjust to the language and terminology used. As a result I try not to use any overtly librariany (I WILL make it an actual word. I will!) terms. It’s one of the reasons that I eschewed a more lofty job title and am simply ‘Librarian’ as it’s a term that everyone understands.

How to be a chief librarian in 15 easy steps – Caroline Brazier

SPOILER: Not 15 steps. Not easy!

I find listening to other people’s career stories incredibly interesting. It was refreshing to hear someone being honest about the fact that career decisions aren’t always made rationally and with a step-by-step plan. This session expanded out and looked at developments at the British Library, so that’s reflected in my notes.

Learning points:

  1. Tell people your career story
  2. Think about your core purpose (as an individual and as an institution.)
  3. Income generation is incredibly difficult and you have to work hard for it (I know this only too well!)
  4. Work out what people value about us and focus on that.

Exhibition

  • I found the exhibition a bit difficult because virtually none of the products are relevant to my library service. I did, however, enjoy chatting to people from the special interest groups and sitting on the faceless duck (long story.)
  • CILIP stand – I wish I’d had my photo taken with the Facts Matter sign on Day 1 as I look exhausted in the photos. I’m going to suggest that next year they take it to the evening reception as I’m much more comfortable with having my photo taken when I’m wearing lipstick and after a glass of wine.

Final thoughts

I was so tired that I was virtually on my knees by the end of the conference. I’d forgotten how intense a professional event over two days can be. I hope it’s evident from my posts that I got a huge amount from attending, both professionally and personally.

My primary aims when I submitted the bursary application were to reconnect with the profession and make a decision on whether to continue with Fellowship. I feel much more embedded now and I’m definitely going to continue my Fellowship journey.

After my Thursday morning run, which took me past Manchester Central Library, I popped into the coffee shop near my hotel for a cold drink. They were playing How Soon is Now by The Smiths and I had two thoughts:

  1. Manchester is amazing
  2. Being an information professional is BRILLIANT.

Well played, CILIP. Well played.

CILIP Conference 2017: Part 3 – The art of lazy networking

To the evening reception! This year’s event was at the Museum of Science and Industry and it was an impressive venue that I spent a nanosecond exploring before I started chatting.

It’s tricky to get networking at conferences right. The received wisdom is that as practically everyone is a stranger you can just go up to anyone and say hi to them. In theory that’s fine, but in practice it feels quite forced. Also, bowling up to someone and saying “HIIII!” in a decidedly tiggerish way really freaks people out. I’ve had some bad networking experiences at conferences that come back to haunt me in the dead of night. Part of the problem is that I try too hard, forgetting that it’s not up to me to make all of the conversational effort. Networking has to be a two-way process.

I have, in the past, encountered a small handful of people who fall into the category of ‘Just a bit rude’. Being socially awkward is completely fine and I get it. I probably understand that more than anyone knows, as I spent a considerable amount of time last year not being able to have meaningful, intelligent conversations with anyone. I generally find that librariany types are nice; we’re used to dealing with people after all, but that some find enthusiasm a bit wearing and I can go into YAY! LIBRARIES! WOOHOO! mode when I feel a conversation isn’t going well.

giphy3

It feels much more natural if you chat to the people around you in the lunch queue, or when you sit down at a session. As I don’t drink tea or coffee I don’t get to join the queues for those so it makes networking during the morning and afternoon breaks a bit harder. During the first morning break I felt a bit panicky – completely my own fault as I put an enormous amount of pressure on myself to be outgoing, funny and generally great company AT ALL TIMES and it’s really hard to live up to that. I went for a little walk to calm down and resolved not to be so hard on myself. The rest of the day I networked like a demon and felt much better about it all.

It feels like a bit of a cheat but if you know one or two people really well you can rely on them to act as a social buffer. It also means you can be quite lazy about networking. At the evening reception I decided to calm the heck down and just enjoy it with people that I knew and liked. CILIP had organised a ‘getting to know you’ bingo game which I didn’t take part in myself, but I was able to assist some of the participants with answers to the questions. Later in the evening we were joined by lovely CILIP people and the evening got very interesting.

It’s kind-of difficult to explain my job to people and no-one knows what the acronym for my organisation stands for, so it’s a good talking point. I spent a lot of time chatting to the lovely Juanita about what I do. I sometimes forget what an interesting (and sometimes challenging but always rewarding) job I have. This means that when I am asked about my job, I can go on for absolutely ages. We also spoke about Fellowship, too and she was incredibly supportive. Prior to the conference I was seriously considering giving up on it, but she convinced me otherwise.

As a result of that I’ve made all kinds of interesting connections and some very good things could happen over the next few months. I’ve always felt before that as I run an unusual library, I don’t quite ‘belong’ in CILIP but maybe that’s changing.

Learning points:

  1. Don’t get into such a state about the pressure to network that it becomes overwhelming.
  2. Find ‘your’ people and spend time with them rather than trying to persuade the disinterested that you’re amazing (and making them dislike you more)
  3. If you look like you’re having a good time the fun, interesting people gravitate towards you (or they try to rescue the person you’re with. One of the two.)

Next: Day 2 of the conference. Likely to be very short as I was tired (see above)

 

CILIP Conference 2017: Part 2 – Day 1 sessions

Note: This is quite selective and doesn’t cover everything I attended because that would be dull for everyone.

Keynote: Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress

Plenty has been written about the Keynote by Carla Hayden and I won’t add too much to the noise but I would best describe it as being hooked up to a drip of pure librariany goodness for 45 minutes. Afterwards I turned to the person next to me and said that it had topped up my enthusiasm for all that is good in the profession. I didn’t tell her that I felt so inspired that I wanted to go and wrestle a bear (and win) because that isn’t the kind of thing you say to a stranger at a conference. I was also glad that I didn’t ask Carla (she calls us her ‘British Peeps’ so I think I can first-name her) whether D*****d Tr*mp had used his Library of Congress card yet during the Q and A at the end as apparently that would have been a Very Bad Idea.

Take-away messages:

  1. Accessibility is crucial
  2. Being interviewed by Barack Obama for a job is simultaneously amazing and terrifying
  3. Librarians are the original search engines (we know this already but it’s good to be reminded of it)
  4. I want a guy that does my social media for me and leaps out to take photos. Essentially, I want someone to manage my work life.

Marketing workshop – Terry Kendrick

Marketing is a big component of my role as I manage a remote service. Most of this was relevant to what I do, but here are some key points:

  • Surveys don’t enable you to understand your users in depth. Personalisation is very important
  • The value proposition: does the user get back more than they invest in the relationship?
  • Marketing isn’t about sending out lots of messages. Timeliness and relevance is crucial. It should be a clear, sustained effort
  • You need to think and work like an app so that you can be spot-on with user need. You need to take your users’ pain away, not add another distraction. Be very clear about how you can get them from where they are to where they need to be
  • Invest time in people that will be around for a while and use you a lot. You cannot convert everyone into a library user [This was hugely refreshing to hear as I used to be obsessed with winning over the non-library users. They won’t listen to me but are much more likely to listen to their peers who use the library and love it]. Make people positive about the library, get them using it and they’ll promote it on your behalf.
  • Get testimonials from people that use and like you. This is very relevant to me at the moment. I have quantitative data about my service coming out of my ears but rich, qualitative data is incredibly powerful.
  • Marketing should be experimental. Look at what actually happens, not what might happen It is better to be approximately right than precisely wrong.

I hope it’s apparent that I got a huge amount out of this session and have already discussed it in supervision with my manager. There is so much that I can implement in my organisation and above all, it was tremendously reassuring. I finally have permission to stop chasing the unwilling.

Designing for excellent customer service – Neil Potentier

If you run a remote service, your customer service has to be excellent. I think we’re pretty good at getting it right for our library users, but there are always improvements that can be made.

Key points:

  1. Users can damage your reputation but moaning about you to others, but not actually telling
  2. You need to create a culture of continuous improvement. The concept of customer satisfaction is outdated and organisations must aspire to be excellent. This reminded me of my visit to the London Library earlier this year, where their ethos is to ‘Delight’ their customers.
  3. Staff should be able to deal with any query asked of them. This was couched as a utopian concept but in a two-person service like mine, it’s a necessity.
  4. Recurring theme of survey saturation. People are bored of being asked to rate services and surveys don’t tell you anything new or useful

I am a little concerned that we’re really good at reaching out to our colleagues across the country but perhaps less successful at engaging with those in the same building as us. This is compounded by the fact that our desks (in an open plan office) face away from the majority of staff. Plans are now in place to rectify this…

A collection of asides

  • In the ‘What makes a great communicator’ session, attendees were asked to take two minutes in private to find their “power pose”. Here’s mine:

Alan-Partridge-Alpha-Papa-001

  • I get very cross about public libraries that are reduced to information hubs in leisure centres. Also, telephone box with a few manky paperbacks in is not a library
  • If I’m promised a free cupcake, I will behave in an increasingly irrational manner until it is given to me.

Once I got over my temporary wobble about networking with strangers (and introducing myself to the unwilling/disinterested), I had a brilliant first day at the conference. I felt that I chose my sessions well and had plenty of ideas that I could take back to my library. Moreover, I had secured a large bag of free swag from the exhibition AND I’d eaten a lot of sugar. Day 1 of the conference was a definite WIN.

Coming next: the evening reception and the art of lazy networking