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!

 

 

 

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LwL Episode 18: Michael Jones

In Episode 18 of the Librarians with Lives podcast I chat to Michael Jones, Assistant Library Manager at a 6th form college. If you recognise his voice, Michael took part in the Christmas Special and was incredibly knowledgeable about films (the reasons for this will become apparent when you listen to the episode.)

Michael’s blog post and subsequent Twitter discussion about networking at conferences became a talking point during my chat with Nick Poole and has led to people advocating the inclusion of hot chocolate and board games to facilitate face-to-face interaction in a professional context. We spent quite a bit of time discussing mechanisms for informal networking at conferences during the episode and its great to see that this is being taken more seriously by conference organisers.

We could have chatted about films for ages (sound the Wittertainment klaxon) but we were very well-behaved and managed to focus on Michael’s journey to becoming a qualified information professional. The article that was published as a result of his dissertation on using social media to market libraries in an educational context can be found here. I knew a little bit anecdotally about working in a 6th form college library, but Michael’s insights into the high points and challenges are fascinating. We also chatted about his role as Chair of ARLG Southern.

The next episode will be released on Tuesday 6th February and stars Jo Cornish, Development Officer (Employers) at CILIP.
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!

The Librarians with Lives podcast

LwL podcast image Hi

 

***INTRODUCTORY EPISODE NOW AVAILABLE ON SOUNDCLOUD!***

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It’s been a bit quiet on the blogging front of late (and don’t even *start* me on Fellowship) because I’ve been working on something incredibly exciting: the Librarians with Lives podcast. I’ve always been fascinated by other people’s career stories (I won’t use the ‘J’ word) and I wanted to give people who are part of the information profession but aren’t necessarily particularly well-known (although the Uber-Librariati will feature as well; it’s hard to avoid them!), a platform to tell others what they do, how they got there and their thoughts on the profession generally.

I’ve recorded four interviews so far (and have more scheduled) and although the basic structure has been the same throughout, the conversations have been very different in tone. The common thread has been the passion communicated by the interviewees about their respective roles, and how honest they have been about the high and low points of their careers so far. A couple of the interviewees have even described the process as ‘cathartic’ and ‘cleansing’!

Creating the podcast and ‘meeting’ the interviewees, both in person and over Skype audio, been brilliant fun and I can’t wait to interview more people. As well as being enjoyable for me to do, I hope it has value to those working in the profession, and anyone thinking of a career in libraries and related disciplines.

The plan is to release an episode per week from 6th September, although I’m aiming to do a little introductory podcast prior to that to introduce myself and explain the format. It’s been a huge learning curve for me, from working out how best to record Skype Audio, to wrestling with the Audacity editing software, to registering for a Soundcloud account and uploading podcast episodes, to deciding on the thumbnail image for the podcast on Bitmoji. The last thing may have been the most tricky!

If you’re working in the profession and would like to be interviewed for the podcast, contact me via Twitter (@JoWood04) and we’ll set something up.

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.

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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 1 – Getting there

I haven’t been to a CILIP Conference since 2011 and over the last few years had become increasingly gloomy at my prospects of ever attending one again. Last year was a particularly low point as I felt completely removed from the profession and everything happening within it. Oh, how things have changed since then.

Proposal fail

As part of my whole librarian reborn thing I decided to submit a proposal to speak at this years’ conference. It’s important that this reflection records both my successes and failures so I’m going to be terribly brave and admit that my proposal was rejected. It stung at the time but I now understand why. I misjudged the tone and pitched the proposal at the wrong level. I needed to think on a much grander scale and what I proposed was too niche and was (frankly) dull.

Bursary success (not me)

I then did my selfless nurturing manager thing and encouraged my Library Assistant to apply for a bursary so that he could attend. I figured that if he attended he could share the learning with me (this is one of the joys of working in a two-person library team.)  He was duly awarded a bursary by the Government Information Group SIG and I was happy, thrilled, proud, etc., but also a little sad that I wasn’t going.

Bursary success (me)

CILIP in London announced their bursaries comparatively late, so I took a punt, applied and was lucky enough to be awarded one. [Note: I have sat on two bursary awarding committees previously and I know that people are *really* bad at applying for what is essentially free money, so I’m not saying that my proposal was amazing but I knew the odds of success would be pretty good] I actually squealed when I got the acceptance e-mail because I loved attending Umbrella (yore!) in 2009 and 2011. Having started the Fellowship process earlier this year I wanted the conference to provide the platform for me to get on with it. A metaphorical kick up the backside, if you will.

The bursary gave me a full conference place (including evening reception), plus a generous allowance for travel and accommodation. I felt very nervous because it had been a while since I had done any proper networking with real-life information professionals ( ALISS doesn’t count as they’re not strangers) and I had all the usual worries about saying something stupid, falling over and/or inadvertently dropping food over someone. Only one of those things actually happened. [Top tip: never get into a conversation about knowledge management over lunch where the conversation turns so you are quizzed on your definition of the subject. This does not end well.]

Fashion. Turn to the left! Fashion. Turn to the right!

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The agony of deciding what to wear to a library conference! There seem to be no hard and fast rules. I didn’t want to wear jeans as I felt that they wouldn’t convey my professional persona but equally I didn’t want to look too dressed up. In the daytime I wore shift dresses with flat sandals, which is exactly what I wear to work in the summer. For the evening reception I wore a nice skirt and top and sandals with a slight heel that I could walk in. I’m really into patterns and florals and I have a definite style, so my chosen outfits reflected my personality. I even got a couple of compliments (Oasis collection nerds of the library world assemble!) I also took two sets of running gear because I can’t go to a different place without exploring and Instagramming the heck out of it on a run. The air conditioning in hotels tends to be aggressive, which I like, but I don’t like having cold feet so a pair of fluffy socks is a must.

To Manchester!

My journey to the conference was uneventful but I saw the singer-songwriter Paolo Nutini at Euston. [Insert joke about last requests and pencils full of lead here. Or maybe not] I used to spend a fair bit of time travelling up to Manchester for work, so I have a great fondness for the city. My bursary allowed me to stay at The Principal, which was quite a step up from the Premier Inn. I took full advantage of the facilities during my stay, including the gym, the bar, the table tennis table, the pool table, the free wifi, and the excellent breakfast. I ran, I showered, I Nando’sed, I Herdricks’ed (just a small one), I slept, I gymmed, I bathed, I breakfasted and then I was ready to take on the Conference.

Coming next: Day 1 of the conference

 

Umbrella 2011 overview

This is going to be a (personal) overview of the conference. I’ll post some notes, thoughts and ideas from the sessions I attended in separate posts.

It’s rare to leave an event and feel that you did everything you set out to. I’ve lost count of the number of times over the years that I’ve sat on the train home and thought ‘Damn! I really should have spoken to X and Y’. I spoke to everyone I wanted to and felt quite happy going up to someone randomly in the exhibition, sticking my hand out and saying ‘Hi…’. The me of 12 years ago would be rather shocked at the boldness of her older self.

I even managed to rescue a situation where I got one person confused with another and (after dying inside for about 30 seconds) had a nice conversation with them about their work. Long story, don’t ask…

Wearing a name badge helped and saved a couple of seconds at the introductions stage. The first thing that everyone asked me was what my workplace acronym  stood for.  It often led to an interesting conversation about my work, why it was different to lots of other library jobs and the old ‘making a real difference’ chestnut. By day 2 of the conference I had developed a natty little patter to regurgitate when the question arose.

I was really struck, particularly on the second day, by how downbeat lots of the attendees were. That in turn impacted on the mood of the conference. I think many of us are feeling battered and bruised, particularly if we’ve been affected by restructures and redundancies over the last couple of years. Maybe I’m being a bit soft here (it’s my age) but I would’ve really appreciated someone senior standing up and thanking us for all that we do and to keep fighting for our libraries. It may seem like a silly gesture but a simple word of thanks can mean so much.

The workshops and talks are the major feature of the conference (of course) but as a solo professional I really valued the chance to network. It’s something I do so rarely ‘in the flesh’ and I was pleased to see that my brain hadn’t completely atrophied in the two years(!) since I last attended a library conference. It was good to have conversations about libraries without sounding like a massive geek (not that there’s anything wrong with a. Talking about libraries and b. Being a massive geek).

It was also fun to put faces to names and find out if the Library Crowd on Twitter matched their online personalities. For the most part, they did. Goodness knows what they made of me with my grinning, hand-flapping and gabbling at 100mph. Oh well, to quote an Apprentice candidate, I am what I say on the tin.