Monday, 31 October 2011

Evaluation and Certificates

We hope that you've enjoyed the 23 Things for Professional Development programme, and that it's helped you to learn you things, meet new people, and/or think in new ways about how you can develop your skills and career.

We'd very much like to hear what you thought of the course - whether that's positive, negative, or in between - and would be grateful if you could complete the following anonymous survey to let us know your thoughts. All questions are optional so please complete as much or as little as you feel relevant to you. Thanks very much for your help!

Survey link:

Several people have asked if they can have a certificate to mark their completion of the course, to include in portfolios, or just as tangible evidence of their achievement. We're very happy to provide this evidence for anyone who has worked through all the things. We have decided on a deadline of Wednesday 30th November for you to register that you've completed the programme and would like a certificate. All the Things will remain available after this date, so you're very welcome to keep working through them at a slower pace if you prefer. You'll still have your own blog as evidence of having done so.

If you would like a certificate, please complete the form below when you have finished all the Things.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

CPD23 #uklibchat summary

Hi everyone! While you're reflecting on the end of the 23 Things programme, why not take a couple of minutes to read the summary of last Thursday's CPD23 edition of #uklibchat.

I met several of the #uklibchat team at Library Camp on Saturday, and they all commented how lively the discussion was. I was unfortunately only be around for the first hour of the chat, but I really enjoyed talking to lots of you about the programme, and the summary of the chat is going to be very useful for us both for feedback and dissemination. So thank you all!

Monday, 10 October 2011

Thing 23: Reflection - What next?

The final thing! Thank you all for following the programme and well done for getting to Thing 23.  A short evaluation of the programme is coming soon, but if you're up for a challenge maybe you could come up with a "6 word story" to sum up how you feel about the programme?

Many organisations include some kind of Personal Development Plans (PDP) as part of their staff review/appraisal processes.  The idea with these is that you identify some sort of development need, think about how you could fill that gap, and set yourself a SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Limited) objective to help you do it.  I've put together a quick template that can be used for this, but feel free to tweak it to suit yourself or use one of the many other templates available online.

The Task:
  1. For this last thing, we would like you to reflect on the programme in general and on what you want to do next.
  2. Identify some gaps in your experience, either by looking at requirements for that next job you're aiming for or by conducting a SWOT analysis.  The Library Routes and Library Day in the Life projects might be helpful here too.
  3. Think about how you can fill those gaps and put together a Personal Development Plan to do that.  You don't have to put the PDP on the blog unless you feel comfortable doing that.
  4. Write about the process of putting the plan together and whether you think this is a useful way to think about your CPD in general.
  5. Keep blogging and let us know how you get on!
Open Road by therefromhere

Monday, 3 October 2011

Thing 22: Volunteering to get experience

Have you considered working for free to gain experience?  For Thing 22 I reflect on my own voluntary work and the potential benefits volunteering can offer for career development.

My story

After graduating from library school I found myself with more time on my hands and less money in the bank and so began applying for academic librarian posts in earnest.  After several unsuccessful applications, I was therefore grateful when my employers offered to make my library assistant post full time.  Nevertheless, I respectfully declined their offer.

Although, my employers were very supportive of my career, the opportunities to gain the hands-on experience I needed to progress to a professional post were limited.  Consequently,  I found myself in what Bronagh McCrudden calls the ‘Experience Catch-22: the rut you can fall into because you can’t get a job without experience and you can’t get experience because you can’t get a job.'  I therefore chose to continue working part time and use my new found leisure to gain professional experience through volunteering.

A colleague kindly used her contacts to help me find my first voluntary post which involved working two afternoons a week upgrading short catalogue records for another local university library.  Having looked at the job descriptions for academic librarian posts in my area they almost all required cataloguing experience.  I therefore seized the opportunity to prove that I could put what I had learned during my Masters course into practice and fill a crucial gap in my CV.  But this was just the beginning.

The benefits of volunteering

As well as providing an opportunity to gain practical work experience, volunteering can lead to other opportunities to enhance your CV and kick start your professional career.  Based on my experience, I believe it can enable you to:

Demonstrate transferable skills and experience
One of my colleagues from the library I was volunteering at invited me to join the planning group for a local Librarian TeachMeet.  This allowed me to give something back by drawing on my experience as a former training administrator.  Having demonstrated that I had transferable organisational and administrative skills I was subsequently encouraged to volunteer as secretary for the regional CILIP branch committee which in turn has enabled me to become more actively involved in the profession and raise my professional profile.

Increase your confidence
After graduating from library school and finding it hard to get a professional post I began to doubt my abilities.  Helping to organise the TeachMeet helped me to regain my confidence.  The motivation and enthusiasm of my fellow organisers also inspired me to give a presentation at the event – something I doubt I would have otherwise done.

Extend your professional network and broaden your knowledge of other sectors
Through my voluntary work I have met colleagues from a variety of different library and information services which has helped me to increase my knowledge and understanding of other sectors.  For instance, another of the TeachMeet organisers invited me to blog the discussions live at a symposium exploring patients’ access to and use of online health information.  Although I was not paid for my time, I learned how librarians are working with health professionals and technologists to improve the patient experience and gained an insight into an aspect of information work which was completely new to me.  I also hope to use this experience to help demonstrate ‘a breadth of professional knowledge and understanding of the wider professional context’ – a key assessment criterion for CILIP Chartership which I hope to start in the new year.

Get a foot in the door
Perhaps the biggest benefit of all is that volunteering has helped me to progress to my current role as an Assistant Librarian within the same university which gave me my first volunteering opportunity.  Having some insider knowledge of the university and having met several other librarians working there made it much easier to prepare my application and to settle into my new role when it proved successful.  My voluntary work also evidently made an impression on my employers as it was the first thing I was asked about at interview.

The potential downsides and further advice

I strongly believe that volunteering should be a mutually beneficial arrangement.  In exchange for their time and commitment, employers should provide volunteers with opportunities to gain valuable work experience and develop their skills.  Volunteers should also be recruited as a complement to, not a substitute for, paid and suitably qualified library staff.  Although this has been my experience, unfortunately this may not always be the case.

If you are considering undertaking voluntary work I therefore strongly recommend that you read Bronagh McCrudden’s prize-winning paper from last year's New Professionals Conference: ‘Would you work for free? Unpaid work in the information profession (and how to make it count)’.  This offers case studies of three volunteers’ positive, and not so positive, experiences and considers the ethics of using volunteers in libraries.  It also gives invaluable practical advice on how to make the most of working for free as well as sources of further reading.

Over to you…

Have you undertaken unpaid work to further your career?  What was your experience?  Is volunteering a good thing, or by working for free are we in danger of devaluing our profession?  Tell us what you think.

A special CPD23 edition of #uklibchat

Those of you who are tweeters may have heard of #libchat, or its UK incarnation #uklibchat. These are regular Twitter chats for librarians and information professionals, where participants decide on the questions to be discussed during the session.

Sounds interesting? Well then we have some exciting news. To tie in with the end of the CPD23 programme, this Thursday's #uklibchat will be a CPD23 special!

Where? Your computer/smart phone/tablet
When? Thursday 6th October, 18.30-20.30 BST
Who? Open to absolutely everyone
How? Search for the #uklibchat hashtag. One of the #uklibchat team will act as a host and will tweet the questions one at a time. Then discuss! Include the hashtag in your answers and everyone taking part will easily be able to find your tweets.

The agenda is entirely up to the people taking part, and is available as a Google Doc here:
Add your questions on the subject of #CPD23, or on continuing professional development generally. If you live in a different time zone and this is a time when you would normally be tucked up in bed, never fear! The chat will be summarised and written up on the #uklibchat blog, and I will post a link to it here when it goes up.

Thing 21: Promoting yourself in job applications and at interview

Well done for making it so far! After learning so many useful things, we need to think about how to promote all the hard work we do and the abilities and skills we have acquired in our career and life so far.
Part 1: Identifying your strengths; capitalising on your interests

These two really go together. What you like doing is often also what interests you, and vice-versa. In order to identify your strengths, take a good look at yourself, your tasks at work, your career, you life: what do you like to do? What do you dislike? Do you remember the last time you felt that feeling of deep satisfaction after creating, building, completing something? What was it about? What skills do you need to do the things you like? These skills are your strengths; they stem from your interests.
I am a strong believer in the fact that people are happy when they do something they actually enjoy. As we spend most part of our lives working, a sure way to be happy is to do a job you like (or love, if you are very lucky). A job that allows you to capitalise on your interests and use the skills needed to pursue them.
Most cpd-23 participants have found the love of their working life; some are still looking for the true love (a better library; a different work environment; a completely new job); some are uncertain on what to do next. It is important to remember that we are changing all the time: our interests change, our skills develop, we discover new things we like which we didn’t even know existed. Make sure that you keep up-to-date with yourself, and if you are unhappy in your current situation, acknowledge what has changed and take action.
Part 2: Applying for a job
After identifying your strengths, build a record (a database, a list, an Evernote folder, a piece of paper...) of everything you have done that demonstrates you’ve got the skills stemming from your interests. This will be extremely useful when writing your CV or filling job applications in, as you will be able to select information from a list rather than having to start from a blank page every time, thus risking to forget something. Keep this record up-to-date. Your CV is a living thing.
There is a huge amount of advice on CVs and application forms out there, and it would be really impossible to draw up an exhaustive list. Therefore, what follows is a summary of the things I have learnt from experience, and the advice I have received so far. Some of you have far more experience than me in this field, and I would love to hear your comments.
·         The first, most important rule, is that no CV is the same. You need to tailor it according to the job you are applying to.
·         Keep it short and readable: maximum recommended length is 2 pages of an A4 (front and back). You don’t need to put everything on it: select the most appropriate entries according to the job you are applying to. Use bulleted lists and hidden tables to make it visually easier to read.
·         Job adverts have two main parts: job description, and person specification. The requirements listed under job description must be addressed in the work experience section, where you describe your current job and your career so far. The person specification requirements must be addressed in the space reserved for additional information. If you are using an application form, this is the paragraph that more or less says “tell us why you are applying, plus something you haven’t told us elsewhere”; if you are sending a CV, this type of information must be written in the cover letter.
·         Try to meet all criteria (essential and desirable) listed in the job description and person specification. Don’t trust employers too much when they say that something is desirable and not essential: if it is listed there, it is important to them. Meeting the essential criteria is...essential (sorry!), and meeting the desirable ones is very, very, very important. Don’t overlook them.
·         If you don’t meet all the criteria, you can still apply and try to make your case (if you don’t even try, you don’t give yourself a chance to be successful) but, if you keep receiving rejections, you should do something about filling those gaps, for example volunteering, on order to acquire all the skills you need.
·         Make sure your references are relevant. Keep in touch with previous employers and, if your references are getting out-of-date, volunteering or getting involved in other initiatives that get you out there and better known (your professional association, for example) might be a good way to get new references.
Some people might feel awkward about “boasting” about how good they are in their applications. Well, remember that it is not boasting, but making the world aware of what you did, how (amazingly) you did it, and why you are more than willing to do it again for your potential employer. It’s giving you justice and credit for all your hard work and commitment. You are not stealing. You are not lying.

As I have been one myself some years ago, additional notes for foreign applicants willing to work in the UK.
·      The so-called European CV is basically unknown in the UK; moreover, its format is quite unreadable for UK standards.
·      Translate everything in English: employers might be clever and work it out, but they are not supposed to know that “bibliothèque municipale” or “biblioteca comunale” mean public library.
·      List all your qualifications in their original names but explain what they are: some typical Italian sample formulas are “Laurea” degree (= BA), and “Maturita’ classica” (= diploma of classic studies, involving five-year classes on the following subjects: ...).
·      If you can, get somebody living in the UK to proof-read your CV or application. It’s a matter of culture rather than grammar.
Part 3: Interviews
If you are called for an interview, it means that your CV or application were already positively judged by the panel. All your faults and gaps might jump to your mind as soon as you read the invite, but again, you need to give yourself credit for making it to the interview stage of the process, and get some confidence from that. This doesn’t mean that the job is already yours, but you have been given a further chance to shine, so why not making the most of it?
The first, basic rule is: prepare. Or, to use a well-known motto: failing to prepare is preparing to fail. Re-read the material on the employer; visit their website; re-read your application form/CV and any job description; prepare for awkward and less-awkward questions.
Try to get as much help as possible: for example, check if your careers service is offering interview practice of some sort. If you are in the UK, remember that CILIP members are entitled to two sessions with a careers adviser per year, offered by the Careers Group - University of London – you could use a session to explore interview techniques and ask questions on how to best promote yourself.
A very useful structure when answering competency-based questions (like “tell me about a time you found a creative solution to a problem”) is the acronym CAR, which stands for Context. Action. Results.

Start by describing the context, i.e. the situation you were in. Then highlight the action(s) you took to address the issue. Finally, explain the results, also specifying what you learnt in the process and, in case, what you would do differently in the future.
Resist the temptation to ramble. Avoid negativity. And remember that if you don’t get on well with the panel, it is unlikely that you will be happy in that workplace. An interview that didn’t go well is not necessarily a huge setback: when you finally land the job you love, it is likely that you will be thinking “thankfully I didn’t get that other one”.  
Further reading: there is a lot to read on these topics but a very short selection of links I have found useful is here:
·      Jobseeker tips – a series just started on her blog by Guardienne of the Tomes, with plenty of advice from “ a happy band of library hiring managers”
·      Open Cover Letters: anonymous cover letters from hired librarians and archivists – an amazing website with samples of successful cover letters
·      What’s the key to a good interview - beyond the usual truisms we all know already? – a blog post by Ned Potter, aka The Wikiman, and various comments to it.
Summary of tasks:
Answer the questions in Part I and make your own list of activities and interests: from watching the telly to something more work-related. Tell us what you’ve found about yourself: achievements/activities you had forgotten about, things you love to do, what they mean, how you could use them in your working life.
Update your “CV database”.
Share any interview tip or experience you found useful in your career.