Monday 25 June 2012

CPD in your later career

This is a "catch up" week, with no new Things. Therefore you are getting a between-things reflection: what does CPD mean when you are no longer a New Thing, but an Older Thing? What does CPD mean, later on in your career?
This will vary depending on how you think about your career. I do still want my career to develop (so that's the perspective I'm writing from), but at 59 (argh), some things are different from when I was a new professional. By the way, I'm really interested to know if there are any more "experienced" CPD23ers out there, so please do add your comments if there are!
Some things are the same. Virtual networks, face-to-face networks, getting involved, learning from people you work with, reading, doing ... these are things which are useful, lifelong. I've been trying to think what is most different for my CPD as a "later career" person and here are some points.
  • Doing CPD outside the Library and information field. If your career has a definite upwards or sideways path, you will end up needing to do your CPD in some other field, such as management, marketing, or e-learning. This means getting to know about a whole new set of qualifications, associations, networks, journals etc. If you are from a library/information background, then I think you are at an advantage in terms of finding out what these are (we have skills). Actually getting into the networks etc. may be more difficult, because (in my experience) not every profession is so into sharing and networking as librarians are. At that point you may have to make hard choices about whether you have the time to stay involved in library networks, or just devote your energies to ones which are more relevant to your current job.
  • Making sure you don't slide into unconcious incompetence. Ages ago I learnt about the "4 stages of comptence"; unconscious incompetence (you don't even realise you are rubbish at X), conscious incompetence (you realise you are rubbish, but it still doesn't stop you being rubbish); conscious competence (if you really concentrate, you stop being rubbish at X); unconscious competence (you are brilliant at X without even having to think about it). The danger is that, because you aren't thinking about it, you unwittingly slide round into unconscious incompetence again. If X is a practical skill (e.g. searching Google; using the finance system) then it is easier for you to spot problems, and to set up mechanisms to keep yourself updated.
    However for important but more intangible things like "managing", "negotiating" or "teaching" it is easy to slip into comfortable habits. Those around you may find your mildly incompetent habits comfortable too, or at least not so uncomfortable that they are going to tackle you about them, even in a staff review. So it's important to force yourself to review these broader and more challenging areas of confidence: for doing things like this CPD23, by signing up for courses that help you self-evaluate, by starting a peer-review scheme, or simply having some good friends who are also willing to be critical friends.
  • Being able to tap into your own history. By this I mean your own experiences, previous networks, and so on. Sometimes you can get a head start on doing new things, by remembering when you tackled a similar thing in the past and obviously the older you get, the more experience you have to draw on.
  • Continuing to make your job part of your CPD. In other words: going for new and different opportunities that will force you to reassess what you are doing and learn new things. 
  • Being aware that your idea of CPD may change over time. Eva Hornung researched the ways in which one person librarians (OPLs) in Ireland experience CPD, for her PhD (OPLs are people who are the only professional librarian in an organisation and she's an OPL librarian herself). She found there were 5 ways in which people conceived of CPD: Upskilling for the sake of the organisation/library service (a service orientation); Developing as a professional librarian (an LIS profession orientation); Helping you to do all the jobs an OPL does (OPL orientation); To do things in a better way when you come back to the workplace (personal orientation) and To develop as a human being (lifelong learning orientation). Eva explains this in a powerpoint here and she also wrote an article which you can find here (reference is: Hornung, E. (2012) "One- Person librarians and Continuing Professional Development: how the LAI [Library Association of Ireland] can make a difference." An Leabharlann: The Irish Library, 21 (1), 15-19.)
    I am a bit biased as I supervised her PhD, but I think these categories apply more widely, and I've found them useful when examining what I want to do and why I want to do it. I can identify with all those categories, but at some points of my career I was more focused on "upskilling" and "Developing as a professional", and I think over time the lifelong learning orientation has taken over more.
    I'd be interested to know if other people find this an interesting approach.
Autumnal pictures by me. My CP23 blog is here and my main (Information Literacy) blog is here


  1. BTW apologies to people who saw a shorter version that I published by mistake in the early hours of the morning when I was multitasking ... I think that comes under the category of "unconcious incompetence" or just "need to get to bed earlier".

    1. No, my apologies, that was my mistake! Very interesting post, and the section on un/conscious in/competence is particularly useful. Thanks again for the guest post!

  2. At over 40 (just!) and nearly 20 years in the library profession I suppose I am also a more experienced CPD23er!

    I am interested in the four stages of competence you talk about, not something I've seen before. It's appraisal time here and I think I could probably use this in both my own appraisal and my assistant's. Thanks

  3. Firstly, thank goodness for a week's grace, so I can catch up a little bit!

    At 50, I am definitely not new to the world of work, but I am a recently qualified librarian and relatively new to the world of libraries so CPD is still very important to me. I work as a cataloguer, and as my degree gave very little instruction in this area, I really couldn't do my job effectively if I didn't undertake development activities. On a personal note, I also want to keep learning about all kinds of stuff, and your point about sliding into unconscious incompetence caught my eye. I used to consider myself an early adopter of technology but in recent years this has definitely slipped. Taking part in CPD23 is one way of getting myself up to date with some of the social technologies that have left me behind a bit.

  4. I'm also one of the more "experienced" cpd23ers - about to turn 55 and take early retirement because the library I run is closing. That really provides my motivation for doing the course: a skills audit/revision and a new network to keep me in the library world. Sheila's post has definitely given me food for thought - I don't want to find my skills slipping out of date. I've called my blog A new library world? with a question mark ( because I'm not quite sure where I'm going now, but I'm looking forward to the journey. And I'm glad of the catch up week too - things 8 and 9 have passed me by so far!

  5. Thank you, Sheila, for an interesting post.

    I too am an "Old Thing" and am doing 23 Things for exactly that reason. I believe CPD is important for all no matter the age /stage of career or length of time as an LIS professional. I felt that some of the newer technology was leaving me behind. I am somewhat encouraged however to realise that lots of "Young Things" must think that too to get involved in such numbers!

    I whole-heartedly agree with your comment that we often find ourselves needing CPD in areas we did not expect. I know that more than 20 years ago when I started out, I did not expect to be where I am today - but then surely few of us in our first job set out to follow a rigid path we could clearly see before us?

    I am continually saying (no doubt to the annoyance of those around me) that I love it when I learn something new, and I too was very taken with the notion of (un)conscious /(in)competence which I have been mulling over (something I think us "Old Things" like to do) all day!

    Thanks for a thought provoking post!

  6. Nice to know I'm not alone! @cataloguingCPD I wondered if you found it challenging to work out what the best way was of doing CPD in your new career, after a career change? When I moved from being a practitioner to being an academic I hadn't thought of it enough AS a career change, and I think it took a while to work out the CPD for my teaching/research needs. @magpie yes I like learning new things too; I'm lucky that academia is a lot less ageist than some sectors, but I do object to the assumptions you often see that older people will be resistant to change and younger people welcome it - it seems more a question of the person than the age group.

  7. Thanks Sheila and CPD23 for this thought-provoking post.

    I have come across the conscious competence model before and had even worked it into some information skills training that I wrote whilst at The OU ( What I had not come across was the idea that I could slide around back into unconscious incompetence! I guess we don't know what we don't know - neatly summing up one of the major drivers for my participation in CPD23.

    Seems that you can very much teach this old library dog some new tricks :-)

  8. I was glad to read this post and everyone's comments.

    My foremost reason for undertaking CPD/reflective practice is predominantly the lifelong learning side, as I believe it's a an intellectually sound and healthy habit to develop.

    Being at the earlier end of my career, it's also reassuring to read that none of you knew 20 years ago where you would be now, as I discover the the up-skilling and 'developing as a professional' side of CPD too.

    My Tai Chi instructor always says you should practice everyday. If you don't practice for a day, only you know. If you don't practice for a week, your teacher knows. If you don't practice for a month, everybody knows. And on any given day, you only have the level of competence that regular practice has enabled you to develop. I guess that could apply to anything we do too. :)

  9. Am another CPDer at the older end of the spectrum, no longer working full time but using this course to keep me up to date so that I may provide effective supply cover when called upon. Was a OPL and found it hard to keep up to date with training.
    Calon Lan

  10. Thanks Sheila for this useful reflection and a starting off point for me to write down a few things myself. It is odd to think I trained before web browsers, and when searching was expensive and via a modem to DIALOG paying both for time and results(therefore mediation was essential) and before e-journals or e-books - yet at the same time so much remains the same. So halfway through my career it is interesting to try to (unsuccessfully) speculate what changes will come in the next twenty years.


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