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On Monday, June 20th, I attended the CILIP Career Development Group’s New Professionals Conference at the University of Manchester, along with Kirsty Braithwaite, Anna Smith and Sonja Kujansuu from the Bodleian Law Library. I initially found out about this conference through Twitter (#npc2011), in addition to the CILIP CDG website, and thought that it might be very useful to attend, given that the conference theme was “Activism and Professionalism at a Time of Downturn”, and, as graduate trainees soon about to embark on our journey towards becoming information professionals, this topic is extremely relevant.

The conference consisted of a two series of presentations with two workshops.

The morning programme opened with three presentations:

Helen Murphy presented the CPD23, 23 Things for Continuing Professional Development. Her presentation and links to the CPD23 programme can be found here.  Given that training budgets are often reduced, information professionals must continue to develop their skills and take charge of their own career development. The CPD23 programme is available for anyone to join, allowing work at one’s own pace. It is inclusive, informal and cost-free. Like the 23 Things programme, the CPD23 programme explores emerging technology which impact on the information profession, but differs from the 23 Things programme in that it examines and focuses on devlopment of professional skills (such as social networking for career development, personal branding and on-line presence). The CPD23 programme enables information professionals to share expertise and learn from others, thereby forming strong networks, and also encourages one to grow in confidence as goals are achieved.

The next presentation, given by Rachel Bickley, discussed how new professionals can establish a dialogue with experienced professionals for career development. Again, this presentation stressed the importance of establishing networks. New professionals can benefit from the expertise of experienced professionals, but are often perceived as lacking in skills and “cliquey” with their on-line communities. New professionals must be ready to think outside the box and take advantage of transferrable skills whilst demonstrating a willingness to learn and forge strong networks.

Sam Wiggins and Laura Williams then presented “What makes an Information ‘Professional‘”. This talk was very well-researched, and I was impressed with the depth and scope of the work. I found this talk particularly relevant given the debate over obtaining professional qualifications (postgraduate degrees and chartership) versus on-the-job experience, particularly as the definition of an “information professional” is evolving and changing.

I was fortunate to attend a workshop facilitated by Simon Barron and Alice Halsley on activism for new professionals. Simon and Alice are members of a library activism group, Voices for the Library, which has been very active in campaigning against library closures and funding cuts to public library services. I found this workshop inspring and engaging. Activism is not only marching in demonstrations, but can also take the form of everyday actions such as telling friends and family to visit their local public libraries. Activism can be used to boost your professional profile, as it can add to your toolkit of professional skills, thereby filling gaps in your CV. Finally, activism for libraries is in itself a worthwhile pursuit, as new professionals should be advocates of their profession, contributing to both short-term and long-term change for the better.

Following a light lunch, I attended the second workshop facilitated by Sue Hornby and Bob Glass: “Raising your Professional Profile”. This workshop enabled the participants to explore and become aware of potentially overlooked professional skills and transferrable skills such as communication, networking and time and resource management.

The afternoon session also consisted of three presentations:

Ka-Ming Pang and Joseph Norwood gave a beautifully-illustrated talk on LIS student activism and why it is important for LIS students to become engaged and involved with their profession.

Megan Wiley then presented on the need to develop professionalism in a careers information team.

Finally, the award-winning presentation of the day was given by Katie Birkwood and Naomi Herbert,  special collections librarians at St. John’s College, Cambridge. Their presentation examined outreach as a means of raising the public profile both of the library and its collections and librarianship as a profession. Their projects focussed on specific items within the library’s collections, in this case, the archives of the astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle, and  a 15th Century text on magic tricks, Hocus Pocus Junior (1638). The Hoyle project involved making your own astrolabe. You can even give it a go yourself!

In all, the CILIP New Professionals Conference was an engaging and inspiring look at what the profession will mean to new information professionals, and a practical examination at what we can do to further our own career development, thereby affecting the future of the profession as a whole.

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