Instant Ideas and Collaboration
For this month’s topic, Across Library Sectors, we are bringing you a week of blog posts in which people share their experiences of working in different library sectors. Our third post of the week is from Michelle, who has worked in an academic library and in a university careers service.
Thanks to Michelle for writing for us. Join us on Tuesday 9 July between 6.30 & 8.30pm UK time for the #uklibchat. (you can add your questions to the agenda here).
My current role is as careers information assistant at a large post-1992 university, which I’ve held for almost 2 years. Prior to that I worked as a graduate trainee, then a weekend customer services assistant in the library at a Russell Group university. I’m a latecomer to the profession, having spent most of my twenties living and working overseas, but I like to think this gives me something extra!
I found the transition from library work to careers work fairly easy in some ways and difficult in others. As a graduate trainee I had fairly defined duties, with my time split between customer services and one of the subject librarian teams. This is fairly similar to how my time is spent now, with time on the information desk and then time in the office. However, my duties now are less well defined and I have more remit to decide what I should be doing and propose new areas of work.
My workload in careers is also a lot bigger than working in a library. I work part-time and my role includes everything from working on the information desk providing initial advice and guidance to booking train tickets to designing and writing new handouts and workshops. Although I don’t do all of these things every week, it is quite a lot to fit in! A lot of my work also comes up at the last minute which makes it difficult to plan ahead, which is not something I found as much working in a library. I do enjoy the autonomy of the role, and have succeeded to some extent in making it my own and different from the other two information assistants I work with. For example, I’ve managed to get experience designing and delivering workshops, and become known as the go-to person for information and advice on all things social media.
The question of what skills are needed to switch sectors is at the forefront of my mind right now, as I’m finishing my masters this year and looking to move in to a new role. There’s no room for progression in my service as it’s small and made up mainly of advisers rather than information staff.
Many of the skills used in careers information are transferable, with these in particular overlapping with library work:
· Customer service
· Project management
· Time management
· Willingness to learn and take on new roles, develop new skills
Some additional skills I use in my current role:
· Computer/design – We create our own materials and following branding rules can be a nightmare!
· Writing – I was tested on my writing skills as part of my interview, as we write our own handouts
· Change management/flexibility – Constant change is the norm, whether it’s updating materials or a new policy. And the students will always surprise you with a new request!
· Working with different professions – careers advisers, employment service staff with HR and recruitment backgrounds
· Liaison – With both my team and the wider careers service team to ensure information needs are met
· Influence – Careers is a small service so feel I can try and influence more. For example am currently working on file naming guidelines for our shared drive.
Some other differences that I’ve noticed:
· Professional bodies – Careers info people seem to fall between professional bodies. I’m a member of CILIP but often feel it’s very library-focussed, and a member of AGCAS but don’t really feel represented by them either!
· Sharing – Information staff are very open to sharing ideas and experiences between institutions but have experienced wariness from non-information profession colleagues.
· Qualifications not an essential – and careers information roles are often combined with other roles, such as admin or events management.
· ‘Employability agenda’ are two words you’ll hear a lot in HE right now. I think there’s likely to be increased pressure on careers services to be visible and produce results (in terms of both the NSS and DLHE – Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education survey).
There’s a lot more to write about, but I’ve run out of words so will participate in the live chat to answer any more questions. I recommend Megan Wiley’s presentation from the New Professionals Day 2012 to learn more about careers information, as well as Sarah Mallen’s Information Spaces blog. Plus there’s lots of great #careersinfo people chatting on Twitter, including @darrenmjones, @soirore, @spoontragedy and @dreamingentity.
Careers Information Assistant