Monday, 11 June 2012

Come on in the water’s lovely...

I must confess I have never understood the appeal of twitter... I can text my friends about what I had for breakfast if I want to, while Facebook lets me see what people are up to in a bit more detail and helps me keep in touch with friends who live a fair distance away.  I hear about the misguided tweets of politicians and celebrities on the radio and have decided that I’m not interested. However, I had never approached Twitter from a professional standpoint. Again, leading on from the personal branding exercise of Thing 3, it’s all about taking control of the content I choose to release to the world: I can keep my choice of cereal or the fact that I like chocolate spread on toast every now and again firmly to myself! So this week, armed with my new personal brand -induced confidence, I jumped in...

And it was ok! Through the initial recommendations from Twitter I reconnected with an old friend from Uni which got me off to a good start. She said I should think about it as being in a cafe: it’s ok to listen to other people’s conversations and even join in too. 

Taking this advice to heart, I chose a few Libraryland names to follow including my local academic library’s reader services desk (Newcastle University:  @nulibrs) so that I could see what the practical applications are when using Twitter to promote a library. It’s an active account, with retweets of topics of interest in the city and prompts to users about the Library such that day’s opening times  - I think I’d have found that really useful as an undergraduate.

I also picked out Ned Potter (@theREALwikiman) who is another active user. This week he tweeted about an article by Brian Proffit  (“Millennials aren’t so tech savvy”) that challenges conventional wisdom about the technology skills of young adults. Imagining that I was talking to Ned at a sophisticated cocktail party (rather than at home in my kitchen in the middle of the washing up), I sent a tweet to ask if this rang true with his experience in an academic library. He very kindly ignored the state of my yellow rubber gloves and replied while also forwarding the question to a colleague. Armed with new knowledge, I was able to follow up the conversation with some of my own research into the process of engaging students in information literacy training through problem based learning. 

What a result! I would never have made such swift progress through the sea of blogs and info available if I hadn’t accessed that professional network via Twitter.  I can definitely see the usefulness of this approach and I’ll be trying it again soon.

Friday, 8 June 2012

From 3 to 93...

Earlier this week I most definitely ventured beyond the comfort of my training room. Every few months I take a turn leading the local Sunday school and this week I was it...
I decided the Diamond Jubilee would be a good day to choose and had a few ideas that I was confident would work with the kids. Talking to the minister about how we could make the Jubilee Sunday special for the children, she suggested it would be nice to hold the session as part of the main service – effectively I would now be doing the sermon slot!
I decided to call in back up and get my husband to help out – two heads being better than one-and we spent about a week discussing how it would look. One of the challenges was making our content relevant to a huge age range. This is tricky enough in a normal Sunday school session – the littlest kids are 3 and the oldest are 11 so we often have to have more than one activity available to keep them all interested. However, we now had to factor in a congregation of about 80 people, most of whom are retired!
We played to our strengths, with me taking on the interactive sections with the kids and hubbie devising a factual section that would interest the older ones. It went really well! We had to use a handheld microphone which felt daunting to begin with but it was the only way to make sure everyone could hear. Once I got used to the way that sounded it was actually really useful because I felt that I could move around and ask people questions rather than standing still behind the lectern. 
The kids were great – luckily they had been learning about the Jubilee at school and were ready to answer questions about the Queen.  I interviewed a couple of members of the congregation about how it felt to do the same job for a long time- we found a teacher of 40 years and a farmer of 60 years. Hubbie’s section about the Queen’s day and her huge support of the Commonwealth was really interesting and he’d researched some of the overseas visits the Royal family have made this year.  We then tried to draw conclusions about being a Christian and that being part of God’s family was similar to being part of the Commonwealth family.
We got some great feedback from the congregation – they enjoyed seeing the kids in church and doing something a little different with different faces. For me it was great to work in a different environment with different age groups from the ones I see at work. Using a microphone was odd but very useful – I’d like to try it again to see if I can improve my delivery. It was also good to work as a team with hubbie – it took away some of the pressure from me and meant that the congregation had a different voice to listen to.
Overall a positive experience, we’ll see if we get asked back!

Thursday, 7 June 2012

No Mother, I'm not getting a tattoo...

So, cpd thing 3 is all about personal branding, or how you appear to others on the internet.

I thought that this exercise would be hard for me: I don't always feel comfortable blowing my own trumpet and I have traditionally been rather cautious about intentionally putting my head above the internet parapet. My first instinct was to hide behind an alias and I spent quite a while thinking about what this would look like. Then I realised that the aim of thing 3 was to control how I appear to others on the internet. You can only read what I type here. If I choose to tell you that I have a weakness for jelly tots and that I cry every time I watch the Sound of Music, more fool me!

So I had a look on good old Google for yours truly. Not too bad! A search for my name was a little too vague so I added in my hometown to narrow things down a bit. Top of the list was my Linkedin profile which could do with updating, so there's a job straight away... After that we have a couple of newspaper articles about PR that I've done in my current job so hopefully that looks good. Then there are some articles about fundraising I've done for my local community both on my own and with my daughter - again they look ok too. No skeletons in the internet closet that I could see anyway, so a positive experience!

I then decided that I would like to improve the look of my blog and my email by choosing a name that would reflect where I am professionally at the moment:"beyond the training room" I am a retail trainer (and I have a training room!) but I often find that the most effective training happens "on the job" and in conversation rather than behind a desk. I also wanted to show that I am trying to expand my career horizons; that I am on a journey away from my current training room so to speak.

I'm really happy with the results and feel that I have a meaningful space to work in and to present myself in. I would never have thought about doing this before and yet it makes so much sense. I feel so much more comfortable moving into the world of Web 2 interactivity knowing that I can have confidence in my professional identity.

Having a nosy at the neighbours...

So as part of my career development work for cpd23, I have been having a nosy at other people's blogs to see what they're up to...

I quite enjoy reading blogs - it satisfies my interest in people watching. But it has to be about something I'm interested in. I think that's why I've been reluctant to start a blog of my own... what if I bore people to death with the day to day details of my little life! So the cpd23 programme is great for me as it provides a framework to hang ideas on.

I may be showing my age but when I was at Library School I don't remember blogging being popular - we did a course in computer studies and the internet but blogs certainly weren't in there. (It was also in the days before Facebook... yes we lived without it back then!). So having a look round Libraryland recently has been fascinating.

I started with a look at some of my fellow, newly registered cpd23 candidates, most of whom were current Library school students. I was impressed by their online confidence which I guess is very typical of today's university students- facebook, twitter, blogs etc must be a big part of their lives these days. I tried very hard to leave a sensible comment on the posts I read. This is actually something I find really hard... I consider myself pretty IT literate but I don't always feel comfortable with the interactivity of so- called Web 2 interfaces. I'm a very social creature in real life and happy talking to all sorts of people but online I'm a great lurker! So I think that this is one of the real benefits for me from this whole process.
I really enjoyed following recommendations to articles and other blogs and unearthed all sorts of useful stuff ( the way I found out about cpd23 in the first place). I came away buzzing with enthusiam and ideas and lists of people I'd like to have a look at again. It was more of a problem deciding when to stop and rejoin the real world...

Career Development

I have a confession... not many people round here know this but  I used to be a librarian!
This was a career path that was suggested to me in my careers interview when I was an undergraduate and it appeared to make a lot of sense and fit my personality and skills pretty well. I finished my undergrad degree, got some work experience in a city library, got a job as a graduate trainee in a faculty liason office in a forward thinking University Library and decided I'd found my dream career. It was great. There were 10 of us so it was a great team to be part of and I got experience on the enquiries desk, the circulation desk, cataloguing, shelving, meetings, CPD training, HR the lot.
So of course I enrolled on a Masters programme and looked forward to a bright new future.The course was ok, not thrilling but ok and I got through it.
Getting a job proved difficult but eventually I ended up in a University Library as a Grade 5 Library Assistant on the circulation desk. The culture of this library was very different to the one where I had done my traineeship - more traditional and stuck in its ways. I enjoyed much of my job - especially working on the enquiry desk and helping students with their research via the interlibrary loans department, however it didn't have the thrill that I had experienced before and I became disheartened.
Personal circumstances meant that we moved house (to a completely different part of the country!)and I decided to take a career break to look after my small children. we no longer lived near a university and I gradually turned my back on Librarianship.
Lately, I have been working in a local supermarket as a trainer, a job which involves training new starters, updating the skills of existing staff and ensuring that we give the best possible service to our customers. I thought I was content with that - a great team, great part time hours and no commuting but it turns out I'm getting a bit bored! So I've been exploring new career options - retail training, NVQ assessing, teaching- all things that would suit my skills.

All this personal reflection has led me to a bit of light bulb moment: What if I'm still really a Librarian! Sounds obvious doesn't it, I'm a Librarian. It's about 7 years since I last worked in a library but when I look at the work I have done in supermarkets there are more than a few parallels. So I'm doing some research and trying to find out if Librarianship is still the path for me.

Which led me to the CPD23 website and the resurrection of this blog for "Thing 1". I've tried blogging before but never really thought that I had much to say... So this is me right out of my comfort zone. It'll be interesting to see what the next few "Things" bring about!