A network for new and aspiring library professionals
How did you first become involved in the library and information profession?
I had the world’s worst career advice at university. A man came into a room of 400 language students at Bradford University and said that if we wanted to use our languages every day, we would have to be teachers, translators or interpreters. He then walked out again.
I absolutely didn’t want to be a teacher. (No laughing)
Translating is quite dull and the money is in technical translating (or at least it was when I was 22) and you need to be pretty damn good to be an interpreter. (Hindsight and working in universities for 15 years means I know now that I could have done anything really)
Generally I felt a bit stuffed. I’d spent 4 years at university and I wasn’t ‘a thing’ at the end of it. I had no clue what I wanted to do. So I started temping. There was a call centre experience we won’t talk about here. *shudder*
I temped for a while but wasn’t fond of any of it really and in the end, my Dad, the maths teacher and careers type person, (Not an official role) asked me what I might be interested in if money wasn’t part of the equation. (Do you see what I did there?)
I said I was quite interested in libraries but I didn’t think librarians were paid anything at all.
I started volunteering one day a week at a local 6th form college library. (Yes, Dad did get me that gig). I loved it. They were incredibly lovely to me though. I got to catalogue the language collection and if they thought I might be bored after doing something for a while they told me to go and do something else less boring instead.
I ended up getting a GT position at MMU Library, doing my masters at Leeds Met and going back to MMU for my first professional post.
Tell us about your current role and the specific skills needed.
I’m currently self-employed and I’m a coach, trainer and consultant. Which means that I help people with life, or career coaching, I train people in lots of soft skills subjects, such presentation skills, train the trainer, moving into management, customer service, time management, negotiating and influencing, resilience etc. I predominantly train LIS professionals, in different sectors and university staff. I also get involved with desk research projects, focus groups, and other types of consultancy.
I wrote my own job spec for my fellowship and list goes on for a while…
Knowledge and experience
What made you decide to make the switch to self-employment and what tips do you have for others who are considering becoming freelance?
I’d been at Mimas as a Promotion and Outreach officer for the Archives Hub and Copac for 5 years, the longest I had ever worked anywhere. I was ready for a promotion but nothing seemed to fit. I wanted to train. All the time. So I invented my own job.
I was very lucky as I was able to go down to 4 days a week and I worked as a trainer on my 5th day. This meant that no matter what happened my mortgage was still paid. It meant I could practice and build up a client base in a no risk situation.
When deciding whether to become self-employed full time, I had some coaching/mentoring from Deborah Dalley. (I’d always wanted to be Deborah when I grew up) She asked me if I’d worked out how much I need to pay bills and eat each month. I had. We then looked at how much I was charging and then how many days a month I need to get work for. It made me realise that it wasn’t unrealistic or that scary, which gave me a lot of reassurance.
You have previously worked abroad in a LIS role. Can you tell us a bit about your experience including what influenced you to work abroad?
From starting university in 1993, to the time I was a senior assistant librarian in 2003, I’d lived in Bradford, Paris, Barcelona, Milton Keynes and Leeds, and was at the end of 3 WHOLE years back in Manchester. I had itchy feet. I’d been visiting my friend Kirsty who lived in Dubai and we joked about me coming out to live there too. One afternoon I had an idle search for jobs and was slightly shocked at the money and the benefits. So much more money that I was earning at the time, and they provided housing, and Kirsty was there and it was sunny ALL THE TIME, and there were 56 days holiday. FIFTY SIX! I could travel the world! I didn’t see that I had anything to lose.
What would you say are the benefits?
What disadvantages are there (if any)?
What advice would you give to anyone in the LIS sector thinking of going to work abroad?
I’ve re-read my blog posts from a few years ago and they may be 8 years old and the links may no longer work I still think all the other advice here should still apply. My caveats are I was job hunting in the Middle East 15 years ago. Things will have changed.
The world is now so much smaller and there are now so many more UK, US and Australian universities that have campuses in different countries that it must be easier now to find work abroad.
You’ll see my main advice is research and visit. You’re information professionals. You got this. 😉