Time to mix things up: a career decision

Since becoming a library and information science professional, evidence-based practice has aligned with my professional values. And for the last 10 years or so, evidence-based practice has played a major role in my professional development and roles to date – it’s shaped who I am as a professional, as well as the expertise I’ve become known for, at least here in Australia and New Zealand. Evidence-based practice is, and will continue to be part of my identity, or brand.

I’ve been in my current role of Coordinator, Evidence Based Practice at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) Library for over four years. Yesterday was my last working day in this role.

My role, and my work achievements within in, has (hopefully) placed USQ Library at the forefront of evidence-based practice, of which I’m immensely proud. But now it’s time for me to mix things up, move on and take on a new adventure. To branch out, take a new direction, generate impact in different ways, at another university. From mid-April, I’ll be Research Support Librarian at the University of the Sunshine Coast Library.

I write this post to shed light on the decision-making journey I went on at this stage of my career while being a parent. Everything that was known or certain before parenthood becomes superseded or tossed aside by a brand new set of circumstances. I don’t think we as a profession talk enough about this topic. How to navigate this point in life, this season, this career stage. We’re creating families later in life, which has implications for one’s career trajectory. Especially when one is reasonably established and on the verge of moving up. So here’s a little of my story.

Making career decisions as a parent

The real kicker, or catalyst, for this decision was my becoming a parent. I already knew I had reached a plateau of sorts shortly before I took parental leave. Satisfaction in my work had started to wane and I began searching for, or needing to remind myself of the good I was doing and the difference I was making with my role. Becoming a parent forced me to re-examine my values, priorities and what was really important to me and my family. I then began questioning, is what I’m doing each day aligned with those values and priorities? Months into my return from parental leave, I started to reflect upon how I spent my time away from my child. Was I happy? Did I reunite with my child at the end of the day happy and feeling fulfilled? Or was I drained and unhappy?

My early parenting journey led me to doing some soul searching to uncover what I was missing in my professional life, what I love about being a librarian and the kind of impact I wanted to make at this time. Here’s what I discovered.

My values had shifted slightly

I found a values assessment worksheet online, that I worked through over a whole month. Every Saturday I sat down to review my answers to the worksheet questions to ensure they were true and that they resonated, then identified key themes which became my values.

I’m ready to shift my impact from organisational to individual

This realisation came out of one of my values which is to care for and positively contribute to others’ lives. Also, I recently listened to a HBR podcast about making career pivots and the conversation turned to answering three questions: 1. What impact do you want to make? 2. How do you want to work on this impact? 3. Where do you want to work on this impact? I recommend a listen.

Upon further reflection, my EBP role is more about organisational impact, and that my discontent wasn’t with the work itself but that it didn’t align with the impact I want to make right now. I’m ready to switch back to individual impact and be client/student facing again. I’m looking forward to really being there for research students and being their cheerleader.

My career may be ready for management, but that doesn’t mean I should

Simply, I can’t be the Mummy I want to be and live up to my own and others’ expectations of fulfilling a management type role right now. Not the season. This doesn’t mean career development stagnates. Just pivots or goes sideways for a while.

I love and miss teaching and coaching

My very first, paid job was a gymnastics coach (and judge, and I also choreographed floor routines). I LOVED it. I felt like I was making a difference in my girls’ lives, not so much by the number of podiums, but by making them stronger, physically and mentally, resilient and more confident in themselves. This role made me happy each and every training session. Fast forward to my LIS career and where I can pinpoint when I’ve felt most fulfilled and satisfied, I was teaching or coaching. And even though I had opportunities to coach other library staff with their scholarship or EBP capabilities in my role, it’s not enough for me. I want MORE.

A new role. A new boss. Another opportunity to make a difference.

Like many others during the pandemic period last year, I enjoyed having my ‘commute time’ dedicated to other tasks, such as housework and meal prep, which took pressure off my evenings. A few weeks into returning to campus I wondered, how in the world did I do this commute five days a week?! For my new role, my commute time will be halved. Better for my family. Better for my sanity. Better for my footprint. Win, win, win.

True, I haven’t held this role title before. However research support in university libraries has always been an interest of mine and I’ve kept fairly well up to date with what’s happening in that space. Perhaps this stems from my school days of loving to discover new knowledge and make it accessible (and organised), which is one of the reasons why I became a librarian in the first place. I’m ready to be reinvigorated by this new role.

I’m fortunate to be in a position of continuing my professional development and career while also prioritising parenthood. I’ll continue to be part time in my new role. Over the past year I’ve been amazed by how much I can actually get done in two days! I’m so grateful for this next step and the opportunity it affords me to make an impact. As my new supervisor put it, “this is gonna be great”. 🙂

This new opportunity doesn’t mean I can’t continue to have evidence-based practice conversations. I welcome them. I’ll likely continue writing and publishing about EBP. I’m also still peer reviewing for the Evidence Based Library and Information Practice Journal. So if you have a question or would like to chat about how to implement EBP in your library or service, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

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  1. Hello Alisa,
    Thank you for sharing your processes. It is helpful to see someone working through this and emerging strong, with a renewed sense of purpose.
    Good luck with your endeavours, I am looking forward to hearing more.
    R.

      1. Haha, yes, I’ve seen that role advertised. Might have to wait a bit though until I have some capacity for that. Getting up to speed with a new role and university will be enough on my plate at this stage. 🙂

    1. Thanks so much, Rowena. The ride’s been bumpy and dark at times, but I can now start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I’ll have to see what other parts of this journey I could tease out a little more.

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