Completing a LIS qualification (or other discipline) to enhance your career prospects is a massive undertaking that requires time, energy and support from those around you. Study, in itself is a professional development activity.
This simple realisation didn’t come to me until perhaps my final year of the LIS Masters degree. While getting to know all the super cool stuff to learn within this profession, I placed enormous pressure on myself to learn all I could, using up whatever spare time I had to try grasp all the super cool stuff. This meant going (way) beyond what was required of me at the time of being a student in a LIS program.
There is no doubt an important part of being an information professional is self-drive, motivation and initiative in learning about, and keeping up with current and emerging trends and issues of the profession. But what I didn’t recognise was that I was learning this stuff throughout the LIS program and knowledge and expertise cannot be developed over a semester, or even a whole course. The LIS program was just the beginning.
This is not to say I wasn’t fully engaged in the LIS program, but perhaps gluttonous in my approach to professional development. Study took up a large chunk of my time and energy but I didn’t take a mental step back to look at the bigger picture and see that my study wasn’t just study, but a commitment to my professional development. I went about my study thinking professional development was something you did on top of study – planned projects, did extra courses on top of my study. I said ‘yes’ to professional involvement activities (none I regret but I did overload myself at times). I wanted to know and do all the things yesterday. But that ain’t possible. A little more was probably okay. But a lot more just wasn’t a sustainable to putting building blocks of knowledge together. A career isn’t build in a few short years.
LIS students, hold on there! You can’t do all the things right now – study is a lot of work!
Here are some strategies (lessons) for recognising learning beyond the LIS program and pacing your knowledge development:
1. Consider other life goals in your professional development (PD) planning
Do not make PD your whole life outside of work. Remember that hobby you once had? Keep doing it.
2. Keep a list of 2-3 things you’re into right now and focus on them for six to 12 months
Getting distracted by all the shiny things and super cool stuff is incredibly easy in the profession, especially when you’re just starting out. Remember: ‘building blocks’ and engage your thinking.
3. Limit what you take on (in addition to study) by looking at your capacity
Study takes up a lot of time and energy. Do you really have space in your brain for another full on course on the side? What about personally, anything on your plate you’re dealing with?
4. Balance your commitments so you’re developing a range of skills
Think strategically about your professional development. Identify gaps or areas of improvement in the PD planning process, then only say ‘yes’ to the opportunities that will help fill them. This approach will help you gain the most from additional professional commitments.
5. Take time to re-charge and don’t forget reflection!
This is so important. Take time to stop and think about what you’re learning. This strategy is by far the hardest to implement. I’m no super star at it myself. But we can all try. Start a blog. Or if you don’t quite have the confidence yet, you can make a blog private and locked down. The key here is space for your thoughts and thinking critically about what you’re seeing, hearing, reading, etc. A question I like to ask myself is ‘What does (insert thing) mean? For me? For my organisation? For the profession?’
So hold on there, tiger! Take a breath and recognise that study is a pretty awesome thing you’re doing for your professional development.