Last week I attended the SLA Panel session at Internet Librarian International (ILI) and even after a busy day, several thoughts managed to occur to me throughout the evening.
A momentary flash of (potential) insight that I would like to reflect on relates to moving forward in ones career and future-proofing yourself for future job roles. This stemmed from a comment that Dave Pattern made with reference to a blog post by Ed Chamberlain – Ed talks about getting ready for future roles and developing new skills.
I was thereby pondering how people think about preparing to advance to the next stage of their career and how people are encouraged to adopt a mind set for forward thinking. I thought I would have a go at relating this to a change in educational techniques and their impact on new professionals and the next wave of information-professionals-to-be.
What this related to in my head
As anyone who reads the broadsheets supposedly knows, exams are getting easier year on year (at least so they say). Any contention put aside, a far more concrete statement would be that exams are becoming modular, more frequent, and with greater regularity. Less time is spread between them, creating a series of relatively short term goals. Each exam seems to act as a gentle stepping stone to the next level; GCSE to AS, AS to A2 etc. Students are therefore becoming used to constantly looking to the next challenge, and to a higher level. They are forced to plan ahead; the grades and subjects chosen, to a certain extent, shaping their options further down the line.
This needs to be combined with a new professionals’ view of the job market (or anyone’s view of the job market for that matter) – it is tough and unforgiving. Many jobs that become available for those with little pre or post qualification experience early in their careers are short fixed term contracts. This creates a mobile, fluid culture, reinforcing notions learned during their education of short, fixed term goals and achievements. To a recent school or university leaver, it would appear that the days of building loyalty to a firm are no more – instead entrants to a profession are encouraged, and to a certain extent, forced to move around frequently. This may come as a shock to some library positions in which traditionally a post was held and developed by an individual for a long period of time.
How does this become of relevance to me (and you)?
It means that there is a shift in thinking with regard to how people get ready for future job roles. Over the coming years there will be gradually less talk of ensuring that you prepare yourself for the next role or position – this kind of thinking will already be ingrained in the heads of those entering the profession as they think about moving up the career ladder.
Instead, as Bethan Ruddock explained during the panel session, there will be an emphasis on ensuring that people look two, or three, steps above and beyond where they want to be, ensuring that they can develop the skills necessary to get there, and to ensure that you don’t box yourself into a corner.
Employers too will need to ensure that they increase their talent development programmes if they wish to retain staff and develop individuals. Time needs to be invested to explain that one can mature and develop skills in a single place across a period of time, it is not always necessary to move on; rather job roles can be adapted and to a certain extent redefined to keep their employees keen and to help them develop themselves, and therefore the organisation.
Employees will need to perfect a fine balance of loyalty against progression. Not easy terms to remedy against one another.
This shift in mentality also means that a greater emphasis on obtaining the skills needed to advance will slowly develop over time, as opposed to dedicating resources to general awareness. Cases of staff becoming complacent within roles may gradually diminish due to the continuation of the unstable financial situation worldwide. This may also be linked to the rise in professional networks – it is becoming easier to interact with others in the profession than it ever was before, helping employees remember why it is that they enjoy the profession they entered.
The other change I think will occur as a result of this change in thought patterns is a greater emphasis on evidence based seminars, presentations and papers. Students have been reassured by figures and obtaining the “right answer” throughout their educational careers, using an evidence base will therefore be reassuring to them. The theoretical side will still remain, but it will be here with numbers, facts and figures. An attempt to quantify advances will be desired. Evidence based practice will start to arrive in the world of the practitioner to a greater extent than it currently has, and it will expand to career development, not remaining solely within the workplace.