Posted by: paultovell | September 11, 2009

CDG Managing Your Career Day

Helena Attardo: "Selling Yourself"

Helena Attardo: "Selling Yourself"

This was one of those days where you feel motivated, inspired and confident that come along far too rarely sometimes.  And that was despite laptop issues, parking difficulties, and venue mix-ups (turns out there are two Graduate Business Schools in Leicester – what are the chances?)  The speakers were excellent, and all backed up each other’s points throughout the day, giving the hearers the impression of a consistent, coherent message.  Great stuff.  Here is a summary of what I managed to pick up when I wasn’t helping to run the day.

Kathryn Arnold (Director of Library Services, De Montfort University) welcomed our delegates to the university, and pointed out how keen her institution was on professional development.  In her opinion, the profession is “going strong, just changing.”  She affirmed that there is confidence in the HE sector about the need for professionals, and this made for a very positive start to the day which was picked up by our other speakers.

Martin Molloy (Strategic Director: Cultural and Community Services, Derbyshire Libraries) entitled his talk “I am still learning”, after a quotation from Michaelangelo summing up his aim of learning something new every day.  And the great snippets of advice kept coming: “Look for opportunities to fashion your own salvation…”,  “There is always room in your life for a mentor…”,  “The more people are prepared to step up and take a risk, the more it will secure [librarians’] value.”  He really focussed on the idea that big companies are not looking out for your development.  That’s up to you.  Development is something that can take place every day, as long as we never stop reflecting on what is happening around us, or forming our own opinions about things.  He offered some valuable advice about mentoring, stressing that most mentors are flattered to be asked and want to pass on their knowledge to someone.  He used flood defences as an example of of the upgrading of skills across the working population, where current knowledge and experience is in such dire need that the government are signing up graduates into top council jobs because their rare skills, however polished or not they may be, are in such demand.  We too could be in that position if we keep building our skills and taking every opportunity to develop ourselves, rather than rigidly sticking to a comfortable five year career plan when no-one really knows what will happen in that time.

Helena Attardo (Recruitment Consultant, Infomatch) offered some very useful interview tips in her session, including several things that I’d not thought about.  We did an exercise to show us that we need to be a memorable person to our interview panel, and then lots of advice followed, such as, when you feel you’ve answered a question in an interview, stop!  Don’t just ramble on; silence is acceptable (as is some short notes, or an annotated CV in your hand).  She also encouraged interviewees to be positive about their experience in their current job, whatever the real reason for seeking another.  But the most interesting point she made was about the dreaded moment at the end when the interviewer asks if you have any questions for them.  She gave a list of several “acceptable” questions to tuck away in your mind, including: “What training opportunities will there be?”, “What’s the future plan for this department?”, “How does the team fit into the wider service?”, “How would you describe your company culture?”, “I read about this article in the media; will I get to do this?”  And of course, nothing about salaries!  But it is a good idea to reiterate your interest in the job, and thank the panel for their time.

Workshop session: "Your route to chartership"

Workshop session: "Your route to chartership"

Caroline Kent (Monograph Processing Manager, British Library) spoke on “So, is it all about the money?”, designed to help us reflect on the reasons for us seeking another job.  Her salient point was that our CV does not define us as a person; employers want to see much more than that.  They will be looking for people, not job skills alone.  In other words, we need to think not only about our past experience, but also how we have developed other skills in our lives.  She took a very altruistic approach to CPD -“it makes people motivated and happy.  We may lose some [colleagues], but we will have gained an advocate”.  But my favourite point that she raised was that there is no wrong choice in our career, just a different path.  No failure, just a learning opportunity.  Again, a very positive message.

After lunch and the opportunity to showcase some highly developed mingling skills, our delegates had the choice of two workshops – Your route to chartership, or Making change work for you.  Then our final speaker, Debby Shorley (Director of Library Services, Imperial College London) provided some closing food for thought.  Her anecdote of being a librarian in Belfast in the 1970s, in “a central library between two warring factions, so no-one dared enter”, was a precursor to a speech about her real belief in the power of information – the basic fundamental thing about our job that does not change.  She described her many efforts to unite libraries together, most recently the UK Research Reserve [] to share journal stocks in academic libraries, asserting that “no library is an island” [in tune with this blog, of course!].  She closed with a wonderful parallel between driving and doing a library qualification – “there’s an awful lot more you need to do after the test to drive safely”.  So in libraries, it’s the experience, rather than letters after your name, that shows we can do a job.  And we cannot do our job without working together – more true now than it ever was.

The day closed with a tour of De Montfort University Library [], which one of our delegates kindly offered to lead.  A great day, and great to see career development is so well-supported by librarians across the East Midlands.  For more info on the Career Development Group of CILIP, see


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