Thursday, 21 August 2014

Powerful Phrases for Successful Interviews / Tony Beshara, AMACOM


In this book, professional recruiter Tony Beshara sets out to give job applicants an insider's advice on how to answer those tricky interview questions. The book mainly contains example questions with suggested answers as well as an introduction to each chapter offering some insight into the recruitment process.

Covering the whole of the application process from responding to the initial advertisement to how to negotiate terms once offered the job, the book contains something for every hopeful candidate. Beshara gives examples of words and phrases that will make you stand out from the crowd and stay in the mind of the interviewer long after you have left the room. Although set answers to the questions are provided I would use these more as a guideline to adapt rather than repeating them word for word. The context behind many of the questions is explained which helps to put the applicant in the shoes of the interviewer to uncover what the real meaning of the question is.

Advice is also given on how to construct your own answers. Readers are encouraged to answer interview questions in a clear and simple and provide examples wherever possible. Making these examples quantifiable can help to give you the edge over the competition. I was also pleased to see a chapter on covering letters and how to construct them as this is something that people, including myself, often struggle with.

I found some of the example phrases given a little forced and some of the techniques used a little aggressive. The book is written mainly for the business sector where tactics such as cold calling about jobs are part of the culture but I'm not sure this would transfer to all sectors. It would take a certain degree of confidence to follow some of the examples in this book, but if you can pull it off it might work for you.

Overall I think that the book has some useful general advice for job applicants and provides many examples of possible questions you could face. I would recommend it to confident people who have read all the usual 'how to ace the interview' books and are looking for something a bit different to add to their repertoire. 

For more information on this title please visit the O'Reilly product page.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Confidence in Conference Posters

A few weeks ago I tweeted asking for tips and advice on designing conference posters. My request got lots of retweets but not many answers which tells me that people are eager to find out about poster design. 

I've presented a conference poster before and it can be quite tricky to know where to start. For the past couple of weeks I've been collecting links from around the web and I've created a Pinterest board for easy reference:


Some of the sites refer to creating posters for specific disciplines such as science but I think there is something to take away from all of them. The board is still a work in progress at the moment so if anyone has any more links or some tips then please feel free to share them in the comments section below and I'll try to add them.


Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Let Them Eat CaKE..... And Learn Something!

Librarians are a very active bunch, especially when it comes to attending conferences and events. As much as we would like to it's impossible to attend everything we would wish to for reasons of money, time and sanity! Thanks to social media conference reports from a range of sources appear straight after, and often during, an event to enable us to catch up. However nothing beats in person feedback from attendees with the opportunity to ask questions and really explore the themes of the conference. 

In response to this need my colleague Celine Carty and I arranged what we hope will be the first of many feedback events. CaKE - the Cambridge Knowledge Exchange - provides  a way for Cambridge library staff to share their event experiences with colleagues. We tried to make the event as informal as possible by offering presenters a choice of formats from a formal presentation to a short discussion of their main conference take-aways.

As you might predict from the name we managed to generate a lot of interest (and yes, there was actual cake; with this gin and tonic cake proving very popular!). We're vey grateful to all our participants who took a chance on an unknown format and turned up to listen, tweet and speak.

We had a few teething problems but this was only the first event. We also had lots of positive feedback and suggestions for future improvements. I take this as a good sign as it shows that people want a repeat. We also hope that the informal format will help to attract less experienced presenters who want to develop their skills.

One of my main take-aways from CaKE was that you shouldn't be afraid of attending events that are outside your comfort zone. Try something new and you might be surprised at what you learn! This is also true of setting up CaKE itself in that we saw a need and tried to think of a way to fill it. We could either wait for someone else to set up an event or we could do it ourselves. I'm very glad we chose the second option and look forward to a few months from now when we get to try it again. The moral of this tale is that you shouldn't let the fact that something doesn't exist stop you!




CaKE has its own blog which can be found by clicking the image above. The blog features links to write-ups of presentations along with  a Storify of tweets. If you're interested in learning more about future CaKE events then please keep an eye on our Twitter hashtag #camcake.



Monday, 21 July 2014

#Chartership Reflections

I promised that I would post some final thoughts about the Chartership process. The following is an article that I wrote for CILIP CIG's Catalogue and Index Journal. They have kindly agreed that I can reproduce it here.

Entering UnChartered Territory – Chartership for Cataloguers

The word Chartership often strikes unnecessary fear into the hearts of librarians. The whole process seems to have acquired a kind of mythical status which is completely unjustified. You don’t have to be some sort of CPD-wonderkid to complete Chartership, you just have to have an interest in developing yourself professionally. Many of the cataloguers I’ve met over the years do this as a matter of routine, for example if you’re reading this edition of C&I it means that you’re interested in learning more about the cataloguing world which counts as CPD! There’s nothing to be afraid of with the Chartership process and it can have many benefits, both expected and unexpected.

Ringing the changes

Although the Chartership regulations have changed it’s important to remember that the overall aim of the process remains the same – to demonstrate your continued professional development. The changes have been made in response to feedback from candidates and are designed to make the whole process more straight forward.

One of the most important changes is that Chartership is now open to all, rather than just following the traditional path of a library degree. For more detailed information about the changes contact your local candidate support officer or consult the CILIP website (http://www.cilip.org.uk/cilip/jobs-and-careers/qualifications-and-professional-enrolement).

So, what do you actually have to do?

Whilst it’s true that the Chartership process involves hard work it’s important to remember that it’s as hard as you make it. Working on Chartership doesn’t have to involve a massive lifestyle change but rather a chance to formalise the CPD you already do. As mentioned at the start of this article professional reading such as C&I counts as CPD, as does following blogs or professional discussions on Twitter. This all shows engagement with the profession and a willingness to learn about new developments. Workplace training can also be considered as CPD since it addresses a training need. Beyond this, Chartership involves a chance to develop some new skills that might be out of the scope of your current role. This can be particularly useful if you work in a traditionally back office role such as cataloguing. I certainly viewed the process as a chance to explore other areas of information work that interested me at the same time as gaining concrete skills that I could demonstrate to both my current and future employers. 

Even though I submitted under the old regulations I did make use of the new PKSB document. The PKSB (Professional Knowledge and Skills Base) allows candidates to conduct a skills gap analysis by scoring themselves on a scale of one to four. Completing this analysis showed me where I had a good understanding of the required skills and where I needed to develop. I used this analysis as the basis of my Chartership portfolio and focused on a mixture of skills relevant to my current role and those that I wanted to develop.

The introduction of RDA was timely for me. I was able to use Chartership to solidify my knowledge of the new standard, something obviously important to my current role. In addition to helping me develop a greater knowledge about RDA this aspect helped me to justify the Chartership process to my employers. I was able to incorporate my workplace RDA training into my portfolio at the same time as using the introduction of RDA to develop unexpected new skills. I was made responsible for creating and updating my department intranet pages on RDA which meant that I had to learn about HTML and I helped to help create the Cambridge RDA blog as a way of sharing our training with the cataloguing community, again a useful piece of evidence for the portfolio. Beginning to catalogue in RDA also gave me a valuable chance to develop my teaching and training skills. Being one of the first in my institution to have access to comprehensive training meant that I was in an ideal position to pass on my knowledge to others and I was able to use this to my advantage. Teaching and training skills are highly prized by many library employers but are not always easy to develop in a cataloguing role so this is one area where the Chartership process has impacted positively on my career.

I also developed other skills outside the scope of my current role. Most people understand the importance of networking but many also fear it. Some people think that cataloguers are stuck in a back office all day and whilst this is far from the case anymore it can be hard to make an impact with people beyond the cataloguing department. Talking to people from other departments or sectors about what they do is an important part of advocating for cataloguing as a profession so I made it my goal to get out of the cataloguing echo chamber. I have to say that developing my networking skills wasn’t as daunting as I thought it would be. I did some background reading and then put things into practice. I then blogged about my experiences which turned into an article for C&I, helping to develop my written skills in the process. 

Another area that I wanted to work on was my reader service skills. I’m sure that many people undertake reader services work as part of their role but even if this is the case it might not be as extensive as they would like. Employers often look for demonstrable experience in this area so it’s an important skill to have. In my current role I’m very much a cataloguer which means that in practice I spend a lot of time in my own department. I used Chartership to shadow colleagues in other departments and even visited other libraries to see how they did things. This experience taught me a lot about reader services work and not only do I feel more confident now when working on an enquiry desk but I am also able to help out reader services staff when they have cataloguing queries which makes for a better service for the end user.

Chartership encourages you to explore the wider professional context in which you work. As I’ve mentioned I visited other libraries to get some experience and this has made a real difference to the way I work. Cambridge has a complex system with many libraries and through Chartership I gained a new appreciation for how all the services they offer work together. I also visited some libraries outside the academic sector and looked at cataloguing in a number of different environments. This really helped me to get an understanding of the challenges and opportunities in cataloguing and has definitely given me some ideas for the future.

Do I really need to Charter? What’s in it for me?

Whilst at the time of writing this I’m still waiting to hear if my submission was successful, I’m already starting to see the benefits. (Edited to add that I've since found out that my Chartership submission was successful)

There may be increased job prospects as a result of completing Chartership. Not all employers or roles ask for Chartered status but it does show that you’re committed to CPD and take your future development seriously. Even if it’s not a formal requirement for a role it provides another way to set you apart from the other applicants. It’s also worth investigating if it’s a known requirement for your future dream job. There’s no time like the present to get a jump start!

Even if it’s not something your employer asks for don’t underestimate the achievement that Chartership shows. There has been a lot of talk recently about the value of the traditional library degree and although this is really something for a separate discussion it is relevant to Chartership. Whatever you think about the value of the degree no one can deny the value of experience and this is where Chartership can help. Whilst the library degree concentrates very much on the theoretical side of things, Chartership is your chance to put this into practice, even outside the remit of your current role. As I’ve discussed I used it to develop skills that have nothing to do with cataloguing and this has led to many opportunities as well as helping to make me better at my current job.

The Chartership process provides you with a chance to challenge yourself, both personally and professionally. If you want to get involved with an area of librarianship but don’t know how to begin then Chartership can provide you with a framework to do this. These challenges can also lead to an increase in professional confidence, as it has done for me with public speaking. I seriously lacked confidence about speaking in any sort of public situation and this was impacting negatively on my future job prospects. I’m not just talking about presenting at a formal event but things such as speaking up in meetings or giving training to users. Thanks to Chartership I had a reason to push myself to develop these skills and I’m very glad I did. Now teaching and training are a regular part of my role and I enjoy them so much that I am thinking of taking an introductory teaching qualification. I have also become an orientation tour leader at work and I’ve just submitted my first conference proposal! Undertaking Chartership gave me the push I needed to work on my public speaking and I’ve acquired a valuable transferable skill because of it. 

The final benefit of Chartership that I want to highlight is how it can help you with your professional development beyond your registration period. Chartership itself helps you to get your professional development efforts recognised in a formal way which you can then show to potential employers. Completing the portfolio also taught me the importance of undertaking structured CPD rather than just attending everything on offer. It may sound like common sense but I think sometimes library professionals can be overwhelmed by the amount of CPD opportunities out there. The Chartership process helps you to learn to about setting goals for your professional development which in turn makes you more selective about what you do in terms of CPD. Of course you can update your goals as your professional needs and interests change but Chartership certainly helps you to focus. It also teaches you the importance of recording your achievements, something which can come in handy at job interviews or during a work review.

Conclusion

Whilst Chartership has many benefits I won’t deny that it is hard work. There will times when you have a crisis of confidence and wonder why you ever started this in the first place! This happens to everyone who goes through the process but remember that if you do decide to take the plunge then you’re not alone. You will have a mentor and it’s important to make use of them as a sounding board, especially when things get tough. The new CILIP VLE has facilities for you to talk to others doing Chartership or any of the other qualifications or you could even find others in your local area who are in the same position as you and arrange a meet up. Never underestimate the power of morale support! There are also the regular Chartership chats on Twitter (watch out for the #Chartership tag) to help with questions and keep your motivation going and a dedicated mailing list for candidates.

It’s important to remember that you don’t stop developing when once you’ve Chartered. CILIP are looking at making yearly revalidation compulsory for all Chartered members but it’s a good idea to keep your skills up to date regardless. Chartership and the PKSB give you a solid range of tools and a meaningful place to log your CPD so use them.

Remember that the new Chartership regulations are designed to make the process simpler and more inclusive so now really is the time to give it a go. I promise that you will get so much more out of it than a piece of paper!

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Originally published in Catalogue and Index, Issue 175, June 2014


Tuesday, 8 July 2014

#Chartership Chat - 3/7/14

The Storify of the latest Chartership chat can be found below. There was no special theme for this chat but we managed to cover a lot of general questions. 

Thursday, 3 July 2014

MOOCs - Which Way Now? An ALT Event


Last week I attended an event run by the Association for Learning Technology MOOC Special Interest Group. I take a lot of MOOCs so I was interested from a personal point of view but I also wanted to hear about the courses from those involved in running them.

This post will just focus on my main take-aways from the day as there was too much information to cover everything in one post. The presentation above is something that I put together for a local feedback session (WARNING: the word MOOCs always makes me think of cows so you may notice a slight theme with the presentation!)

Are MOOCs delivering what they promised?
This first theme came up in many of the presentations throughout the day. Now that the initial excitement about the MOOC concept has passed it's worth asking if they are having the drastic impact on education that some predicted.

According to the research carried out so far it seems that MOOCs are mostly being taken by those who already have a university education. They take the courses for a range of reasons, from gaining new skills for the workplace to personal interest in the topic. Whilst this is a positive step as it shows that MOOCs are delivering education, are they delivering on their promise to create an educational revolution? If most MOOC participants already have a high standard of education are MOOCs only further adding to the skills of the already skilled?

MOOCS were supposed to broaden not just access to education but also its reach. It seems that based on the research there is still work to do - with some people arguing that MOOCs actually help to widen the digital divide rather than close it.

There were calls to go beyond measuring the number of people signing up to or completing a MOOC and measure the meaningful impact that they make on people's lives. This is especially true of those who need a non-traditional route into education such as early school leavers. If we can demonstrate that MOOCs are making a difference to people in need of education then we will have something concrete to show - as one presenter put it - that MOOCs transform education rather then just e-enable traditional education.

Benefits of developing MOOCs
Working on a MOOC can enhance the reputation of both the institution and the individual who does the presenting. Being present on screen in any way during a MOOC will instantly make people more memorable to students. An important point highlighted is that this can easily backfire if not enough thought is put into the planning process so it's worth spending time on.

Those who had developed MOOCs talked about the hard work that setting one up takes but they also highlighted the wealth of transferable skills that you can develop. MOOCs can also help to bring people together - not just teacher and student but across the institution. Different faculties are given the chance to work together in order to harness their collective expertise. This factor could be especially useful for libraries who are often looking for ways to develop relationships with faculty.

A final point demonstrated in this section is that MOOCs don't have to break the bank. Students responded well to content filmed via webcams and mobile phones and this could be easily updated in the future if needed. Certainly much more efficient than having to record a fancy new presentation every year!

Creating a community
To me this was the most important point to come out of the day. The fact that MOOCs create a strong sense of community was highlighted repeatedly as well as the fact that we need to stop thinking about MOOCs as online courses and start thinking about them as ways to draw a community together. In fact, MOOC participants often cite membership of a community of like-minded people as one of the main draws of the format.

Mini-MOOCs were presented as a solution to the problem of lack of participant time. Many MOOCs are quite intensive and this contributes to drop-out rates. By having shorter, less intensive courses you can hopefully retain participants. The main example of this given was in providing technology training to teachers. In a format similar to a 23Things course participants were introduced to various technological teaching aids. This resulted in a lot of discussion both inside and outside the course about how people had used various tools in practice. It was hoped that people would then go on and teach others outside the course.

Part of the sense of community comes from this sharing of people's ideas as a way to create new knowledge. I've personally taken part in some MOOCs which had a really strong sense of community which resulted in friendships and collaborations forming. The formal learning part of these courses ended some time ago but the learning still continues today.

Another point that struck me was that MOOCs should be used to teach people what THEY want to learn rather than what we THINK they should learn. This is an argument that has come up before in the library world, in terms of areas such as information literacy teaching. If you teach people what they want to learn you will attract them and stand a better chance of creating a cohesive community.

The final point I want to note was highlighted by one of the presenters: education is not broadcasting, it's a two way engagement between learner and teacher. MOOCs give us an opportunity to connect with people on a large scale and learn from them as well as teach. Hopefully this is something that MOOC creators and participants will both take forward.

Conclusion
Although I mostly attend library related events it was good to attend something which gave me an outside perspective of something that many libraries are involved in, either directly or indirectly. Those who presented at the conference were all directly involved with MOOCs in some way and the day gave me a lot to think about as a MOOC participant (and maybe one day a MOOC developer!)





Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Manage Your Way Into Management


So, you're stuck in another catch-22 situation. You want to move on to the next level of your career, something which involves management but you find it difficult as you have little or no experience of management. And you can't get experience without having the job. Many people are stuck in positions like this and it can be frustrating. You can either save up and pursue a qualification on you own time and dime or you can get creative and look for experience elsewhere.

MOOCs
Anyone who has read this blog knows that I'm a big fan of MOOCs. They allow you to learn where and when you need to and cover a variety of topics. One thing MOOCs are really good at is fulfilling a specific training need - in this case management training. I'm currently taking a course via FutureLearn called Managing People: Engaging Your Workforce which I'm finding both engaging and interesting. The course features a lot of opportunity for interaction and discussion and makes me think about some of the issues I've previously taken for granted. There are plenty more business/management MOOCs available so even if you can't commit to one at the moment there will likely be another opportunity in the future. A good list of management related MOOCs can be found on Class Central.

Reading
This is also something easy to fit into your everyday commitments. Do you have a commute? A spare lunch hour once a week? Why not do something productive with your time and read a management book. They're not always as dry as they seem and they can produce some really valuable advice. Something which gets you to think and reflect is always good. Many of these books can be purchased cheaply, either second hand or through apps such as Kindle. And of course there is always the local library! As with any sort of professional reading I would advise you to make notes about what you read - not only does it make it easier to remember the information but it helps you to really absorb it and relate it to your own experiences. Why not get together with others to discuss what you read? This can be done in person by setting up a reading group or joining in with an online group such as the Library Leadership Reading Group on Twitter. Writing book reviews is also a good way to reflect. The O'Reilly Reader Review Program offers bloggers a chance to read books on management and leadership in return for reviews. 

Volunteering
It's worth remembering that experience doesn't have to be in the workplace. Volunteering on a committee can be a valuable way to develop management skills such as negotiation, communication and people skills. For those in the library profession CILIP committees are always an option but there are many more ways to get involved. Perhaps you could join a group at work or an organisation you support or why not help to organise an event? There are many ways of gaining the skills used in management without actually being a manager and you get to make new friends/contacts at the same time.

Coaching/Mentoring
This is another important skill and again, something that doesn't have to be developed in a formal way. I like to help colleagues with their CPD so if I see something that might be of interest then I pass it on. I also act as a sounding board when people have advice/problems (as other people have done for me). If you're Chartered then CILIP mentoring is also an option. I think that mentoring is something really important and can show you the kind of manager you would make. It's important to remember that management is about people as well as productivity.

Shadowing/Observing
Why not see if it's possible to shadow your manager or a manager in another department? What they do on a daily basis may surprise you. If shadowing someone isn't appropriate then why not just try observing someone who you think is a good manager to see how they handle things? You can also observe those you think are bad managers in order to learn what NOT to do! Again, the important thing is that you make a note of your experiences and use them for later reflection.

I'm sure there are many, many other ways of developing management skills on little or no budget but these are just the examples I can think of off the top of my head. If anyone can think of things to add then please share them in the comments section below. Remember that leadership and management are two different things. You don't have to be a manager to be a leader and you don't have to be a manager to look at developing some of the skill set. Hopefully even if I don't decide to pursue a formal management qualification there are still ways for me to develop the skills that will lead to my next career step, management or otherwise!

photo credit: pennstatenews via photopin cc