I am privileged to have many informal personal mentors. The many people (I can think of two couples and two individuals off the top of my head) I could describe as such have been crucial supporters throughout my life, helping me find the confidence to make big decisions and challenge myself instead of slipping into stasis. Most of the time, I don’t think of them as such, but they fit the description of a mentor given by the various resources on the CPD23 post: someone who advises, encourages and supports you on your way to accomplishing a goal.
With successful mentoring (albeit informal) in my personal life, it is no surprise that I am a great supporter of mentoring in a professional context as well. To a new professional like me, professional development is still a kind of scary idea. Non-librarians may think of librarianship as one vast entity, but in fact it has so many different pathways. Which one should I choose? How can I find the job that will best use my skills? What if I change my mind? I think it’s essential to have someone to talk to about these things. A peer network is very important, but it can be equally useful to speak to someone who has already been through these situations and may have a perspective that more closely matches that of a prospective employer. In an ideal world, a professional mentor will do just what my personal mentors did: encourage me to reach my potential & build my confidence.
The struggle I have with mentoring is this: I can be insecure at times, which means I sometimes need a lot of affirmation. I worry that I will end up taking advantage of my mentors when I get nervous, or that I will just pester them by asking them about every silly thing that comes up in my professional life. I could easily be a needy mentee who gives nothing back to the mentor. However, I hope to be over this fear by the time I am actually ready for a formal mentor. Over the years I have spent with informal mentors, I have been surprised by how much they seem to value my opinion (quite unjustifiably, I think!) and be interested in the new things I inadvertently introduce them to. If I have the right professional mentor, perhaps the same can happen in that relationship after a few years.
I look forward to starting the chartership process someday and meeting the mentor who will be helping me through it. In the meantime, I will be keeping my eyes open for a suitable mentor, bearing in mind the excellent advice that Teri Switzer and Priscilla Shontz give.
Now that the dissertation is out of my hands, I’m looking forward to catching up with CPD23 and hopefully doing some writing for fun.
Thing 10 is about how we got into librarianship. I must admit that when I started library school last September, this was one of my biggest insecurities. The graduate trainee scheme that operates in the UK is brilliant, and I assumed most of the people on my course would have completed one & therefore have lots more experience than me. (N.B. I also applied for lots of traineeships, landed one interview and failed to get the position. I probably brought some baggage with me to library school.) However, I was really surprised at the range of backgrounds represented. Even the traineeships varied a lot. Ultimately, though, I still ended up feeling like my route into librarianship was more representative of American than English librarians. Librarians on both sides of the pond tend to fall into the profession, but as always, there is a little more deliberateness on the English side.
So here’s my story:
As a teenager, I was interested in a few careers, but when I graduated from high school I thought I had settled on becoming a magazine editor. It only took two years in journalism school to realize I didn’t want to work in that industry. (I wonder if being voted most shy in my class despite being editor-in-chief of the yearbook was a sign?) I was much happier after I switched to an English major, but the switch did make me completely aimless in terms of career. Librarianship did occur to me then; I worked part-time at my university library the whole time I was there, and two of my summer jobs were in a library. I was pretty resistant to the idea at first, though. I am still in many ways a stereotypical librarian, and I think I was even as a kid. I hated the idea of going to a reunion and hearing people say, “Oh, I knew you were going to be a librarian! You always had your nose in a book!” I wasn’t prepared to admit it was actually the ideal career for me until I graduated. By then I had met more librarians & was so impressed by their ability to find out absolutely anything, and the fact that they always seemed to be such interesting people. I also realized it fit with my interest in helping others and is essential for supporting education, which I have always believed is important.
I finally began pursuing librarianship in 2008, applying for traineeships and looking at library schools. I had an interview for a traineeship, but failed to get it. That was a pretty hard moment for me & I did end up taking a year off while I waited to hear from library schools. It was good to have a gap year to travel, and I chose to work as an au pair in England for that year. I was accepted to 2 US schools before my contract ended , but ultimately decided that I wanted to stay in England. I went back to Missouri temporarily, where I took a couple of library science classes at the University of Missouri, before coming back to England in 2010 to do my MA at University College London. It’s been a convoluted and stressful process at times, but I have to say it was worth it in the end. I am so excited to finally be a professional librarian, and I think UCL provided a lot of opportunities I might not have had elsewhere.