Tag Archives: New Professionals

Professional “Thank You” Not Required?

Quite often I receive emails from students in MLIS programs asking for advice. This can be as simple as help with a paper, a cataloguing question or long-term career advice. Sometimes these emails also involve in-depth questions regarding the future of cataloguing, areas of the profession that are growing, my professional opinion on certain topics or participation in studies, research or interviews.

Receiving these emails on an almost monthly basis, I continue to take the time to answer them, thoughtfully providing responses, direction, opinions or, when I have no answers, other resources or individuals that I believe will be helpful. However, what always stands out when helping these individuals is that I rarely, if ever, receive a “Thank You”. It’s easy to send an email. Easier than picking up the telephone or writing a letter. While I am not so long in the tooth, I had it drilled into me from an early age that a simple Thank You letter goes a long way. And, to me, it does. When a new professional wants something, how easy it is to send a quick email or text. And then — “ding”– their smartphone goes off when they receive a text or email back, providing them with answers to their queries. But how much effort does it take to send a simple “Thank you” in return? Apparently, a lot.

Within the past two weeks, I received two requests for assistance. And, given my ongoing experience with young professionals who are used to instant gratification (in this case, quick and “easy” answers with no thought to the professional’s time on the other end), my knee-jerk reaction was to say “no”. How terrible of me. Why should these students face the consequences of their peers’ actions? So, of course, I am taking the time to do it. Why? Because I am a professional who believes in mentoring and growing the profession through working together, sharing information and building relationships. Because, for every 1 out of 30 young professionals who take the time to say “Thank You”, I know that perhaps, one day, I will meet or read about that young individual making a difference in our profession. And, by some small chance, maybe I made a positive impact in their career choices and path.

However, I do find the lack of a professional “Thank You” troubling. Why are our young professionals not learning about how to conduct themselves professionally? Should they have to be taught about professional conduct (which in this case, seems more like common courtesy) at the graduate level? Should we be addressing this behaviour at conferences? In the classroom? While I am not sure where this needs to be addressed, we certainly need to take note of this or someday, an aspiring mover & shaker may write an email that is never responded to; never answered because the respondent no longer takes the time to respond to emails and is no longer interested in mentoring or sharing their expertise. What a shame that would be.

12 Comments

Filed under Our Profession, Professional Ethics

Bridging the Gap between New Generation Librarians and Boomers

How do you view your new librarian? Would you have more faith in a librarian who is older but a recent graduate, or a younger librarian with a few years behind her?

Bridging the gap between the different generations of librarians is a difficult issue to tackle. No matter whom you ask, the finger tends to be pointed at the other party and often, the real problem is a lack of wanting to compromise on opinions and ideas. After all, the assumption is that “the problem certainly can’t be me!”

This concept of bridging the generational gap was first introduced to me at IFLA this past August. Since then, I have joined the New Professionals Special Interest group and have taken a considerable interest in this area of librarianship.

Are you a “boomer” or “new gener”? Where do your biases fall? Whether you’re a boomer or a new gener, biases work both ways. As a next gener, you don’t want to be looked at as a “wet-behind the ears you have so much to learn” librarian. But, as a boomer, you don’t want to be seen as a “washed-up, your career is over” librarian. So, how do we meet in the middle? And, how do these biases present themselves in the workplace?

I once heard a sermon where the priest reminded the older parishioners “that they weren’t born martyrs”. Basically, while you have lived a few more years and have life experience, you’ve had a chance to try out your ideas and to make your mistakes. It’s not up to you to judge the younger folks and their ideas. Obviously there was some sort of generational gap issues happening at that parish.

Personalities, perceptions, insecurities and experience all play a role in dealing with these situations. For myself, whenever I feel slighted or pushed-aside because of my age, I set out to achieve something. I’m kind of an “I’ll show you” type of person. I’ve achieved some of my best accomplishments due to someone’s offhanded comment about my skills, my age or their lack of faith in my abilities. You could say that’s my “RED” button – danger, do not go there!

However, other individuals withdraw, ceasing to take advantage of opportunities that are presented, severing professional relationships or declining to contribute new and innovative ideas. In some cases, these professionals might never recover or reach their full potential. That is a shame and a problem.

Here are some simple facts (as I see them) about generational gaps and bridging them:
Age. No one wants to be reminded how old they are and no one wants to be reminded how young they are.

Frequent reminder of age. While an occasional comment meant to lighten the mood regarding age might be regarded as funny once, continual comments about age serve as a reminder to that individual that they are either a.) Older and perhaps their knowledge and ideas are outdated or b.) Younger and their ideas are not developed or worthy of consideration. Either way, it’s a put down and it’s inappropriate.

Acknowledge that a gap exists. This is not a new concept and can be found in workplaces, organizations, clubs, teams, social groups and so on.

Gaps occur in experience as well as age. There are new professionals who are 50 and more experienced professionals who are 40. Taking pains to point out levels of experience or exhibiting actions to create “barriers” is just as much of a gap as the age factor.

Perceptions and Insecurities. Believe it or not, your job can be done without you. You are replaceable. This goes for boomers and next geners. While there is only one you (and of course you’re special!) your job requires someone with a skill set – and we all learn this skill set when we go to library school. If you have the opportunity to work with a rising star, don’t feel threatened by their potential, nurture it. If you’re a next gener and you have the opportunity to work with a talented and energetic boomer, don’t make remarks about taking their job or stressing how you would do things differently if you were them. Learn from each other.

Arrogance, insecurity, self-preservation, jealousy and envy are all at play here. An off-handed comment, your own insecurity about your age or even doubt about your skills are all it takes to create a gap.

Respect and compromise. While there will always be a gap among the generations, there are ways to take advantage of it. Rely on boomers for their experience, knowledge and expertise. Rely on next geners for their enthusiasm, ideas, energy and drive. In essence, it is a great partnership because the gap provides qualities that complement each other.

One thing I’ve come to understand as a librarian working primarily with “boomers” is that a generation gap will always exist. I haven’t lived as long nor do I have the perceived life experience. I have my own experiences, perhaps more than some for my age, and a satisfactory list of professional accomplishments (with hopefully more to come!). I also do not apologize for my age any more than I expect my co-workers to apologize for theirs. I don’t want to be older, I don’t want to rush forward to get past this gap. And perhaps, this is where the gap is finally bridged – in an acceptance of where we are at in our careers and our lives. This comes from within and, as professionals it is our responsibility to attempt to achieve this.

Related Posts
Talking about management to new professionals

IFLA 2008 – The third day

5 Comments

Filed under Our Profession

Talking about management to new professionals

Several weeks ago I was invited to speak to the management class at Dalhousie University’s School of Information Management (SIM). This was my first speaking engagement as a professional librarian and I was honoured to be asked.

Although eager to speak to a group of new professionals about management, I wondered what advice and anecdotes I had to offer. Should I talk about professional conduct? Presenting yourself as a professional (even when you look 20!)? Managing staff as old, if not older, than your parents? How to go about gaining the trust and respect of your staff when you’re still learning and they’ve been in the field for years? What about making management decisions that aren’t popular?

How can I share what I’ve learned in 15 minutes? I wanted to highlight the most valuable lessons that I’ve learned as a new professional and provide the class with concrete examples. I also wanted to create a dialogue that the students would feel comfortable pursuing further.

Dr. Fiona Black, the Director of SIM, provided some guideline questions to all the guest speakers which assisted in shaping my talk.

1. What type of changes have you witnessed in organizations since you began your professional career and how have you been involved in “change management”?

2. If there is one thing about management you would emphasize to a new professional, what would it be?

3. How do you motivate your colleagues (now or in past positions) around learning new things?

4. How do you (personally) demonstrate accountability within your organization?

Using these questions as the foundation for my talk, I stressed the following points:

Always appear confident (or as I like to say, “fake it”)

Acknowledge what you don’t know.

Give credit where it’s due.

Praise your staff.

Be willing to learn from the ground up.

A first impression is vital, but so is maintaining a day-to-day professional appearance.

Graduating doesn’t mean that your professional development is over, it’s just beginning.

Respect your staff. An MLIS doesn’t give you the right to talk down to anyone – EVER.

Lead by example.

Be fair and be honest. Don’t expect your staff to do anything you aren’t willing to do.

Let your actions and achievements represent your commitment to the profession. If you don’t have library experience, or very little experience, look for opportunities. Volunteer to write book reviews for publication, join committees and become involved.

Perhaps I have a stronger desire to participate in the shaping and education of new professionals because it hasn’t been too long since I was in the classroom. But I think it is the responsibility of all professionals to take a hand in educating and mentoring young professionals. How will they learn the necessary lessons and skills without us?

Classroom perception of the profession and reality of the day-to-day requirements of the profession are all part of a new professional’s education. One of the best kept secrets that I realized early on is that new professionals and those professionals in the twilight of their career are not so very different. While more mature professionals have experience under their belt, twinges of anxiety still creep up when writing a report or making a major management decision. We don’t always know everything, even though we learn how to look like we do. And, all of us want to make a difference in the profession in some way.

In my limited experience, I have found that emphasizing the similarities between new professionals and mature professionals bridges the gap and takes away some of the fear of inadequacy young professionals face when starting their careers. It also opens the door for opportunities; opportunities for collaborating, mentoring and creating. Young professionals have incredible ideas but mature professionals know the rules and the processes. Long-standing professionals have the knowledge and young professionals have the drive. We all have a lot to learn from each other.

As information professionals, we’re all about access to information. Why aren’t more of us improving access between students and current professionals? We, as professionals, are the information that students need. We are the resources. Let’s work on the access. I urge all of you to get involved in your area information school programs – both at the college and university levels. Become a mentor or host a student. There are so many ways we can participate.

3 Comments

Filed under Our Profession, Professional Ethics