For the next two weeks, the QUT Information Studies Group are taking over the ILN Blog to talk about Professional Development:
As an educator, there are two things I am particularly conscious of. Firstly, I want to make sure our students leave us knowing they are heading out into a learning profession and that when they leave us, they aren’t finished with learning by any means. Secondly, I want to help our students acquire the skills and confidence to own and look after their professional development.
As a PhD student, my principal supervisor once told me that my PhD wouldn’t be the defining piece of research for my career. It wouldn’t be my only research, and nor would – or should – it be the best. She told me that a PhD is just a license to do research. At the time, this was reassuring to me. It made me feel like it was okay for me to have my training wheels on and to lean on those training wheels (aka my supervisors!) when I felt like I needed to. It helped me to understand that my PhD wasn’t my life’s work and that was really reassuring at 2am when I just couldn’t wrap my head around some aspect of my research.
But in hindsight, I think the license analogy is useful in another way: it’s a reminder that you don’t just get a PhD and then bam! You are forevermore a qualified and capable researcher. Qualified? Yes. Capable? Well… That depends what capabilities we’re talking about. Because doing a PhD doesn’t teach you everything you could ever need to know about doing every type of research you might encounter during your career. It teaches you to think like a researcher, it helps you develop deep knowledge of a very narrow space, and it allows you to develop expertise with a specific methodology. The reality is, I still have a whole lot of learning ahead of me in my career. There will be people around me who will help me along the way, but I’ve handed in my training wheels and swapped them for a license that needs renewal, and renewing that license is my responsibility.
And I think the same is true for information professionals. Your degree gives you a license to be a librarian, but it doesn’t equip you with everything you could ever need to know about being an information professional. Try Googling “what I didn’t learn in library school” and you’ll see lots of commentary on the skills and knowledge people didn’t acquire through the process of getting their degree. Much of this commentary is framed as criticism of library and information science courses and as an educator I’m always keen to read these posts and reflect on them. But the fact is, we can’t teach you everything you need to know to have a career in librarianship, for several reasons. Firstly, our curriculums are jam packed. Most LIS courses in Australia are postgraduate courses and we don’t have you with us for very long. Secondly, this profession is dynamic and rapidly changing. Technological innovation has a significant impact on this field and the pace of change is fast. We constantly update our curriculums, but we can’t, for example, teach you all the tech skills you’ll need in 10 years time because we simply don’t know what the tech will look like. Thirdly – and building on the previous point – I believe it’s critically important that we help our students develop both a love of learning and an understanding of how to keep learning, independently and proactively.
I’ve got my researcher license now, but I need to keep renewing it (emphasis on the ‘I’!). In fact, I’ve got my librarian license too, and as an educator in this field, I also need to keep renewing that license. The same is true for library and information professionals. Your degree is your license, but you need to keep renewing it. That renewal is a constant process and the responsibility for it sits wholly and solely with you.
Let me say it a different way: My professional development is my responsibility. Not my supervisor’s. Not my organisation’s. Not the facilitator of the researcher development workshop I’m going to next week. Mine.
Likewise, your professional development is your responsibility. Not your supervisor’s. Not your organisation’s. Not the facilitator of the next course you go on. Yours.
This is probably the key message that will underpin all of our posts for this topic. You’ll see a Do-It-Yourself Professional Development flavour across all of our posts. Because I think I can speak for the whole team when I say we fundamentally believe that responsibility for professional development sits with the individual.
Yes, our employers have a responsibility to ensure we have access to training and development to help us do our jobs and develop as a professional.
But it’s our responsibility to have an overarching vision for our own career development and to proactively seek out opportunities to develop the skills, knowledge and aptitudes we need to develop as professionals, and to get where we want with our careers. My license is my license, and your license is your license.
If you’re involved in the International Librarians Network, I suspect you’re someone who is proactive about their professional development.
But I’d like to hear from you.
- What are your thoughts about this?
- Where do you think the responsibility for professional development rests?
- How much of the responsibility sits with you, and how much with your employer?
- Do you have a vision for your career development?
- When was the last time you really invested your time or your money in developing yourself?
I’d also like to know what barriers exist for you around professional development? What stops you from acquiring new skills and knowledge? Lack of time? Lack of motivation? (And lack of motivation is completely legitimate. Sometimes we just get stuck.) Money? Not knowing where to start? Not knowing what skills you need to acquire?
We want to tailor the posts we make over the next fortnight so we can help you to be proactive about your professional development. So comment here and tell us what you think, and what you need. We’d love to hear from you.
– Kate Davis