Tag Archives: career direction

Camera Obscura

My reticence to jump on the filter bandwagon has finally crumbled.

Rejoice readers! After a brief struggle with the arcane vagaries of WordPress shortcode and some bootstrapped php I managed to wrangle together an effective way to pull my Instagram feed into this blog (and only broke everything completely once). There’s a lesson in here somewhere about keeping your plugins up to date and remembering to switch from visual layouts to manual text entry…but who has time for these things?

My wacky japes and capers surviving post-graduate study are now available in a full-colour (well, sepia mostly).

I’ve since removed the gallery from the core of this blog, but I’m still out there on Instagram!

Microblogging and Me

There is no such thing as a tool that is good even if used without consideration. Social media, microblogging, and corporate communications platforms are no exception to this. That being said, they are a powerful way to flatten hierarchies and open up the conversation within an organisation.

My previous employer–a major web-hosting company–were heavily invested in creating an open, integrated communications system within the company. With offices in a number of locations around Australia and the world, there was often a significant disconnect between all but the most closely integrated departments. To combat this isolation, the organisation rolled out Yammer across the company. Yammer, for those unfamiliar with the platform, is more-or-less a facebook news-feed clone for closed, internal use. Much like familiar social media platforms, Yammer invites users to post, comment, and follow discussions and share links and the such like.

Because the organisation had not followed through with a comprehensive internal communications policy for Yammer, the results were mixed. The posting quickly turned into inane, trivial, and mundane minutia such as: ‘The coffee pot on level 5 is empty’, ‘Lol who turned out the lights,’ and ‘Woo! Go accounts. More sales!’…you get the idea. There were some flashes of inspired thinking on the service, such as the CFO opening up a forum for discussing summer reading titles relevant to business and technology, which invited a rare opportunity to speak candidly (about books!) with the managing directors of a multi-national corporation. These opportunities to make my voice heard were few and far between, but I welcomed the fact that such a conversation could not have been possible without a tool like Yammer.

Ultimately, the problem with corporate microblogging and social feeds is one of restraint and management. Unchecked, it becomes yet another source for information-bloat and distraction. Too-regulated and it becomes a cork-board for posting internal PR releases.

Organisations take note! You should start hiring internal social media moderators and curators to better direct, manage, and engage the use of these platforms in your organisation. I’m certain that my peers and I would welcome the challenge!


Too Much Information

Web 2.0 pundit and theorist Andrew Keen writes in his book Digital Vertigo (2012):

 Instead of making us happier and more connected, social media’s siren song—the incessant calls to digitally connect, the cultural obsession with transparency and openness, the never-ending demand to share everything about ourselves with everyone else— is, in fact, both a significant cause and effect of the increasingly vertiginous nature of twenty-first—century life.

The inconvenient truth is that social media, for all its communitarian promises, is dividing us, rather than bringing us together (p. 67)

There’s a great deal of wisdom in what Keen is saying: The overwhelming wealth of information available online lends itself to a perverse idea of obsessive over-sharing and digital exhibitionism. Ideas of transparency and openness have to be considered against the alternative of constructing a carefully limited, constructed persona online to be completely disingenuous.

Ultimately, either end of the spectrum is still driving us towards an online culture that is divided, fragmented, and essentially at odds with itself.

So what’s the middle ground? What balance can there be between honestly engaging in a rich, participatory culture online, and protecting our individual privacy and identity.

For my own part, I choose to present myself as a professional fully and absolutely online. Anything relevant to my professional development, career aspirations, and written work is funnelled into the same set of linked channels. I keep a unified identity across media platforms (@mjjfeeney on Twitter; www.mjjfeeney.com on this, my blogging domain; /mjjfeeney/ as my Facebook username etc.). Since our online identities span so many platforms today, I feel that presenting a consistent set of values and sharing limits across each platform is vital. I would hate for someone who follows me on twitter to discover this blog and be disoriented by an overabundance of personal content.

I feel that keeping this consistency about what we’re sharing—and where—is vital. What you put online will be found, no matter where you think it’s hidden away. Making sure it’s something you’d be willing to share in *any* of your other channels of communication is vital.

Enlightened self-interest

Workshop 7: Moving out into the profession

Quite the capstone to a long, challenging, and illuminating semester!

Socialising and mingling with my peers in-class one final time this semester reminded me that we were strangers only a few months ago. Over the course of the semester we had already taken meaningful steps towards building our personal networking and professional relationships. Chatting with the guests over cheese and wine and listening to their presentations drove home for me just how vital communication and sociability is to the success and vitality of my career.

Being a responsible, capable, and proficient information professional is not something I can manage on my own. My learning and development isn’t taking place in a vacuum; it is being guided, shaped, and informed by the people around me. Finding my place in this profession was always going to be a by-product of connecting with people and building a meaningful understanding of how I fit into the larger context of this community.

Although it is unnerving to face the challenges of finding meaningful employment in a field that is so dynamic, I am confident that I have started to develop enough self-knowledge to understand how to thrive and prosper in the face of these challenges. I feel like I have moved beyond my initial embarrassment and reticence of not knowing or understanding some things, and I have embraced the fact that I am still a beginner in this expansive field. I feel I am finally comfortable with letting go of some perfect ideal of my future employment, and embracing change as it comes.

Documenting these first steps I’ve taken into a larger, professional world  has contributed to my own understanding of  who I am, and what I want to do. It has illuminated for me what sort of jobs, environments, and types of work will make me happiest and helped me to develop career goals that reflect what I value most.

On reflection, the entire program of INN634 instilled in me the guiding principle of loyalty to my own professional goals. My own personal integrity and commitment to moving forward is not about finding an employer willing to take me on, but rather about developing a practical set of skills and capabilities that guarantee I will be employable for life.

I’m going to cap-off this off with a quote that really evokes what I felt was the core theme of this program:

“It is not the strongest of the species who survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change

Charles Darwin.

Failure requires no preparation

To venture causes anxiety. Not to venture is to lose oneself.

 Soren Kierkegaard.

If I’m going to take responsibility for my career development, I should really be setting some specific, measurable goals.

To that end, I want to demonstrate that I have the ability to contribute effectively to the profession by expanding and updating my skills over the next 2-5 years, and create a systemic plan for organising my progress.

Recent technology trends are creating new opportunities for specialising with my particular skill-set, but there’s a fair amount of terror with jobs that have never been done before. But doing what hasn’t bee done before is intellectually seductive, and I want to be able to transition into new disciplines as they grow in demand.

Change is disruptive, confusing, and brings uncertainty. I mean to combat that in part by:

  • Setting up a media monitoring process: I want to stay hooked in the the world of information around me, and identify possible opportunities as they arise. Emerging patterns in blogs, conferences, and publications will help me track these changes.
    • In addition to major LIS journals, I will be scanning:General media in Newsweek; Management trends in the Harvard Business Review; Tech-trends in Wired; Business and economics in Forbes; and critical discussion in The New Yorker.
  • Cultivating a professional network: I intend to build a relationship with my peers and professional colleagues of mutual respect and trust. I see the benefits of collaboration, and want to be a positive and enthusiastic part of that environment. I also will use my advanatges of student rates to join as many professional bodies as I can for my studies, and establish a foothold in organisations that have meaning for me (e.g ALIA, QWC)
  • Developing resilience: If I’m going to make this work, I need to get comfortable with the fact that setbacks may detour or distract me, but not wilt in the face of the challenges awaiting me. I intend to commit my energy to owning my mistakes, being willing to fail, and celebrating my accomplishments when and if they happen.
  • Committing to continuous learning: With my time remaining in the graduate program I intend to use my assignments and lectures to explore my options and prioritise what is critical, innovative, and reinventing the profession. Once I am done, I intend to remain flexible and positive about change and update my skills through short-courses, programs, and professional accredations where necessary.
  • Gaining visibility: I want to build my expertise openly. This blog serves to further that goal, but I also strive to: ·
    • o   Publish a scholarly article on folksonomies, social data, and tagging in an accredited journal.
    • o   Attend conferences and professional events and make myself known through questions, conversation, and projects.
    • o   Publish in the YA fiction space to support and advocate young-male literacy.
    • o   Investigate the prospect of furthering my academic career with research or higher-learning.

Who knows where I’ll be in 2 years, let alone 5. There are so many traditional and nontraditional paths my career could take that I’ll undoubtedly need to re frame these goals along the way. But, what an adventure that will be!

The Importance of Idealism

Workshop 3: What is the library and information science profession?

(This reflection was originally written on March 26, 2013)

The library and information sciene profession seems to be many different things to different people. Sometimes it’s information architecture, sometimes it’s records management, sometimes it’s a tradtional library, and sometimes it’s something else entirely.

This time around I had the pleasure of hearing from Katrina McAlpine, Julanne Neal, Alex Main, Laney Robinson, and Pat Loria about the different types of positions and contexts that exist in the field.

Importantly, this seminar challenged the idea of what the profession actually is: is it a disciplinary field or a voctaional calling? Is it a profession with codes and standards? Does labelling it in some narrow way diminish it?

There seems to be so much scope for fascinating and challenging possibilites in the field of LIS, and these speakers really helped explicitly articulate some of the avenues I could pursue. Some of the speakers touched on the tools and rules that govern their roles, while others examined their motivations, missions, and values as members of the information community. One speaker in particular, Alex, really resonated with me. Her attention to the balance between soft social skills and the fundamental abilities to work with technical systems, SQL queries, and administering relational databases really drove home for me the dual-responsibilities of the information profession as tech-savvy experts and customer service providers.

We’re a smart profession, full of smart and dynamic people. We have to advocate for people who often don’t have the same access or training we do. We have to find ways facilitate equitible access to all, whether someone is a basic or advanced information seeker. And providing that leve of service means we have to be at the fore of the information literacy curve.

I felt like there was a theme across these speakers of recognising the responsibility we each have to take our own professional development in hand, and ensure that we build the necessary experience, enthusiasm, and visibility in our chosen fields.

The future is certainly still going to be about engaging with whatever clientele my role demands effectively and with expertiese. But, meeting their ever evolving and shifting information needs is going to be something of a lifelong learning journey it seems. I love the idea of being a part of this profession, it’s interesting and challenging, but the future sure is intimidating.


Raised lettering, pale nimbus white…

I should probably get some business cards printed one of these days.

Maybe eggshell.

Failing that, here’s my no longer current CV (Circa 2013).

I’m a firm believer in concise, one-page resumes. Anything beyond that should really be taken care of in a cover letter and/or your response to selection criteria.

The Great Chain

My LinkedIn Proflie.

I’ve had the skeleton of a LinkedIn account haunting me for a few years now. I’ve always had it at the back of my mind to gussy it up and start raking in the job offers, but it never really seemed to pan out.

I’ve attempted to make it pretty comprehensive while keeping the content lean and relevant without the clutter of years gone by.  I suspect that there’s not a great deal of head hunting going on for information studies students with a background in academic writing–but you never know!

To be honest, I’m not really great at the whole self-aggrandising thing and I find it challenging to sell myself without feeling self-consciously boastful or egotistical. But, I am a huge sucker for social data, and I get a real kick out of using LinkedIn as tool for tracking Six Degrees of Separation style connections.

I don’t love the idea of LinkedIn, but I’m willing to give it a shot. At worst it let’s me get a better perspective on who is in my orbit of influence is, and where I need to start searching for networking opportunities.

Boldly Going Somewhere

“I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library.”

Jorge Luis Borges

Is it even possible to love reading and not love Borges? I don’t know! Frankly, I don’t want to know. But, in all seriousness, I think that quote neatly sums up where I’m starting from when I talk about the library profession.

Career goals are such a ponderous, weighty thing to carry around with you. I have aspirations certainly, but goals seem like too-narrow a way of defining these things.

Ideally, I want to design the sort of career that is resilient enough to navigate the wonderfully disruptive changes going on in just about every industry I’m affiliated with. I want to be flexible and diverse within my roles to be able to grab opportunities that become available to me today and tomorrow. Ideally, I’m seeking something that would offer me the level of challenges and engagement that I thrive on.

I have done plenty of work that was perfectly manageable and sufficiently complex, but had no scope for actually applying my enthusiasm or rewarding me with any sort of fulfillment. Self knowledge is a powerful tool, and realising that I’m determined to pursue fulfilling  experiences over other professional considerations is helpful to understand.

I know I said I didn’t want to get all specific with goals, but let’s try some broader principles instead:

  • I want to respond to new opportunities
  • I want to keep my skills at the forefront of new technologies
  • I want to find roles that allow me to take initiative, increase my responsibility, and innovate where possible
  • I want my career to reflect who I am and what I value

I feel like I have come to a deep enough understanding of myself, who I am, and who I could be that I actually am starting to understand who I want to be.

And who I want to be is changing all the time. I don’t want to shackle myself to one set of goals for a single, subset of employment. Rather, I want to broaden my horizons and aim for employability.

So, why libraries? Well, I don’t necessarily want to limit myself to just libraries. I think there’s a tremendous amount of value in pursuing a formal education in Library and Information Sciences for the kind of professional skills and competencies I’m interested in.

Yes, I gain a vocational skill set that I can apply professionally, but the generic skills I’m learning are so useful, not just in the information profession: the analytical skills, the strategic thinking, the management capabilities, and the commitment to continuous learning all position me to do just about anything.

Do I want to work in libraries? Sure thing! Libraries are amazing spaces where truly amazing things are happening in the foreseeable future.

But, let’s not stop there. There are incredible things happening in the academic world that I want to research, there are fiction books burning there way through the back of my brain and into my soul that need to be written, and there’s my powerful desire to advocate for improving literacy in young men.

There’s a great benefit in creating career goals. But, I increasingly recognise that my goals are always going to be shifting, and the most important thing is to remain flexible, positive, and creative in these times of continuing change.