TRY 2011 - Mentoring the 21st Century Information Professional
MENTORING THE 21STCENTURY INFORMATIONPROFESSIONALKimberly Silk, MLSData Librarian, Martin Prosperity InstituteRotman School of ManagementUniversity of Toronto
The Situation The information profession is changing constantly There are more career choices than ever before As president of the Faculty of Information Alumni Association, I’m talking to lots of students The students have lots of questions; they have a lot of uncertainty, apprehension and skepticism about the profession
The Questions How do students decide to enter an “information” school? And, which one? How do they find out about all the different kinds of careers out there? How did we do this, when we were entering “library” school?
More Questions What can we do, as practitioners, to help students make informed decisions about their career paths? How do we change our profession for the better? How do we “be the change we want to see in the world”?
The (beginnings of a) Solution Collaborating with the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto to develop a course to help transition about-to-graduate iSchool students to the work force Focus on practicing in the information profession Offering perspectives from a wide range of practitioners Type of info environment Length of time in workforce Educational background
Format Developed an 8-week course delivered by the iSchool Institute Each class was 2-3 hours in length featuring speakers from a wide range of information environments 33 speakers donated their time to participate Cost to students was $75; iSchool Dean Seamus Ross created a bursary to offset the true cost of running the course 15 students enrolled
1st Class: Why are you here? Many of them didn’t have a specific idea why; many were arts undergrads who didn’t know what to do next; “I flipped a coin” In one case, a student already had a non-ALA accredited degree Several came to the faculty with an interest in the degree, but not in a conventional library environment Most could not envision what they wanted to do as a practicing information professional I asked the students to think about what their dream job might be --- not so much as an end goal, but to ensure they plan a career direction for themselves that is consistent with what they really want in life, and to remain true to themselves. Because we all know that happiness in our work plays a HUGE role in happiness in life
I asked the Speakers to describe: Their educational background Their career path so far How (if?) their career paths had changed in comparison to what they thought they might want to do when they began their degree, when they finished their degree, now, and future Their goals up to this point and where they saw themselves down the road Their views on leadership: their style and philosophy, and what new information professionals need to know about leadership. Their “dream job”
What the Students Said “I often left feeling inspired, but there were times I left feeling anxious. However, I feel that this anxiety is nonetheless positive, as it allowed me to reflect on why I was feeling anxious and what steps I could take to dissipate this feeling; often, I found myself referring back to what had been said by the various professionals throughout the course.” “I would have liked to get some more concrete advice on how to apply to position (e.g. where to look for positions, how to send in blanket applications) and how to do well in an interview.” “There are lots of great things we can do with our degree, and being the Faculty of Information, we must accommodate the Museum people as well. We must design the panels so we meet as many interesting people as possible, as many people to represent the various angles within the Faculty as possible, and to meet as many leaders within both the MI and the MMST professions as possible. “
More Student Feedback “I figured out I could do more than be a simple librarian. I even learned that there are many opportunities for people with our credentials, that are not advertised to people in our school, as the employers dont know about our degree. This course taught me how to CHANGE our language into THEIR language, thus making MIs sellable to a new constituency.” “This was essentially a giant professional colloquium or conference broken up, and considering how expensive most of those are even for students to attend, $75 is not much to ask for this opportunity.” “I was happy to discover that my unease about the unpredictability about emerging into the rapidly changing info professional world was shared by the speakers. My generation is on the cusp of a technological revolution wave that is rapidly redefining libraries, museums, and info institutions public and private services, and we need to be ready to handle it.”
What the Speakers Said “Great class - where was this when I was in library school?” “I was struck by the students questions about how to get a job. Each speaker should perhaps address what he/she thinks is the best approach in todays job market.” “This sort of information is what the graduates need and it is good for both them and the employers who will be hiring them. They get too much theory and not enough of what happens in the real world. The profession needs to move forward as the world around us changes and they need to hear about the changes before they get out there.” “Not sure if the class currently includes road trips or hosting the class at a local employer” “I suggest the use of blogs or opportunities for students to engage with panelists virtually (perhaps with some constraints so as not to overwhelm speakers)” “Was glad to see people from outside the Library community speaking.” “From what I could tell, the students seemed to really enjoy it and it met a need that has been there for some time. It would have been great to see more students there.”
Next steps Tweaking the course to run again in fall 2011/winter 2012 Establishing a method to maintain contact with the 2011 grads – what do they end up doing? How can they be mentored, and offer mentoring to those in school? Create a formalized mentoring program; begin with new grads, but expand to all career stages. Figure out how to connect with potential information students to help them learn about our profession
Why it’s importantBecause we all benefit from mentoring, and being mentored. And, because it’s our responsibility to create the future of our profession.
THANK YOUFOR YOUR ATTENTIONKimberly SilkKimberly.Silk@rotman.utoronto.caKimberly.Silk@gmail.com@kimberlysilk