Stepping up #mentors

What began as a post reflecting on my journey of finding a mentor has morphed into a different post altogether.

I’ve come to realise that I believe more strongly (than I originally thought) that the mentoring of new information professionals is vitally important for the GLAM sectors going forward, whether it is inside the structured framework of a workplace program or under the umbrella of a professional association).

Structured mentoring is about actively supporting & encouraging those who are stepping out in their sparkly new shoes into the professional world, and we owe it to new graduates to provide a support network & to welcome them into the exciting world of the various GLAM sectors that we work in. Leaving newbies to find their own way might work for some individuals, but I think that expecting total independence & self-assurance might actually increase the level of floundering and leave many feeling quite lost & isolated, and wondering why on earth they decided to get into the gallery/library/museum/archives sectors in the first place.

I see real strengths in having a non-workplace mentoring program, as it :

  • provides an opportunity for new gradautes to see a career pathway broader than their current workplace;
  • allows a new graduate access to someone neutral to bounce ideas off;
  • creates the opportunity to check in with someone who isn’t their direct supervisor about workplace issues;
  • develops a professional network outside their current workplace; and
  • strengthens the profession up & down the ranks.

All sounds good so far doesn’t it?

So what’s the catch?

While there’s now a growing number of new graduates wanting & needing to be mentored as part of professional association programs, such as the LIANZA professional registration program, the catch is, do we actually have enough willing mentors to ensure the sustainability of such mentoring programs?

I’m standing on the sidelines nodding profusely with agreement about what a great idea a new graduates’ mentoring program is. And yet, up until this past week, I didn’t actually believe that I was in a position to actively contribute to the ongoing success of this type of program. I didn’t think that I would have anything to offer, yet, and that I was certainly far too early in my career to be part of the a formal mentoring program in the role of mentor.

Yet, as a newbie not that long ago, one of the things that I struggled with was not seeing people like me in the profession. I didn’t know of anyone who’d never worked in a library before tackling the M.L.I.S. I didn’t know of people who wanted to break/hack/challenge the status quo. I didn’t hear other people asking “but why?” in their search for a different way of doing things. More importantly, I didn’t know who to talk to about all the things I was struggling to get my head around, as most of it wasn’t specifically work-related, it was profession-related.

Looking back now, I realise that I was incredibly lucky to have great workplace Team Leaders & supervisors who obviously saw me struggling, and who took me under their wing, they gently reminded me not to keep pushing & pushing, because there are plenty of other ways to make change happen other than constantly banging your head against a brick wall. They provided me with guidance, created opportunities, opened doors, pointed me in the direction of people who could help with my questions. Without several of them in my corner, it’s highly likely that I would have left the profession not long after I entered it had I been left to my own devices.

So what does this all mean?

It’s my turn now.

Instead of expecting others to step up to the mark and be a mentor, I realise that I’m actually the one who needs to step up. And I need to encourage my peers to do the same. Now, not at some distant point in the future when I am ” an experienced professional”.

Those of us who have 5 to 10 years experience *do* have things to offer a new graduate, instead of shrinking back and letting the way  more experienced folks shoulder all the work of being a mentor. While I still expect the experienced practitioners to be part of the program too, there’s a definite place for those of us who are “recent graduates”.

While I’m not currently in a position to be on any professional association committees, I could make a contribution on a one-to-one level instead. In stepping up, I could also create some visibility of early career librarians, to demonstrate what we bring to the table.

It’s exciting to finally make this realisation, but don’t get me wrong, I am also pretty darn nervous about this decision. What if I don’t actually get accepted to be a mentor by the LIANZA Registration Board? What if no new graduate wants me to be their mentor?

There’s really only one way to find out the answser to those questions, isn’t there? I have set the wheels in motion to find out what it will take for me to be part of the pool of mentors with LIANZA.

I’m stepping up.

Dare you to join me.

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2 thoughts on “Stepping up #mentors

  1. I adopted a mentor as I went through Library School – a senior manager in another library – and we catch up whenever I can squeeze some time. Its proved invaluable on finding which battles to fight, and getting an unbiased ear to run ideas against. I think it helps her consider things from another perspective as well, with fresh eyes. I’m lucky in that I have very approachable managers who are frank and transparent in my career aspirations.

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