Some people say fake-it-til-you-make-it, I prefer to feel confident that I am well prepared and ready to ask the right questions…
Most of us, young or old, experienced or not, will encounter some difficulties when we eventually find a much sought after information role. It is likely that we will find ourselves working as part of an organisation or team that is already overstretched and under staffed. I have a had a lot of first days, in a lot of different types of jobs, and no matter where it is, there is always a lot to learn. It doesn’t really matter if you have been hired as an intern or a manager; if the role is new to you, you have something to discover from those around you. The problem is that no matter how brilliant the workplace, the reality is that there probably isn’t a lot of time for training and induction. So how can we negotiate this and try to make things better for ourselves? I am a library and information professional, and I’d like to think I am well equipped to help others to search and discover, and to become independent learners. In all sorts of library roles, we are expected to be able to deliver some instruction or a variety of teaching. It may just so happen that like me, you find yourself working with people who are not so well equipped to train and teach. In this situation, we have to use our information literacy skills and any other teaching experience to become both the teacher and the student in one.
Take some time to think about what would be the most useful way to frame a question to get the best results from your colleagues, consider what exactly your learning objective is and elicit that from whoever you can ask. Figure out exactly what you don’t understand – remember when you used to tell your maths teacher you didn’t understand anything, and she would sigh and try and find out where exactly you were lost in a sum? Try to have this ground work covered before you call for help in work! Don’t be afraid to clarify their answer, they may have been doing this job for years and a tricky basic may have become second nature (like your mother trying to teach you how to drive).
Make list of problems you are having with your work and try to bring them together in a few concise questions at one particular time – or assess if this is the best approach with your busy peers. I have found that particular times of the day are busier so it’s best to work on what you can at that time and ask questions later.
Communicate – talk to as many different people and find out what their particular roles and strengths are, so that you can spread your questions out amongst your new team. Think of it as receiving mixed-method instruction!
These are just a few thoughts I had as I work within a big corporation with a team of lovely people, who are all excellent at their jobs, but who are not teachers. I know a lot of people will encounter some more teachery types in traditional library roles and maybe this won’t be relevant. But it’s important not to just struggle through if you don’t have the answers. In a previous job, I knew that there were people just out of reach who could really help me with the work I was doing, but was reluctant to make contact with them. Eventually after becoming completely frustrated, I asked my boss to arrange a meeting with these people. It was a real turning point in the project and I gained just enough knowledge and support to drive me on to the next stage. We’re librarians, we’re supposed to be good at finding answers – so go find them!