I’ve been on a rather lengthy blogging hiatus for a few months, for various reasons, the main one being my work-life balance.
When I last wrote back in February I was unemployed, not having worked since just before Christmas 2012. I can happily say that shortly after publishing that blog post, my life changed dramatically as I secured a new job and moved to the big, scary and far away city of London.
I haven’t blogged since partly because I’ve been too busy with work and with life, but mainly because I’ve chosen to temporarily take a step back. The last few years of my life have been dominated by libraries; it feels like most of my energy has been focused on being involved, active and getting qualified. If I’m honest, I was feeling rather tired of it all by the end of last year. The LIS community is one with many very passionate, hard working and ambitious people. It’s easy to get caught up in it all and feel the need to be constantly switched on and involved.
I have made a couple of (very non-scientific) pie charts to illustrate my work-life balance. First 2013:
Compare this to what I think last year looked like:
2012 was intense. I think I probably tried to take on too much especially at work. With my last job I ended up spending a lot of evenings and weekends either doing work or thinking about work. I also felt a lot of pressure to stretch myself in terms of CPD, for example I started attending London events even though I was living in Leeds. This year CPD related activities such as blogging, reading stuff and being a generally active person within the LIS community both on and offline have taken a backseat which has been refreshingly wonderful. 2013 has been the year of less commitments. I’ve taken a committee role, written an article for a CILIP SIG journal and given a careers talk which to others may seem like a lot but by my standards in recent years it is nothing at all.
This year I’ve taken a step back to try and find my happiness in other areas of my life. To devote more time to adventures with friends and family. To spend my energy on the people I love. I’ve done big things like travelling (New York, it was amazing) and focused more energy on everyday changes such as more socialising, running and photography. For example I no longer spend most lunch breaks sat at my laptop reading library related things and instead I socialise over lunch with work colleagues or go running along the River Thames.
I still probably don’t have the balance right. I’m realising I should probably increase the CPD wedge of my pie as it is quite small. My latest copy of CILIP Update is still in the plastic so I will unwrap that as a good start.
I recently attended a library workshop organised by a CILIP special interest group. To begin we had to go round the room introducing ourselves, including where we were from. It was mainly university library staff with some library school students (who also all had employers too) and a couple of public librarians too. Then we came to my turn to speak;
“Hi I’m Laura. I’m not from any organisation as I’m unemployed at the moment”
Not my greatest professional moment. Although I’ve put on brave face and kept up a positive persona, at that moment I wanted to run for the door.
For most even the shortest spell of unemployment can cause stress about money and the future, leading to depression and feelings of low self-worth. Not having a job slowly chips away at your soul when you love your career and what you do. The last few years of my life have been almost wholly defined by my career in libraries and information. Our jobs construct a large proportion of our identity. For me being a librarian is about more than just the job however the longer you don’t have a job the harder it becomes to identify as a librarian. It’s easy to fall down the route of depression and self-pity but thankfully I survived my short period of unemployment with the help of the following strategies.
- Structure - One of the hardest things about not having a job is often the lack of structure and routine. I found it easiest to treat job hunting like a regular 9-5 job with a lunch hour. Although it didn’t always work perfectly it helped to set an alarm for the same time everyday and to take a lunch break away from my computer. I always walked to and from work, so I started my day with a short walk to put myself in the right frame of mind whilst job hunting at home.
- Flexibility – To succeed in finding a job readjustment of your plans might be required. Compromise is likely to be important especially if you’ve been out of work for a while or don’t have the luxury of being able to take your time to find the next dream job. You may not need to compromise but I recommend thinking about what area you would be willing to compromise on. If you can’t move for a job then you might want to broaden your search criteria to include non-traditional roles or non-traditional environments. Or if your heart is set on working in particular sector then think about how far you are willing to relocate. The dream for me would have been an information related role in Liverpool as that’s the type of work I love, in the city I love. Unfortunately as that is unlikely to happen anytime soon, it has been a choice between the location or the job. My compromise has been letting go of specific ambitions about a ‘dream’ job for the chance to live in a ‘dream’ city. I was offered a great job but the location wasn’t right so I turned it down because I knew I wouldn’t be happy. In the end I’ve found a job I’d never considered before which offers the chance to live in a city that I’ve always wanted to move to.
- Positivity – Positivity is required to survive unemployment. Unemployment makes everything seem bleak. The lack of jobs. Putting everything into applications only to never hear anything. Rejection emails. Having no money. Visiting the job centre. It is all quite rubbish but finding small ways to stay positive helps a lot. Volunteer to gain new skills or take up a new hobby to fill your time when not applying for jobs. Anything that helps give back a little self-worth will help in the job hunt. Remember that you never know what is just around the corner. A week ago I was filling in my job seekers book and feeling depressed about the fact I hadn’t even been paid job seekers allowance for all my troubles yet. Now I have a job to start next week.
I won’t sugar coat the reality. Unemployment has been a rather rubbish experience. I’ve only had to do this for 6 weeks, and I’m aware others have it a lot worse, but it has felt like a very long time. Tomorrow I will send my job seekers allowance book back to the job centre and hope to never have to explain to the staff there that a librarian does more at work than give people books.
Good luck to anyone reading who is struggling with unemployment at the moment. I hope there is something good just around the corner for you.
I never used my phone for regularly reading the news. I do keep up with the news on my phone but only on an ad hoc basis, not much more than links shared on Twitter and occasionally checking in with the BBC News website or The Guardian.
However I recently heard about an app for iPhone called Summly, which is a news app with a bit of a difference (or I’ve not come across anything like it at least). The app uses clever algorithms to bring together content from news sources around the web, presenting news stories as summaries by pulling out the key sentences from articles.
As the screenshot above shows, the app groups together news stories into key subject categories. Simply select a category and then swipe through the main news stories from in summarised form. If you want to read a particular story in more detail then you can do that too through the app. My favourite thing about the potential of this app is the flexibility to set up custom topics. I’ve done this with the topic of libraries, which means I now have a news feed on my phone with quick summaries of news related to libraries. You can also save stories or share via Twitter, Facebook and email within the app.
The mix of news sources for libraries is generally good. At the moment in Summly for libraries I’ve got stories from BBC News, CNBC, NBC, and The Daily Telegraph alongside many regional news sources from around the world.
I love the idea of this kind of app. I’m always stretched for time when it comes to current awareness and don’t have time to read through full news articles everyday. A summary is a perfect compromise which means I can scan through the key points and then investigate more fully anything which catches my attention. I’ll be using it to keep myself informed of the latest library related stories from now on.
This year I am writing a list of things I wish to achieve this year rather than make resolutions to do more of this or that.
Short Term Goals
- Find a job: I am currently an unemployed job seeker so finding a job is a must. I’m optimistic this will be a short term goal because I will go stir-crazy if I’m unemployed for much longer (and it’s only been one week so far!).
- Volunteer whilst job hunting: Whilst I’m unemployed I am determined to gain some useful experiences so my CV doesn’t have a huge gaping hole. I’d like to find a volunteer/work experience opportunity related to libraries or information which will add new skills to my CV.
- Organise a Tweet-up: Whilst I’m back home and feeling a little friendless I will organise a Liverpool library tweet-up.
Long Term Goals
- Become chartered: I’ve talked about intending to start chartership a lot of the past year and never managed to fully commit myself to commencing the process because job hunting takes priority. I’ve got as far as attending a chatership event and making enquiries with potential mentors. It’s a start but this year I will get chartered.
- Speak at a conference or professional event: This is something that I very much wanted to do on a couple of occasions last year, but wasn’t able to for various reasons. I overcame the stumbling block of not knowing what on earth I am knowledgeable enough to talk about by discovering my specialist subject, television information management. However my idea for Umbrella fell through as it was very work based and I left my job at said workplace. I will try to fulfil my ambition to present at a conference this year by at least submitting a proposal for something or becoming enough of an expert in something to be asked to speak at an event.
Today was my first official day of unemployment. My last day at work was the Friday before Christmas and I have used the rest of my annual leave over Christmas. From today I am no longer a media librarian, instead I am a job seeking information professional. To ease myself into this new role, today has been spent taking the first steps in creating a new professional identity for myself. My Twitter bio and blog profile have been updated to reflect my current status as unemployed, or to put a more positive spin on it, a job seeker. Until today the reality of not going back to work hadn’t quite sunk in, and to be honest I’m still feeling as though I’m just on holiday and not unemployed.
Leaving was difficult but the right thing to do. Scary but necessary. This was the first time I’ve left a job with nothing new to move on to. It is the first time that I have actively chosen to leave. Although my current role was coming to an end as it was a fixed term contract, I think there would have been an option of staying and doing something else, should I have pushed for it. However I felt the time was right to move on and find a new beginning for 2012, new challenges and fresh experiences. The end of a contract and the end of a year seemed to be the perfect chance to leave a city which was clearly not the right place for me.
My main reason for deciding to leave was the location. I greatly enjoyed my job and loved working in television however my heart was not in Leeds. I stuck it out for over a year and tried to give it a chance but I think happiness was always going to be elusive. If I could have picked up the archive department and moved it to our London office I would have stayed for longer, as I did love being a television librarian. However I don’t love it enough to compromise on location. I can be just as happy at work as an information professional in a different sector but in a location which brings more happiness outside of work.
The scariest part is perhaps not knowing what comes next nor when I will next earn money (although I have at least been able to move back home to live with my family so the financial stress is lessened which I am very thankful for). To be honest I’m not entirely sure what I want to do next. I’d love to stay at home for a while as this is the first time I’ve lived full-time on Merseyside since 2006 when I left for university. I love this area and feel like I belong here however jobs are hard to come by whilst library jobs are practically non-existent. I would like to move to London although the stresses of the cost of living, house sharing and having to commute by public transport for the first time in my working life do put me off.
So although I am terrified at having no plan or ideas about what next I am excited because I want to have new experiences, learn new things and develop different skills. Leaving my employer and allowing myself the freedom to try something new will hopefully prove to be a good decison.
Five good things:
1. Friends that are totes amazeballs.
Last night I spent almost an hour on the phone to two of my bestest friends. It was a conversation about nothing much in particular but it was exactly what I needed to counter the Sunday blues.
I love running. Sometimes it a huge struggle to find the motivation to put on my trainers and go outside but once I’m out there I’m happy. There is nothing better than running through the park on a crisp and sunny autumn day.
3. Four weeks until I leave Leeds to move back to Merseyside.
I’ve not enjoyed life in Leeds. I miss home and my favourite city more than I can explain so moving is something to look forward to, especially as it coincides with Christmas.
I love soup and could quite happily eat it every day. I’ve developed a passion for soup making recently, so at the weekend I made a delicious cheap and healthy soup with carrots, butternut squash and sweet potato.
My life has a good number of adventures in it, even if they are just trips home, or to London. I do have a big adventure to New York to look forward to in January which is spurring me on through rubbish days.
Firstly, I finished CPD23. Last year I dropped out halfway through so I was determined to make it through all 23 Things this year and I have. Time for a rather large pat on the back.
Chartership is next for me. I’ve been pondering it for a while but my life has been very much in flux this year so I didn’t want to commit myself to chartership just yet. Although it is the next logical step after library school and some of my cohort have already embarked upon the challenge I figure there is plenty of time for chartership. I have however registered for the Certification, Chartership, Revalidation and beyond event in London in November as a way of kickstarting my chartership process. Although my employment status for 2013 currently looks set to unemployed so serious chartership efforts will likely need to be postponed whilst I seek work.
The decision to embark upon chartership and my nearly unemployed status means I need to seriously consider the skills and knowledge I possess, as well as identify the areas which need improvement (or in some cases even a beginners level of expertise). I’ve done a SWOT analysis of my skills and I’m part way through examining the Professional Skills and Knowledge Base to identify my areas of professional strength and weakness.
I think lots of self-evaluation will be very helpful in the coming weeks and months as I continue my job hunting. Over the last few months of endless job applications I’ve become aware of some areas that I am lacking in but I don’t think I recognise my strengths as much as I should. I find myself looking a job adverts and focusing on the thing I don’t have experience of or the skills that I am missing rather than looking at the other aspects that I am perhaps rather good at.
I guess all I need to do now is keep going. Wish me luck, I am probably going to need it.