Monday, June 28, 2010

Mentoring in LibraryLand: The Guru

On the comments of my last post, a couple of people wondered how I had been successful in finding a mentor. My answer is simple: ask.

The more in-depth answer is, as usual with me, not going to fit into dot points. (Sorry @katiedavis!) I am quite active in ALIA, and it has been the glue that has held my professional life together over the last few years, as I've worked in different jobs and sectors that haven't always been in LibraryLand, or provided me with everything I need professionally. (I'm an extrovert - fixing database records was NOT a suitable job for my personality!)

So I spoke to an ALIA staff member, whom I have worked with as an ALIA volunteer for over two years, and whom I trust. She agreed that it was about time I thought strategically about where I wanted my career to go, especially as I am now settled back in Brisbane for the foreseeable future. She asked me what sector I wanted to be in - the answer is: I'm not sure. I like both public and academic libraries. Basically, I like large library services, and in terms of my interests and personality, they suit me best. Then she asked me where I wanted to be in the long run. The answer is: I want to lead, and manage a team. My joke is that I want to run LibraryLand (into the future and beyond!)
She knows a lot of people in the sector and said she'd think about who might be available, and within a week I had a name. I haven't asked this person if they are OK with our burgeoning relationship becoming public, so at this point I'll just say that they are high profile in the profession, and the leader of a library service. So, in many ways, where I want to be in the long-term.

I then emailed the object of my mentoring affections the following:

Dear retracted

I've been talking to retracted about the next step in my career, and now that I've returned to Qld and am settling back into life in Brisbane and in academic libraries, I really feel like it's time to start thinking about the future, and where I'm going professionally. I know that as retracted and running retracted Library you're very busy but I was wondering if you would have any time to consider a mentoring relationship with me? I haven't had a formal mentor for some time, and think I would really benefit from one. As you're based in retracted I would think it would mostly be via phone, however if you ever make it to Brisbane I would love some face time :-)

I understand if you don't have time, but if you could let me know either way that would be great.


I received this response:

I'm out of of the office today, 3 June, If its urgent please contact...

Oh no! They will be too busy, for sure! Then a couple of days later:

I'd be happy to give mentoring a go.

Yes we will need to do most of it by distance (phone, email, Skype) however I do visit Brisbane reasonably often so could meet f2f at times.

Its probably best if we can arrange a time to discuss how we would like this to operate.

Over to you.

After a few emails ascertaining a date and time, we had our first session this morning on the phone. We spoke for about half an hour, where I gave my mentor a brief rundown of my immediate history, and sent them my CV. We then discussed career mapping. I haven't done a structured career plan, so my mentor suggested that I do so, based on something I could find quite easily on the internet. They suggested that I include in personal goals (family) and ALIA or other professional activities as well as work goals.

I've found these so I'll have a look and a think and a mind-map before we next talk in a fortnight.
Creating a Career Map
How to create a Career Map
Seven steps to create a career map
Developing a strategic vision for your career plan

Have you found any good resources in career mapping? Any other suggestions for finding a mentor?

Tomorrow: Mentoring in LibraryLand: The Peer


  1. Thanks Nomes for this great post. I too have been wanting a mentor for awhile but have not really been too sure out to go about it.

  2. hey good on you sending that magic email and found yourself a mentor!! That was the hardest part for me but once it is sent, the rest is history.

  3. I heard Daniel Giddens from RMIT talking about reverse mentoring. Learning things from people younger in career years but with strength in other areas. He mentored a someone through the 23 things program and it worked really well.

  4. Great post! I've never thought about a mentor. I feel in a way I have a few informally but there's no 'strategic vision' behind my career plan at this stage. You've made me think maybe there should be... pondering