Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Mentoring in LibraryLand: The Peer

Yesterday a talked about finding a career mentor, or a guru. Today I want to talk about finding a peer mentor.

You probably have some unofficial peer mentors already. People you studied librarianship with that you've stayed close to, or who you may have worked with or been on professional committees with. I have a great professional network in this way, partly because I studied my library quals internally at QUT and did a lot of group work, and partly because of my continuing work with ALIA and my love of meeting new people (some call it networking). Also, I'm mouthy and loud and tend to go up to people and say "HI! I'm Nomes! Be my friend!"

However, if you are starting in a new job or position or workplace, it can be very useful to find someone who works in the organisation that you work in, who is in a similar position to you, but is a couple of years more established in the role. That way they can provide you with tips and advice on how to do the job, but they are not your manager or team leader, so you may be able to be more open with them about concerns you have, issues you're struggling with. And if they're relatively new to the role and organisation (say, less than three years) they will likely still remember enough about what they didn't know when they started, and still know where to find and therefore pass onto you, those useful bits of organisational knowledge that people who have been there longer don't even realise they know, and never pass on.

Peer mentors don't have to be of a similar age to you, but in some circumstances it can be helpful. This is particularly pertinent if you work in an organisation where, for example, most of the professional staff are over 40, and you feel a bit like a fish out of water. I've found having another new grad-like person to talk to about issues at MPOW has been really valuable. For one thing, apart from the library's official twitter account and our university librarian who tweets, we seem to be the only librarians at OPOW that are really into social media. We both tweet, and we're both involved in #blogeverydayofjune.

I'm very lucky in this way, to have found a peer mentor that I have so much in common with. We already knew each other - studied together - but we have not had a lot to do with each other professionally until I moved to OPOW. She's been here a few years, and has a much better lay of the land than me - but I have a lot more professional association experience, and other LibraryLand experience than her. So we're mentoring each other - it will soon become official, through OPOW staff development program, and hopefully we will both gain a lot from the experience. I have already gained more enthusiasm, a greater feeling of support, and I feel like I have somewhere else to turn to with my questions (I am a big asker of questions!)

Before I leave on this topic (for now), I must mention the number one important part of any mentoring relationship: TRUST.

In order to have a really effective relationship that you need with a peer, I think you really need to have a good idea of what kind of person your potential mentor is. You are likely going to be asking questions about your job that some people would assume you should "just know". That, of course, is rubbish, but if there's anything I've learned from working in so many different library sectors and cities it's that people who have been at the one organisation for years think everyone does things the way they do things. It's the old silo effect. So you need to be sure that you are comfortable talking to your peer mentor about uncertainties you may have, and that you can trust them not to gasbag, or talk to your or other managers without permission. Of course, if you have real issues with your workload you should always speak to your manager, but for advice like "How do you find approaching academics works the best?" or "What coding do you use in your blog to ensure the pictures authenticate?" it's often best to talk to a colleague, a peer.

Once again, happy to hear how others have found peer mentors and any other tips you might have for mentoring relationships.

Tomorrow is my birthday so I'm not sure what/when/how I'll be posting, but I plan to continue blogging beyond the #blogeverydayofjune challenge. I've really enjoyed getting to "know" all the library boggers and commenters, and my weight loss journey is far from over.

So stay tuned for more from SkinniBitch!

1 comment:

  1. Wow - how awesome! (this comment related to both this post and the previousone). I have never been that structured in coordinating my career - it scares me to think where I could end up! And I have to admit I've never had a mentor, though I do use informal peer mentors a lot! thanks for giving me something to think about!