This week, we welcome Former Librarian Lisa onto the blog who has some very interesting and extensive answers to the usual questions. Lisa's career is interesting as circumstances meant that she did not take up a library role after gaining her library qualification, instead taking on employment with an education company. Over the last few years she has diversified into a portfolio career that involves editing work (as did Former Librarian #8) and career coaching. Despite not having followed a more obvious library path, Lisa feels that her "inner librarian" is of great use to her work.
Current role: Self-employed Editorial Project Manager at Careershifters, and career change coach.
Editorial Project Manager at a vocational training company (2008-16)
Digidocs Project Assistant at the History Faculty Library, Oxford, 2006-7
Graduate Trainee Library Assistant, Nuffield College, Oxford, 2005-6
What led you to move on from libraries?
I was all set to move into permanent library work after completing my master’s degree in Library and Information Science. I had a role lined up and had gone through an extensive recruitment process to get it. However, the position involved relocating to a completely new area. After I moved I realised I was deeply unhappy living in the new area, so far from family and friends. Although the job was phenomenal, I wasn’t prepared to sacrifice everything to stay in it. So I decided, reluctantly, that I needed to move back home.
Living in the Home Counties, the best chances for finding library work are in Oxford or London. I ruled out London as I didn’t want a repeat of the previous situation, and instead scoured the Oxford library listings for potential opportunities. I had a good interview for a post but wasn’t successful. With financial pressures mounting, I looked for work closer to home, in Berkshire, while temping with a start-up training company run by an old schoolfriend’s parents. I had another interview lined up in a public library for outreach work, but my friend’s parents were so impressed with my skills (mostly librarianship-related: to do with managing their data and conducting research) that they offered me a permanent role, at a much higher salary than the public library post could offer. I felt that I could carve out a role at the company using my information skills, and decided to try this route, hoping to become an advocate for the information profession within the company’s immediate network, and to help my employers to see the benefits that information professionals could offer. However, this did mark the end of my seeking work in a traditional library environment.
My wishes for the post certainly played out, initally. I even contributed to a CILIP event on the art of ‘negotiating’ one’s own role. However, as the company grew, my role shifted from information and data, to developing the learning programme and working with actual learning materials. This felt natural for me as it used both my librarianship skills and a host of editorial skills that I had also developed over the years. I remember feeling that the new role was a perfect blend for me, although I doubted that the ‘true’ library profession would consider that I was still a librarian at all!
Over the years I became deeply disillusioned with the way the company was being run and decided to take my career back into my own hands. I became self-employed and started an editorial services business. Although this didn’t initially generate much work I learnt a lot about how to set up a business. Alongside this, seeking a fresh start, a new income stream and a different challenge, I decided to train as a personal coach. I set up my coaching practice in 2013 and have been working with clients ever since. Alongside this, my editorial work led to a contract for subediting work, and later editorial project management with the major career change organisation, Careershifters. I have since started to niche my coaching practice into the arena of career change coaching.
I am now a true portfolio careerist, using a mixture of editorial, librarianship and coaching skills with a little entrepreneurship to create a career mix that works for me.
What do you do in your current role?
For Careershifters, I maintain a busy editorial schedule, planning content, sourcing it and liaising with authors to ensure that it is delivered on time. I also maintain various content logs, chase progress and deadlines (also known as cat herding), and ensure article comments are responded to by the team in a timely manner. I run the team’s editorial meetings, and ensure that appropriate progress is being made towards quarterly and annual team goals. I write social media posts about the various pieces of content we publish, and help prepare weekly newsletters that showcase the best of our output for a growing mailing list (currently around 70,000 subscribers). I also subedit all content that is published by the team and am developing processes with our founder to ensure that the quality of archived material is frequently reviewed and improved in line with high editorial standards. The work is flexible and team members all work remotely; therefore, it fits well around my family commitments.
What library skills do you use in your current role?
* Categorising information and noticing patterns and themes within it
* Digitising information
Team-knowledge capture and systems / process documentation - something the team is particularly keen to ensure
* Understanding information search behaviours
* Understanding user experience online
Various organisational and project management skills learnt through running library projects in the past.
A certain way of thinking – a systematic and detail-orientated approach that supports and provides structure to the more creative work of others in the team – that is common, I think, to many librarians
Do you think that your library skills helped you to get this position?
Yes, but perhaps in a subtle way.
I am more organised and methodical as a result of my library experiences. I can see both fine detail and the big picture. The team needed an editor that could employ this approach to best support its work. And this makes me an ideal person to maintain the organisation’s content archive.
The founder really responded well to this aspect of my experience during our recruitment conversations.
What other skills have you had to acquire since leaving the library profession in order to enable you to carry out your work?
I gained a formal proofreading qualification from the Publishing Training Centre. I also undertook my coaching qualification and subsequent specialist career change coach training.
Do you maintain any professional memberships or are there new ones which are more appropriate?
I have let my CILIP membership lapse as it’s simply not required in my role. I was a member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders for some time. Now I am a member of the International Coach Federation.
Do you have any future plans/aspirations?
I want to add another business element to my portfolio career, perhaps making and selling something rather than offering a service. I have a few ideas, but they are all still in development at the moment.
I also want to gain my ACC credential with the ICF and continue to niche my coaching practice into career change work.
I want to continue developing my role with Careershifters, becoming a contributor for the team.
Anything else that you’d like to tell us?
I used to worry about the fact that I wasn’t overtly making use of my library skills in the traditional sense; I even worried that I was wasting all those years of training and study. I even used to feel I had to justify myself when people asked why the library ‘thing’ hadn’t worked out for me.
But, actually, I look back now and consider that those skills are a hugely important aspect of my career. The Careershifters team LOVE my ‘inner librarian’ and how I am able to bring those skills to bear on my work. Blending those skills with my editorial talents, and now my career change coaching (and content) work, has allowed me to develop a unique portfolio career that feels more thoroughly ‘me’ than anything I have done before.
I couldn’t have got to this point without my work in libraries.