Speaking publicly, whilst being truly terrified

If you've seen me talk in front of people, and you've thought that I seemed fairly calm and collected while doing so, that is really nice of you, because even just thinking about public speaking makes my palms sweat, and I know that I'm not alone.

I swear I'm not trying to perpetuate a stereotype, but I am, in fact, a socially anxious, introverted individual. I just know that outwardly appearing that way in the workplace is not going to get me to where I want to be. 

One faithful day in September, I came across a course entitled, "Public Speaking for Beginners and the Truly Terrified" instructed by one Lauren Sergy. I closed my eyes and said to myself, "here goes nothing".

Upon first meeting Lauren, the stereotypical librarian may be taken aback by the enormous surge of energy that she emits on the regular. What you end up learning, however, is that Lauren feeds off of the energy generated by her clients' growth in speaking and presenting abilities, and then redistributes that energy right back to her clients. 

Lauren tackles the monster that is public speaking into smaller bites that are easier to work with, while incorporating physiological explanations, and drowning out your fears through continued exposure by having you talk about things that matter to you. 

After a few months of that, I remain a socially anxious introvert, but I am able to take some of my nervous energy and turn it into enthusiasm, even if my brain is running a full-blown panic on the inside. I still can't say that public speaking is my favourite thing to do, but when I do it, I no longer wish for someone to pull me off the stage with one of those comically long canes. 

Honestly, if you're a nervous speaker like me or even if you just feel like your presentations could use an extra breath of life, I would highly recommend working with Lauren. 

Lauren has brought "Public Speaking for Beginners and the Truly Terrified" back for another term, and two-fold!

P.S. For my next challenge, Lauren is working with me to make one of my presentations conference-ready this year. So, look out, conference planners and goers! I'm coming for you!

Embracing Happenstance

On Monday, I had the privilege of participating in a panel for the Professional Development: Library and Information Studies Career Forum hosted jointly by the University of Alberta Career Centre and School of Library and Information Studies (SLIS).

In my presentation, I decided to steer away from simply talking about my day-to-day routines at work, and focused on what I felt students might be more concerned about - looking for employment in the field after graduating. At first, I was a bit hesitant to participate in the panel, because I knew that the other panelists would have years more of experience than me. I was reassured by the organizers that I would still have something of value to offer by speaking on my experience as a recent MLIS graduate, and I am so glad I did this.

And now, I'm going to lay out my talk here for the rest of the world to see. I hope that it will bring you some inspiration, a little "it'll all be okay" nudge, and maybe even some courage. 

I essentially covered the following 3 things to consider when job searching/hunting:

  1. Build a strong and diverse network.
  2. Develop a solid professional presence.
  3. Be brave.

To convey the applicability of those 3 things to finding gainful employment, I told the story of how I ended up with my first permanent position in the field as the Law Librarian for Emery Jamieson LLP, which I will gladly re-tell!

Back in August 2014, I completed my MLIS program and moved back to my hometown of Edmonton, AB. I was a bit wary of moving back with the economy being the way it was/is, but I was homesick, and decided that I could compensate for my decision by trying everything to find work. I sought after volunteer opportunities, even if it meant traveling a bit outside of Edmonton. I took on small contracts in the meantime so that I had some form of income. I reached out to librarians and asked them to tell me about their jobs and to give me tours of their libraries.

Then in December, my former boss from when I was a library assistant at the courthouse library told me about the Edmonton Law Libraries Association (ELLA) Christmas Mixer, where I could meet other law librarians and legal info pros. I actually have a lot of social anxiety, so I really pushed myself to go, but I am so glad that I did. At the mixer, I met a wonderful law librarian, and we chatted pretty casually, and continued so even afterwards, while traveling home. After we parted ways, I didn't expect anything to come from it, but I had already learned a lot by hearing from her.

About 2 months later, that same law librarian sent me an email saying that she knew about a firm that was seeking someone to provide consultation for library management. After expressing my strong interest, she provided me with the HR contact information for the firm, which I called up right away. After what seemed like less than a minute on the phone with HR, I scheduled an informational interview for the very next morning. When I visited the firm the next day, HR and I discussed what the needs of the firm were, and what I could possibly offer them. I felt that it had been a pretty constructive meeting, and learned a lot about corporate environments even from that conversation, so I walked away trying not to think too much of it. 1 month later, HR sent me an email requesting a meeting with the COO of the firm to discuss a job offer. It's been about 9 months now, and I'm still the solo librarian for Emery Jamieson LLP. I'm still constantly learning, but I have a much better grasp on things for certain.

I'd like to re-visit those 3 "things to consider", because these are things I did to actively better my chances in a not-so-willing job market. I'm going to elaborate on them in the same way I did for these students.

Build a strong and diverse network.

  • Think what you will about how much I preach about networking, but it is definitely something worthwhile. You might know everyone who you know, but you don't necessarily know who you know knows. I may only be in my first year in the LIS field, but I know wonderful individuals in the realms of public libraries, academic libraries, prospect research, competitive intelligence, knowledge management, and more! I even know a librarian in New York City, and another in Qatar! As it was iterated by another panelist, the library world is surprisingly small.
  • It's helpful even just to have a pep squad at hand for when you need some encouragement, support, or advice. And remember - networking does not have to be with those in your field.
  • And if you don't know where to start, start with me! 

Develop a solid professional presence.

  • Know your own resume inside and out. If there's something listed on your resume that you can't recollect or elaborate on, leave it out. Why take the chance of being asked about that one thing in an interview? Your resume should be a snapshot of you as a professional. And leave some things to mention in your cover letter and/or interview!
  • Keep a portfolio of your best work from classes, volunteer projects, and employment experiences that you can showcase. How much more convincing would it be in an interview if instead of leaving the panel to take your word for it, you gave them something tangible to take and consider? Think about policies you've written up, LibGuides you've done, instructional designs - whatever you think portrays your best professional self. 
  • Be present. Create business cards and/or a LinkedIn profile. Put yourself out there so that more people know your name. Even if you're still working towards your MLIS, just say that you're an MLIS candidate if it makes you more comfortable. A colleague of mine once told me, it's always nice when someone gives you their business card and you're able to give them something too. It helps them remember you better too!

Be BRAVE.

  • A quote by Ms. Frizzle best captivates this: "Take chances, make mistakes, get messy". 
  • Know that it's okay to fail or be rejected sometimes. Unfortunately, it's going to happen to you at some point, so be as prepared as you can be, and take everything on as a learning experience. So what if you didn't get this one! You can get the next one. You now have something to work on and improve to make sure you get something even better.

Just like I told the SLIS students, consider these 3 things, and I'm sure you'll be okay.

#SLAyingBoston

Last month, I attended the SLA Annual Conference in Boston, MA! It was my first time traveling to the US on my own, my first visit to Boston, but my second time to the SLA (last year, it was in Vancouver). I cannot express enough how gratifying and inspiring it is to attend a congregation of information professionals who share the same dreams and challenges!

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The conference badges only allowed you to have one occupation, so because I was presenting a poster for Musée Héritage Museum, and work there 3 days a week, that was what I went with. Regardless, I was able to attend sessions for each of my jobs, which were equally as informative and inspiring. 

This year, for the first time, the conference organizers held a Joint Poster Session and invited seasoned professionals, new professionals, and students alike to submit proposals based on the Be Revolutionary! theme. To my pleasant surprise, my poster on the marketing strategies used by Musée Héritage Museum was accepted! With a profound amount of support from the staff at the museum and from the rest of the Arts and Heritage Foundation of St. Albert, I was able to put together a poster that reflected how sometimes "being revolutionary" can mean using basic, grass roots strategies to draw interest. you can read more about my poster session experience on the museum blog!

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In the production of my poster, I utilized 2 great, free online tools! The first is Canva, a platform that allows you to make beautiful works of graphic design online at no cost! You do have the option of purchasing certain add-ons as on other similar media, but most Canva elements are available free of charge. You can use it to make anything from business cards to Facebook cover photos to menus to invitations and of course, customizable posters, down to its dimensions! After completing your design, you can choose to download it as an image file, or as a high resolution PDF. Canva is my new dear friend. My new dear addicting friend.

The second is called Spoonflower, which is actually a fabric-printing site. Did you know that you can print a poster on fabric too? Just as you would with creating your own printed fabric, you simply upload an image, and select the size and type of fabric that you would like it to be printed on. It makes for an easy, lightweight poster to travel with! Just fold it up, stick it in your suitcase, and press the creases out with an iron when you reach your destination. Who needs a poster tube?

Even though this was only my second time attending SLA, I felt so much more confident and relaxed. I already knew how to get the most out of sessions as possible, how to approach fellow professionals in the field and make connections with them, and how to effectively collect as much conference swag as possible. I went on extravagant adventures with librarians I didn't know before the Boston trip, in search of free reception food at the Westin (the primary hotel of the conference), listened to librarians rocking it out at the karaoke party, and danced the night away with librarians who just love to have a good time. 

I am still learning more and more about the field, but I am 12 months more of an information professional than I was at the last conference! I currently serve on the board of the SLA Western Canada Chapter as their Membership Chair, and because of that, I made an effort to connect with the other wonderful beings who also sit on this board, whom I had previously only heard the voices of via teleconference. It was great to match faces to names, bounce ideas off of each other over some delicious Bostonian food.

By the way, if you are in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Yukon, Northwest Territories, or Nunavut, please reach out to us as you belong to our chapter too! We always welcome new faces, and are constantly seeking new ideas and opportunities for our members :)

If you are on the fence about attending SLA, I would highly encourage you to take on the opportunity wholeheartedly, or even to attend any other library conference out there! Perhaps, I will see some of you in Philly next year!