Monday, July 12, 2010

Working hard, or hardly working?

For the last several years, I've been focusing on other things in my life besides work. I have a good job, that I enjoy very much, but I have been content to coast along, enjoying the security of my permanent contract with the federal government, learning lots and making some good contacts, but not really giving much thought to any sort of career path or advancement. Now other things have fallen into place (relationship, marriage, social circle, etc.) and at the same time some interesting and exciting opportunities have opened up at work, and my thoughts have turned to a longer term focus for my career. I don't necessarily want or think it's wise to stay in my current position for the rest of my working life, although I do very much enjoy what I'm doing at the moment. I have a fear of stagnating, though -- I think it has started to happen a little bit already, and I'd like to keep that from getting worse.

A couple of months ago a call was sent out for someone to start working with our rare books librarian, who will be retiring next year and, is so often the case with someone with such specialized training, has a lot of knowledge and skills she would like to pass on before she leaves. I lept at the chance (seriously, I had my email sent to the division chief within five minutes of the announcement), and anyone who knows me well will understand why. I have a great passion for history, and a great passion for books, and so what better than to combine the two? That training hasn't started yet, but I'm expecting to begin any day and am really looking forward to it. This wouldn't replace my current duties, but is more something that I would do part time ... maybe one or two afternoons a week. It would mean a change for me, a different skill set (and one that is extremely valuable and portable should I decide one day to move on from my cushy government job), and I could make some connections with people in other parts of the institution. As much as I hate the concept of networking, it really is true that in many ways it's not what you know, it's who you know, particularly when it comes to employment, particularly in the government, particularly in Ottawa. So I see this as a huge step forward for me.

And then a few weeks ago I was approached by my team leader and asked if I would be willing to give a presentation to the division on the new international cataloguing rules that will be coming into effect next year. I sort of got myself into this mess by not keeping my mouth shut at a division meeting recently where I ended up spokesperson for our group (we had to break into groups, brainstorm, and then report back), and apparently I impressed some management-type people with my public speaking ability. I agreed to do the presentation for a couple of reasons. Number one, of course, is that when your team leader comes to you and says "how would you like ...?" the answer pretty generally is "I'd love to," whether you would or not. But beyond that, I see this as a really great opportunity for me. For one thing, the new international cataloguing rules are coming, whether we like it or not, and I have to learn them. This gives me a kick in the ass to get started on that (up until now I'd been kind of ignoring them and hoping they'd go away), and an opportunity to talk to people who have been involved with the development of the rules and standards from the start. I think it will help to have some understanding of the philosophy and structure behind the rules, rather than just being told "put a period here, where we used to put a comma." Also, if I can establish myself as an expert on and on the leading edge of the new rules in the division, I'll probably be first in line for training, and then on tap to train others. Which I think I would enjoy and be good at.

And, again, this is a good networking opportunity. If I do well on this presentation I expect to be asked to repeat it (our division chief is talking about a series of these sessions as we get closer to implementation next year). It's an opportunity to get my name out there, not only in our division but perhaps higher up the chain and in other divisions, and establish myself as an asset to the institution on a broader scale. It's also another extremely valuable skill set that looks great on my resume.

So, in summary, some interesting and potentially important doors are opening for me at work. I'd be a fool not to go through, eh? Stay tuned for further developments.

No comments: