Invest in Yourself
With very little time you can build your skills, improve your performance, and enhance your opportunities
Posted Mon, 03/22/2010 - 11:12
Crazy times, right? Whether you are new to libraries or you’ve been around for a while, you would probably agree that our world has been spinning in a lot of different directions lately. With budget cuts, layoffs, reductions in hours, and new technology around every corner, no one has the time or money to devote to professional development! We’re just too busy to get better, right? Let’s hope not
In good times and in bad, training, learning, and improvement should be the last thing cut from our individual “To Do” lists. There’s a lot at stake. Think about it: There are new ideas out there, best practices that can make our libraries better. Have you taken the time to read about them? There are improved and more efficient ways to serve our changing customers and communities, with evidence based on research and facts. Do you know about them? Technology keeps marching on, offering modern alternatives to improve our services. Have you paused to consider the value of blogging or going wireless? Please don’t say you still use pencil and paper schedules!
As you plow through the chaos each morning, do you give much thought to your own career? Remember the concept of a career? It’s what happens in the 30 years between graduation and retirement, and in the end it’s supposed to resemble something that you intended to happen.
Imagine a golfer, being interviewed after blowing a big tournament. Asked if he plans to work with his coach or add some practice time, he replies “Can’t! No time! My schedule is full, so I’m just going to keep doing what I did today!” How about doctors? How confident would you be before your heart surgery if your doctor admitted she hadn’t been to a class or conference in years? And who would take their car to a mechanic who hadn’t learned a thing since he worked on his ’66 Karmann Ghia? So what makes it okay to ignore your own growth and improvement?
Invest in yourself. Lose the excuses. The good news is, without any money and with very little time—but a lot of commitment—you can build your skills, improve your performance, and enhance your opportunities, while still doing your day job well. If you focus your learning effectively, you’ll actually get better at what you do, and you’ll be growing professionally in the direction you have intentionally chosen.
In Be a Great Boss, a one-year-development book that will be published this summer, I suggest that using a structured training program is the best approach. The good news here is that you can design it yourself.
The most important thing you need to make it work? One hour a week. That’s not much time, really, when you consider what the benefits might be. You can sharpen your skills. You can enhance your performance. Ultimately, you can affect your library, your coworkers, and your customers more than by being stuck to a knee-jerk, nose-to-the-grindstone approach that’s oblivious to improvement.
Let’s be honest, most of us waste at least one hour each week, intentionally or unintentionally, if we’re willing to admit it. If you absolutely cannot carve one hour out of your current workload, then donate it from your own time. Work through a lunch. Get up early. Stay up late. The argument that you’d be working off the books doesn’t hold water here because, remember, this is your career we’re talking about. If you won’t invest in it, who will?
If you’re on board by now, you’re probably wondering how to get started. You have a couple of choices here. If you would like to forego the planning steps, you could be spontaneous with your time and select your topic impulsively each week. What’s been keeping you up at night? Are you struggling with budgeting? Find some best practice reports online. Dust off that article you set aside a few months ago to read. Draw up a planning calendar to develop your budget with more staff input in the process.
What about hiring? Are you asking the same old questions over and over again and watching the evolution of a Stepford staff? Try creating an innovative new interview. Find some great behavioral questions online. Find some intriguing new library job descriptions in the journal classifieds. Could any of them serve your staff well? Set some time aside to talk to colleagues who are on the cutting edge and get some advice.
While this method might suit you best and could help you make a little progress here and a little there, it
wouldn’t ultimately offer you deep, significant, and lasting growth. Better than spontaneity, I would suggest, you need a plan.
Be a Great Boss is just such a plan, designed for people thrust into leadership positions for which they weren’t necessarily ready. The book is an example of a focused learning program to create growth in one particular area. It outlines topics to cover, support materials to read, and exercises to be completed.
Do you know your learning needs? Before you get started, you’re going to have to figure that part out and come up with a plan. You have the intention to improve; now you just need the strategy. Whether you use a workbook like Be a Great Boss, take an online course, or design something yourself, you need to move forward with a focus.