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Letting go to embrace what comes next


Today I had my farewell morning tea at my workplace. I officially finish up at Queensland State Archives (QSA) on Friday. As my hands shook, tears flowed (how embarrassing!), I’m sad to be leaving some amazing, knowledgeable and professional people whom I’ve had the privilege of working with and learning from for the past three years…..but I don’t think it’ll be the last I see of them!

Is this a reaction to recent events?

No. My decision to not renew my contract isn’t a reaction to my Mum’s passing last November. Actually, I advised my manager of my decision one or two days before. Though I never got to tell Mum.

Why didn’t I renew? (…am I crazy?!)

My plan going forward is simple – love what I do. Some months ago I stopped loving what I did every day. In fact, I grew frustrated, down right miserable and I didn’t like the person I was becoming. I had gained all I could from both of my roles within the Government Recordkeeping unit, initially as a Research Officer, then a Policy Officer. Believe me, I looked in all the nooks and crannies to find the smallest scraps of learning and refill my inspiration tank. I sought professional assistance and the guidance of mentors to find a lesson here, a lesson there. While I’m passionate about what archives aim to achieve, and I hoped to be a part of it, it’s not to be at this time.

As an early career information professional, my learning and growing is very important to me. Though I possess nearly five years in the profession, I seek opportunities to learn everything I can. If my work is unable to feed my appetite for continued learning (outside professional involvement didn’t completely fill this void, unfortunately) or my manager is unwilling to help me drive and progress forward, value me, utilise what I have to offer, walk the talk….turning up day after day does, and did not, sustain me.

I’m also a passionate life-long learner and I aim to inspire others to step out and do the same, because you would otherwise never know the wonders of the possibilities and what might become of the learning.

I could no longer lie to myself my current role was for me. I’m not a policy person. I’m a librarian (or archivist in denial).

It’s time to let go of what isn’t working, to make room for what comes next, the positive and the new. I’m a little scared, but very excited.

So, what does come next?

At this stage, I’m not sure. I’m open to opportunities. I’m loving writing; hours fly by on weekends when I’m tinkering with my websites. I’m a born-organiser of information. I’m interested in online engagement, information use, cultural heritage and the arts, information and knowledge management. I also have a lot of responsibility on my plate at the moment with Mum stuff. The best thing I can do right now is channel my energies to what drives me. I have a few job applications floating about. I may even return to QSA in another role. I’m really looking forward to learning heaps and catching up with those in my PLN and info pros I’m yet to meet at ALIA Information Online in a couple of weeks (sooo excited!).

What have I achieved at QSA?


  • I worked with my manager to develop a database of public authorities under the jurisdiction of the Public Records Act 2002. Why is this useful? To understand who is undertaking government functions and is responsible for managing records. Machinery-of-government (MOG) changes happen all the time and we need to keep on top of where the records are, who’s creating them, so we can help ensure records are created and managed for as long as they are required and those with permanent value to the state are safe guarded as much as they can be. This project also helped to deliver top notch records management advice that is relevant and helpful to our clients.
  • I forged a path for the organisation to learn about, introduce and embrace innovation. I facilitated discussions about innovation with people from across the organisation to come up with a strategy for us. This paved the way and helped to prepare the organisation to take on a significant project (led by a colleague) that has produced results and gained recognition across the government department.
  • I practised my research skills gained in my Masters studies to gather the information needed to produce project outputs that met client needs – this project was the Recordkeeping Policy Framework review. I managed to have approved, an approach that was very different for the organisation. I went out to consultation without a polished draft (gasp!). I went out to gather client needs and views first. I initiated a conversation. I undertook a client-led approach to developing project outputs.
  • I delivered project outputs shaped by our clients, for our clients. Outputs that achieve objectives, move understanding of records management forward and helped to redefine the way QSA delivers recordkeeping advice in the future. The new Framework diagram in particular, has received positive feedback from other archival peers and organisations.
  • I have developed an appreciation for archives and built on my knowledge gained from my Masters studies to participate in robust conversation with my colleagues (and learned to not take opposing views personally).
  • I’ve gained experience in liaising with different stakeholders and speaking internally and externally.
  • I’ve grown into ‘big girl shoes’ – the confidence to own what I say, believe in what I know and to not feel intimidated by people with years of experience on me and just do what needs to be done, professionally.
  • I’ve rocked the boat from time to time, challenged the norm, the status quo and been a bit of a thinker and shaker. I make no apologies for this, by the way. And I still think ‘Lego’ (retention and disposal) schedules are a goer. Aka macro, high level appraisal of records and issuing disposal authorities for functions and activities to the government instead of individual agencies.

What am I looking forward to?

Possibilities. My next step. Loving what I do. Grow more.

I’m very fortunate to be in this position. I appreciate my first QSA manager who hired me in the first place, saw my potential and allowed me to grow into my ‘big girl shoes’.

I hope I’ve made a meaningful contribution to the organisation. And I hope I will liaise with, or even work with or for QSA in the future when the stars might align again.

A new kind of normal


Quick, write. Before I manage to distract myself with a job search or the Christmas newsletter I’m yet to finish and post.

This is a (very) personal post, not one I would normally write here but one I feel compelled to write to my professional friends who have shown their support on Twitter, and/or have had me in their thoughts and prayers over the last month or so.

For those who don’t already know, my life changed forever on the night of the 5th of November. An exact time, I don’t know. But I received news around 10.30pm. My Mum had suddenly passed away.

As I move the bag of packing supplies I purchased on Friday afternoon away from my desk to sit, it is another reminder of the task before me – packing up my mother’s life and home.

My Mum who I’d have a cuppa with, weekend paper strewn over the table. My Mum who cleaned the gym to reduce my training fees. My Mum who loved Christmas morning. My Mum who sat in a workshop I co-presented at NLS6. And took notes.

As ‘big sis’, I bear a lot of responsibility at this time. There is no manual or set ‘to do’ list, though as a friend pointed out today, I could probably manage to write one. I’m fumbling my way through. Mum, in ways made recently evident, always knew I’d take care of her no matter what happened.

I’m into my third week of returning to work and not quite at capacity yet. I returned to work on 27th November, the day after my birthday. I was looking forward to seeing the team who sent me flowers and just wanted to see I was okay. But my return was harder than I thought. As I walked up the pathway towards the door, my chest started to feel like it was caving in. I walked through the corridor and up the stairs to my desk cautiously, conscious of who might see me. I spotted a colleague of mine who had checked in on me every day since the 5th. She had a hug for me. The tears threatened and I started shaking. Another colleague-become-friend walked up to me for a hug…. I continued to shake. My chest hurt. Before anyone else could approach me, she had me downstairs in the tea room for a cuppa. No matter how I felt the previous day, the positive thoughts of returning to professional me, nothing prepared me for what I experienced as I stepped inside. I was little more than a zombie for the rest of the day but I made it through, thanks to members of my team.

One thing I really, absolutely suck at is leaning on others (no surprise to some). I have received incredible, generous support during this time. My best friend from primary school (whose life was also touched by my Mum) flew in from Mackay to stand beside me and turn the pages as I presented the eulogy to a full church. And yet I still feel I need to take all the burden on myself. My hands shook as I put flowers in a basket that I had decorated, minutes after the service but I did it. Mum’s day was going to go off without a hitch if I could help it.

One of my strengths however, is to do what’s required and get on with it. Find out if I don’t know how.

A few things have seen me through this last month:

  • Writing, journaling. As much as I can. It can feel like crap, but, better out than in.
  • Communication (and being honest) with others and what I needed. I’m fortunate to have an amazing partner, my travel companion and teammate of six years.
  • A small circle of people who looked out for me, checked in on me, while I was busy informing people, making phone calls and consoling others.
  • A workplace that is understanding of my mind wandering off, distracted from time to time.
  • Accepting help.

In the week before Mum’s passing, I had notified my manager I will not be signing a renewal to my contract in my current role beyond end of January. I still feel this is the right decision. Much like Amy Steinbauer has advised over at INALJ, job searching gets extra challenging during these times. Keeping the goals and what I want in sight is more important now than ever. I hope the new year will bring me meaningful work and a new stage to my career.

I will continue to write as I move into a new kind of normal. My posts here may be scattered for a while during this time, but writing this post marks a step in the right direction.

Make your mark. Develop a career statement.


Following my last blog post about how a personal professional development plan can assist LIS newbies with discussing career aspirations, I got to thinking about another valuable activity (completed as part of my Masters ePortfolio) that has assisted me with gaining a sense of direction. So while I’m on the subject on career and professional development planning, I’ll share with you the “career statement”.

I share this experience as a LIS newbie professional, a testament of how important and valuable developing a career statement can be for future reflection and planning. I’m by no means an expert on the subject. I recommend this exercise to students and newbie info pros just starting out, as well as any more established professionals seeking clarity or to explore alternatives.

Over four years ago now, I was faced with this task of developing a career statement in the study guide for the Professional Practice unit of my Masters course. I’ll admit the task appeared daunting, and like the personal professional development plan, I tried to seek out all the resources I could to gain a clear idea of what this statement might look like and say. Turns out there is no magic formula to develop a career statement. Completing the task itself is the only way. Probably my most used resource was “The Personal Development Handbook” which allowed me to explore my values and strengths, among other things. And even still, this book didn’t see me arrive at my career statement ‘tah dah!’

Whether you start with the personal professional development, goal setting or the career statement, I don’t think it really matters. I started with defining what I really valued and the sort of things I’m seeking in a career, and goal setting. I brainstormed possible sectors I could find myself working, my professional interests and what I feel I’m good at. I went back to the roots of why I’m in this profession in the first place and the joys I had from an early age from learning, reading, seeking new and interesting information and facts and curiosity. From here, the career statement evolved. My career statement has two distinct parts:

  • what will I do, provide, give
  • to what end, what outcome/s, what difference do I aim to make in the world, the profession, the community, whatever.

There is no set format for how a career statement should look. I thought of a career statement as essentially like a mission statement for a company. You could do a video of yourself, a presentation, a painting, a collage, a poem or even in the humble written form. I’ve temporarily decided on the written format, but perhaps one day I’ll explore my creative side with it.

Here are some questions I asked myself to get you started.

  1. What interests or draws you into the LIS profession?
  2. What gives you joy?
  3. What is your mission? What contribution do you seek to make?
  4. What would you like to see as fruits of your labour?

There are a number of reasons why you should have a career statement. Here are a few I’ve thought about:

  • looking at job advertisements and position descriptions while job hunting it can be easy to be swept up. A career statement can help you to be strategic with your search and avoid the risk of potentially heading in the wrong direction. This is not to say that an unexpected turn in direction can lead you up the career garden path. But a career statement can be a good reminder about what you seek in different positions.
  • as a newbie there is so much to learn, you might ask ‘how am I supposed to know my career direction?!’ But what you could do with your career statement is turn it into a skills shopping list. What skills and experience will you need to fulfil your mission?
  • a career statement is a call on you to commit to making the difference you wish to make. Use it however you wish or feel comfortable to make it happen.
  • finally, and this is one of the purposes for my career statement, is that it can be a useful reflection tool. I’d like to look back on my career statement in about three, five, ten years time.

Ultimately, I believe a career statement is a personal process. There are no right or wrong ways to do it or answers. It took me a long time to figure that out! A career statement is not set in stone, but I think it captures your thinking at a given time and gives you something to refer to when in need of guidance. It certainly does that for me.

Professional development planning: thoughts for LIS newbies


The New Year is both a time for reflection as well as for planning. At the moment, I’m going through a process of putting together a ‘Performance and Development Plan’ for my work role. I’m sure that on some level, others are doing the same. For a newbie to the information profession, and with all the possibilities available to our career in this profession, professional development and even career planning can be a difficult task.

Last month I had a meeting with the big, big boss at my workplace. Originally, this meeting was intended to discuss a program of work I’ve been working on with a manager. But, this meeting turned into a very important one. The discussion moved from the agenda to the ‘pink elephant in the room’ – a recent decision I have made about my current (new-ish) role. A stickler for keeping to agendas, I wasn’t prepared to discuss my professional development and career aspirations at this time. Not only was this meeting more than slightly nerve-wrecking, but the meeting was also my first face-to-face meeting with the big, big boss. I was fortunate to have a manager, who is in my corner, with me to support what I needed to say. In case I’ve lost you for a bit here, I’ll come out and say it – basically I was asked ‘What are your plans? What do you want to do?’

I’m not sure about others, but this was an incredibly tough question for me to answer. On reflection, I really appreciate the interest the big, big boss had shown in my professional development and my career. If she didn’t give a damn, she wouldn’t have asked. I’ll share with you how I handled this by letting you in on what helped me.

As part of my ePortfolio for my LIS Masters course, I had to produce a personal professional development plan. In my opinion, this was probably the most valuable task of the entire ePortfolio. This was largely given by my agonising over the task throughout the course, attempting to ensure that the plan was ‘just so’, had taken into account pretty much everything. I consulted relevant texts, blogs, templates, you name it to develop the ‘perfect’ professional development plan. As the deadline approached, quick decisions needed to be made and so I went with my gut. The decisions I have made and the things I included in the plan turned out to be the right ones for me. I’m surprisingly happy with the result. The epiphany came when I took the pressure off myself and decided that it was okay to be an early career information professional. I’m allowed to explore. I also think of my professional self as a jigsaw puzzle, looking for learning experiences and skills in order to become my own professional with an unique contribution.

Now to draw on both of these experiences – my meeting with the big, big boss and my personal professional development plan, I can advise other early career information professionals with the following:

Planning and discussing professional development as an early career information professional can be difficult. This is especially so when there are various pathways one could take. But there needs to be a clear enough path to work with. 

My approach to the discussion about career direction with the big, big boss was with honesty. I believe this was all I could do. I’m a fairly direct person, so honesty in these situations is really my strength. I mentally referred to my personal professional development plan in my response and let her know that I’m exploring career directions and that there are three I am currently contemplating. It is my goal within three to five years that I will know the path which I will specialise. I emphasised that I am an early career information professional and am open to different learning experiences. My personal professional development plan I had completed as part of my LIS Masters definitely assisted with my rationale and the composure of my thoughts on this topic. I may not have everything bedded down right now, but I have a clear enough path with which to explore the possibilities available to my career.

The result? The big, big boss appreciated my honesty. There is understanding. Together with my managers, we can now move forward to devise ways I can develop in the sector.

My personal professional development plan will now guide me through the similar, formal process for my work role. I know what I need from my current employer and understand their limitations. I may not know to the letter what would bring me the greatest satisfaction in my career, but I can identify the jigsaw puzzle pieces I will need to put it all together. For now, I’m an early career information professional. And I will permit myself to be one.

Over to you now.

To the newbie information professionals, how do you prepare to discuss your career aspirations and professional development with your employer or supervisor?

And to the managers, what initiative do you like to see in a new LIS graduate regarding their professional development? What do you expect they bring to the discussion table?

Planning Sessions – a summary & final thoughts


For my final ‘Planning Sessions’ post, I’d like to share some final thoughts, benefits I’ve experienced and describe how my planning tools come together in the form of the ‘Weekly Review’.

In my first planning session, I identified five tools to use to assist my planning and keeping on track.

  • Diary
  • Task manager
  • Year Planner
  • Quarterly Planner
  • Checklist

At this point, I haven’t completed the quarterly planner, I’m feeling little need to do so. Perhaps I don’t need one? Though I suspect I’ll do a planner for the university semester.
For the other four tools, they’re serving their purpose beautifully. And I’ve been strict with myself to stick to the purpose for each tool. The result is not only minimising clutter, but I also know which tool to go to retrieve information about something. For example, I don’t record my exercise in my diary, it goes on the checklist. When I’d like to know how I’m tracking with my exercise goals, I don’t need to sort through appointments and due dates to find this information. I can view my progress with a glance at the checklist.

Possibly the single most important part of maintaining my capturing and processing system has been the ‘Weekly Review’. Last week I had a brief thought to do away with my ‘weekly review’ because I had other things calling for my attention. My recommendation is to ignore those urges. I kept my ‘weekly review appointment’ and glad I did. The ‘weekly review’ keeps me on top of my commitments and provides me with a clear idea of what I need to do. I’d fall behind and induce feelings of being overwhelmed if I missed a ‘weekly review’. It is a process where all the tools and their functions come together. The general process involves going through each ‘inbox’ and deciding each item’s next action (or inaction). Tasks are input into the task manager. I identify, from my year planner, which projects I’m currently working on and their next action. I then go through each task and assign a due date.

A challenge I’ve faced in developing trust in the system is recording tasks, ideas, etc as soon as possible, when it comes to mind. If something is on my mind, my mind isn’t clear and restricts thinking and ideas. When something is on your mind, before it starts to bug you, write it down, capture it in the system. Even if it’s a scribble on a piece of paper and placed in a physical in-tray. Come to the ‘weekly review’, the item will be dealt with.

By going through the process of planning and setting up a system, I’ve certainly honed my personal learning environment (PLE) tools used for capturing and processing – naturally I’ve stuck with what’s handy and meshes with how I like to record and retrieve things.

So here’s an idea: Record or pay attention to what you grab when writing down an idea or task. Do this for a week or two. Do you always have Evernote open? Do you grab whatever scrap of paper you find? This exercise will help determine which tools work for you and will be handy to incorporate into your processing system.

Final thoughts….

Plans and planning is guided by a direction or goals. I’ve discovered two approaches to planning. One is to plan to prepare for opportunities, the other is to plan towards set goals. So it doesn’t matter if you have set goals or not, planning is useful to everyone.

Planning doesn’t mean to imply being rigid or taking a rigid approach to following plans. Instead, I believe planning is key to being flexible. By knowing what projects are happening, commitments, essentially the big picture, at any one time actually allows for flexibility. Since implementing my planning tools and system I’ve identified an opportunity I’d like to take on. I can refer to my year planner, be reminded of my priorities and focus areas, and perhaps find a way I can work it in. Or I won’t be able to. But by having a planner, I can save myself from, well, myself and re-affirm where my energies are to be directed.

Remember, the only constant in life is change.

About Alisa

I'm an early career information professional and library and information science (LIS) Masters graduate with experience from the special library environment (aviation industry) and archives sector, specialising in records and information management.

I'm interested in cultural heritage collections and online engagement, information and knowledge management and how information is accessed and used for creativity, knowledge generation and sharing and innovation.
I'm also passionate about new and early career information professional issues and trends.

An active participant in the library and information professional community, you can usually find me on a committee or two.

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