Chapter 6, On starting in a new library

All of the nerves and feels are abound tonight.

I’ve been meaning to write this post, but wanted to get a grip on my thoughts and may come back to edit it several times over.

About three weeks ago, I’ve started in an unfamiliar, brand spanking new library system.

I left an organization that I had been with for 6 years (not counting the year that I was laid off) and had grown up with since my wee little toddler days.

 

I won’t bog down the post with my internal struggle except for this – many different factors, both personal and professional, led me to make this change.

 

Initially, when I applied outside of the system, I was seeking a personal-life change. After some time I pretty much then forgot I had applied for two jobs, and long after the interviews, I finally achieved some personal equilibrium. Then… much to my surprise, I was offered both positions, at about the same time (three days apart). Insert multiple pros and cons lists here, and I accepted the position I am in today due to purely professional reasons, and for this, I’m pretty proud of myself. I feel like I did not run from anything, the way I felt like when I initially applied out– I really felt like I took the time to think things through.

 

But of course, with any new job, nerves are bound to set in.

So, three weeks in, here are some of my insights and tips into beginning a new adventure in the field, whether it be moving from one organization to the next, one department to another, or getting a promotion!

 

  1. Observe, observe, observe

…before speaking first. Observation in general is key if you want to see rhythms and work culture. I’m a firm believer your coworkers are a pivotal piece to your work happiness. If you’re feeling like you’re jiving along with everyone, you may be blessed with a #workfam! – which is super awesome. But in other situations, especially in a large building with numerous departments and 200 people whose names you won’t ever hope to remember… observation prior to word vomits can help gain the respect of your colleagues. Things/policiesprocedures/organization can be different from past experience and that may be for a particular reason that is unknown to you thus far. While I often tout “I don’t care what people think!” – remember that you’re going to spending 40 hours a week in this new place, and it’ll be advantageous to adjusting to the new environment if observation comes before action/reaction.

  1. Know when it is appropriate to mention your previous job… and when it may be overkill

I’m the kind of eager beaver that will swap librarian-war stories – and talking about previous work experience is unavoidable when others ask about it especially if they know you from conference presentations and networking events.

But in certain cases, if they ask “How was Miami?” I know it is small talk. There is a big difference if they ask “How was this done in your previous location?” because they have professional curiosity and may want to see if there are ways to improve upon certain operations.

But now I’ve set up a mental counter in my head for every time I mention my previous branch in Miami, or Miami in general. I think I made it plenty clear that I love Miami, I still live in it, still use my borrowing privileges, still am part and operate a PAC that supports it. But upon entering a new organization, I think it is important to remember that previous experience should not be a clutch and should not be the bar by which to measure every and all interaction by. This new organization is not really… new anymore – it is yours. And ownership of that org and the position that you hold in it really can help acclimation.

  1. Be enthusiastic

“I got hired – I’m employable.” Reflect on this. This organization did not hire you believing that you could not complete the job. They did not hire you believing that you could only meet core competencies. They hired you because you have the capacity to rock your new job. Tell yourself this.

I’ve taken for granted the grounding that I felt just one month ago, the clout that I had, the easy rapport between other branches, the camaraderie. I am currently ungrounded, and it is downright scary. But I remain enthusiastic because I get to try my best to succeed in this new venture … and others also believed that I could – and that is exciting. Even changing systems, I have an obligation to the public, and that does not change, and it is exciting that I can explore what that means in this new place.

  1. Remember that you won’t have the keys to the kingdom… right away.

I think, see tip#1. Things won’t happen overnight, no matter how far into the deep end you are thrown.

  1. Pro-tip from a good friend and colleague: it will take a year to settle in.

I’m writing this here, but I can only hope it happens sooner rather than later.

  1. Remember, above all things: your boss…. is the public.

I’m feeling a little crazed about this one. I have a particular goal in mind, and a number of people have a hand in the project, and a number of people have a vision, and I have my own vision, and there are different personalities and politics.

It is easy to get bogged down by it all. But above all else, the programs and services that are offered are not for the library. They are for the people.

Sure, there’s a probationary period to pass – and of course, a paycheck to make sure to get – but I think if professional values are adhered to, it suddenly becomes much easier to walk with a lighter load and complete the goals at hand with everyone’s vision in tow.

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