Sunday, May 13, 2007

A sensitive exploration of my "issues"

What's interesting about starting a new job is what you learn about yourself. For example, when I moved to my last job from the one before that, I realised that having people around me that I liked and was eager to see at least occassionally was really important. It never occurred to me before, because I was able to take it for granted. But all of a sudden I didn't have that company, and I dearly missed it. I have it back now - on Friday I went out for after work drinks with colleagues for the first time in 4 1/2 years.

So I've learnt some things about myself in moving to this job too, and at the risk of this post sounding overly negative, in most cases it's been a similar thing - something that I was able to do before, am now not able to do, and am realising how much I enjoyed it.

There are two things in particular that have come to my attention. The first is a small picture thing - the way I work - and the second is big picture - the role of imagination in my job satisfaction. Wow, that does sound deep.

So we should start small. I've come to realise over the last few weeks that I am, speaking generally, a project person. This is a similar concept to something I read in My Career a while back, about how people are either builders (love to create new things) or maintainers (love to make things continue to work well). I'm a builder, and also a project person. I want my job to progress, I want to feel like I'm achieving something that I can see. I had a crap day at work the other day, and in the old days the treatment for that was to do an hour or so of weeding. At the end of that hour I've taken out my bad mood on the shelves, there's less crap on the shelves, and there's a pile of books to be gotten rid of. It ALWAYS made me feel better.

They didn't have to be immediate projects either - my involvement in NLS2006 is a great example of that. It took ages to see the results of that, but I always knew I was getting somewhere, progressing towards some end point at which there would be something I could see and say "I did that".

But this job - there's no such element. Apart from the subtle changes in the way the job will be done, if we're doing it right, we'll just keep on keeping on. This means I have to find new ways to measure achievement. I'm open for suggestions, so long as they're not "Answering all the questions that an academic asked you" or some such. That's great, and it's important, but...y'know.

Second - imagination. This bit's going to sound like I've given up, but bear with me.

There seems to be a 'thing' going around at the moment where one imagines what your library will look like in 20 years time (was it 20? Could have been 10. It doesn't really matter). I tried it - and almost cried. It looked exactly the same. Nothing, of any consequence, had changed. Sure, the students were all wearing jet packs, but they still couldn't read a sign, the library was still underresourced, and we were still debating on how to meet their needs in a very reactionary fashion.

Fine - maybe I'm missing the point. But then I tried it for my old job - oh my. It was fabulous. I won't go into details, but it really was great. So why couldn't I do that for the new job?

I realised it was because at the moment I'm too far down the ladder to see where the changes are coming from, and to know what could change and what will always be the same. In the old job I drove change - no one else did, and any change that happened was because of me, in one way or another. Here, change will be driven by other people, not me. This is okay - I'm new, there's a huge amount I still need to understand, it's okay to feel this way. But it did make me realise that being able to use imagination to drive my vision of my work is important to me. So again, I have to find a new way to do this. I'm wondering if the people up the top have this inspiration, and whether they would mind sharing it with me sometime.

So on the list of things to do, we have:
1. Find a way to measure my achievements that means something to me, so I feel like I'm getting somewhere.
2. Find the creative inspiration that will keep me excited about working for this library.

To return to my original point - I would never had thought to ask in the job interview "what drives you in your position? What inspires you about working here?" to my future boss - just because I didn't realise how important it is. But it's a perfectly valid question, and I hope that, having written this here, when the next job interview happens, I'll look back on this and include it in my questions.

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