I attend the Charleston Conference every year, and this year it made real to me changes in my professional life. I knew that I was in a more administrative role now, and I knew that I had strong connections throughout the library community and with the surrounding industries. It wasn't clear to me until last week that I didn't really understand or believe those things. Being in a place I've been before many times and seeing how the experience has changed made me come to terms with where I am in my professional identity and allowed me to confront what that means more directly.
I believe that our personal identities are set at times and, although malleable, tend toward a blend of ideal and reality. In my head, for instance, I am a 24-year-old tae kwon do black belt who hasn't been practicing a lot but can still do everything I could at 18. That's simply not true, but I want it to be and it informs how I want to live in the world (and impels me to make steps toward being, you know, fitter). I am really not sure what my professional identity was to me before last week, but I think it was set somewhere around "I pretty much have some things figured out and I'm doing okay." At the conference, I realized that a lot of people know me, and know me for some of my ideas. I realized that I have important things to say, and that I am in a position to say them, which I was not three years ago. Not the same position. I realized, basically, that I have levelled-up to Mid Career.
Being in a place where it was obvious where I am in my career and who I am professionally made me realize I have a new range of responsibilities.
To Say Something: People know who I am and listen to the things I say. I no longer have the ability to defer my thoughts or opinions to those "more suited" to speak on issues that I am knowledgeable about. It is important that I stand up and say something, knowing that I have a voice that many others do not.
To Do Something: I need to, in my daily life, do more to make sure that my personal work and the values of the organizations in which I work adhere to my values and the values that I want the profession to uphold. In some areas, this is quite a lot of work. In others, it isn't too much. All of the areas are important.
To Support People: As much as I adore being asked to share my opinions on important issues, it is important for me to share my platform with others. I think we need to listen to the experiences and advice of early career librarians as often as possible, and I am no longer that voice, I am the one that makes sure that voice has a platform. As I move more and more in administrative circles, I am further separated from the doing of things, and I will have less authority on which to speak about some issues -- even as my voice grows. I have a plan to work with any (any) early career librarian who wants to speak or write on issues that I find important. I have a plan to seek out voices that others are not hearing. To keep saying things that not everyone has heard and everyone needs to hear.
These things important to do on their own merit, but they also help me stay focused on what drives me in the profession when confronted with a mountain of tasks every day. Taking time to talk on twitter or over gchat with early career librarians invigorates me. Presenting sessions that end with "you need to do more of this" and translating that into "we are going to do more, you and I and anyone else" is something I'm striving to continue doing.
So, what about you? Where are you in your career and what responsibilities do you have related to that position? Are you comfortable there?