Lifestyle, Manchester

MMU Launch First ‘New Information Professionals Symposium’

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IMG_2836-2By Emma Heathcote

Wednesday 18th March saw the launch of the first ‘New Information Professionals Symposium’ for MA Information and Library Management and MSc Information Management students at Manchester Metropolitan University.

The event, designed to highlight the wide range of careers available to students when they graduate, saw lecturers, alumni students and professionals from the Library and Information sector welcomed to MMU to speak about the opportunities on offer.

Frances Johnson, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Languages, Information and Communications, introduced the event. She commented on the MA Information and Library Management course saying, “I hope the courses have supported students in various ways in thinking about their development as individuals and emerging professionals.” She explained how the course has made students aware of professional groups suited to their career development.

Helen Monagle, the Chartered Institute for Information Professionals (CILIP) North West New Professionals Support Officer, introduced the first panel of professionals, who offered advice from a range of Library and Information sectors. She explained that CILIP offers free memberships to students, provides help and support to all members, and organises events and offers bursaries.

The first speaker, Amy Finnegan, Assistant Information Specialist at the National Institute for Health Care Excellence (NICE), studied an MA in Library and Information Management at MMU and graduated in 2012. NICE work with the National Health Service to provide guidelines for doctors and practitioners to follow in terms of drug information. Amy explained, “I work in the guidance team. My main role is literature searching using databases and comprehensive literature searching skills.” Amy spoke about how her volunteering while studying helped her gain experience, which was useful to her first professional job. She also provided students with five tips to success: “Be realistic, be passionate about a topic, identify the areas you want to improve, network and get involved to gain experience.”

Deborah Harrop, Information Scientist at Sheffield Hallam University, spoke next about research roles in Higher Education. Deborah previously studied an MA in Library and Information Management student at MMU. She revealed how she started out as a Subject Librarian at Sheffield Hallam University while conducting peer reviews. Deborah currently designs and undertakes literature reviews, including systematic reviews, and works with data management including data extraction. She spoke about how her MA dissertation in researching and designing informal leaving spaces led on to her current role redesigning the library and other informal learning spaces there.

The next speaker was Emily Hopkins, Knowledge Service Manager at Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust. Emily talked about her route into health libraries and transferable skills across sectors. She explained, “It’s about reflecting on the skills gained in different sectors which have travelled with me over to my next role.” Emily worked as a weekend library assistant in the Health Sciences Library at her university. Her experience emphasised the point that students should try to gain as much relevant experience while studying. She said that her degree helped her gain the theoretical background needed to get a job. She told students about the variety of roles available to them and encouraged everyone to find their niche. She also told students not to be “put off” by certain sectors. Emily commented that although she works with the NHS, a nursing background was not necessary to secure her position in this role. Instead, it is, “the skills that were important,” to enable students to adapt to working in different sectors.

Fiona Hughes, Library Services Manager at MMU Library, spoke next. She provided students with practical knowledge of applications and interviews. She advised students to look closely at applications and check whether they met the essential criteria and held appropriate evidence to prove they did. Fiona stressed it was important for students to provide employers with this evidence and if they could, with more than one example, preferably three. She also spoke about how it was essential for students to research the organisation they were looking at jobs for as in interview as they may be asked specific questions about the company which they should know the answer to. She went on to advise students to write down the questions they were asked after the interview so they could prepare for other future ones.

The last part of the session featured a ‘Career Hunting Panel’ introduced by Heather Maggs from TFPL. Heather, joined by representatives from MMU Careers and Employability and Sue Hill Recruitment, delivered advice on finding both traditional and non-traditional sector employment.

Janet Marshall, Careers and Employability Advisor at MMU, spoke about the support offered to students and the other possibilities for individuals wishing to seek a career path outside of information management roles. She discussed the options available to graduates, explaining, “New jobs being developed all the time.” She said, “[students] might not get that dream job straight away,” but that it was important to, “keep working towards your goals.”

Donald Lickley, Consultant at Sue Hill Recruitment/TFPL Information Professional Employment Group, detailed the positives to signing up to the agency, including the opportunity to find jobs not be advertised in mainstream ways. Once signed up, students are invited to a short interview where they could say where their specific areas of interest were and when a suitable job came up, they would be notified. They also said that the job market was in a much more positive place than it had been in previous years.

Speaking to Humanity Hallows after the event, Bob Glass, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Languages, Information and Communications, said, “As far as I am aware this was the first MMU symposium on this topic and I’m very pleased with the attendance and contributions made by both the students and the presenters. There was lots of useful information focussing on careers, self-development, Networking and on the possibilities for students with non-traditional roles within their subject.” He praised the knowledgeable speakers and described, “a really good interaction between all involved.”

Frances Johnson added, “To be able to set students off at this point thinking about their careers and the wide range of careers available to them is great. With it being a Masters course, they are just about to start their dissertation much of what was said today should allow students to see how much leverage they can have from their dissertation in terms of being able to talk about what they’ve done in that study in interviews.”

The event was hugely successful in opening up the paths to careers available to graduates at MMU. Students commented that they found the event, “really, really useful” and that, “it was great to have different perspectives.”

Emma Heathcote is in her second year studying English. She likes 19th Century novels and the Harry Potter series.

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