Feel the fear…confessions of an almost qualified GLAM student

With this month’s #GLAMBlogClub theme being fear, I knew right away I would be able to write something of my own fears. As a student, with just a bit of industry experience, I’ve long recognised that I suffer from the dreaded imposter syndrome. It means that when I tweet or blog, I wonder if I am ever going to provide a meaningful contribution to the professional discussion. It means that when I see all the amazing work being done by GLAM folk all over the world, I wonder if I’ll ever score myself a permanent professional role so that I too might achieve something awesome for our profession. It means that when I look at job ads, I wonder if I’ll ever find one that will suit my life at this point, that I’ll ever feel qualified for, that will ever mention that it’s suitable for a new grad to apply for and not ask for extensive experience… It means I constantly feel the fear of professional inadequacy.

I’ve written before about how I just don’t feel like anything I have to say could matter to any of the brilliant students and professionals out there who I see doing amazing things in their work. At the time, I noted that all the GLAM folk I have met are incredibly welcoming, so I really have no excuse for continuing to think they will dismiss me just because I’m a student. This certainly has not changed. My overwhelming experience of the GLAM industry is that it is incredibly welcoming. Yet the fear persists.

This feeling of professional inadequacy is also why I find networking hard. The fact is, networking involves talking to peers, this makes it intimidating. When I read Anne’s post it was like a light bulb going off! Networking is also hard for me because I really want to get to events but my life keeps making it hard. So every time I make it to an event it feels like I’m doing it for the first time, I don’t get to them often enough to practice talking to my peers in real life to get really comfortable with it. Hopefully next year, post-study, I’ll find more time to network, in the meantime I’ve bookmarked these tips for future reference.

The fear theme this month was particularly timely for me, I’m due to start my three week placement on Monday. Although I am already employed as a casual library assistant, I’ve been there long enough now to feel comfortable. So now, to go to a new workplace is anxiety inducing. All of the feelings of professional inadequacy are simmering under the surface. What if I get there and they realise they made a mistake, for this student is almost finished her degree but she. knows. nothing.

Of course logically I know they recognise that as a student I’m not expected to know everything, but the pleaser in me wants them to like me, not think badly of me. The anxiety makes me doubt myself and obscure any desirable skills and traits. So of course I’m spending this week reading the latest annual report, trawling through their website and flipping through my cataloguing textbook refreshing my learning from two semesters ago. Because this is how I function, if I can just read all of the things I will (probably) be ok.

Maybe if I read enough I will one day be considered a fearless librarian. To hear Clare described as a fearless librarian made me realise that many of the people I follow and admire in the GLAM professions are fearless GLAMarians (or appear to be, who knows, maybe they also suffer from professional anxiety?) and reminded me of a post I read a while ago on taking a stand. It is this kind of professional that I want to grow into. To be self-assured in my knowledge and able to be an advocate for professional issues that can make a difference to our profession and in our society. I’ll only become this professional if I can overcome my fears, and become confident enough to voice a strong opinion.

And it all starts with clicking ‘publish’….

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