The editors of CLSIG Journal / CILIP (bit.ly/1CymEDn) have kindly permitted me to show a slightly edited version of my July 2014 “Agony Aunt” column here:
Agony Aunt has received an inquiry from an information professional who is concerned about a prevailing perception on the part of management that time set aside for professional development and participation in association activities is somehow not “work”. The inquirer asks how it might be conveyed to management that in fact, such activities provide overall and long term benefits.
Naturally, it is dismaying to hear such perceptions are still around. Having connected the seller of excess library materials with a buyer as a direct result of being at a professional conference, Agony Aunt has a ready example at hand to shed light on the value of attending professional events. Here is an approach our inquirer might consider.
Rather than arguing for the concept of professional development and association activity, demonstrating practical value for the employer might be advisable. For example:
“At last night’s meeting of [association], I learned how we might improve our [function] by adopting the [tool or process]. Employees at [other firm] showed how they had reduced [measure] from X to Y in a matter of weeks by using it.” In such a statement, you indicate you attended on your own time AND that you focus on a potential savings or other desirable outcome for the employer.
“Participants in [association’s] recent online discussion of [topic] have pointed out the risk associated with [technology]. Judging by illustrations from firms similar to ours, we would do well to [undertake X action] in order to protect ourselves from such an untoward event.” Here, you position yourself as being on the lookout for the firm’s well being.
“My colleagues in [association] are telling me the X course enabled them to do [Y function] in half the time. At only [price], it seems a well considered investment given how many times in a week we perform that function.” Again, you are illustrating a direct benefit to the firm.
The focus, as is no doubt already clear, is on value and benefit for the firm. There is no mention of “what I want”. (The fact that participation in professional associations is interesting, engaging, and career-enhancing is irrelevant in the specific context.)