Like many others at this time of year I am now thoroughly sick and tired of the winter. Last weekend in Edinburgh was particularly poor with dismal dark skies overhead and a damp chill at ground level that seemed to rise up and penetrate my clothing no matter how well wrapped up I was. Each morning at this time of year I step out of my front door wondering whether this will finally be the day when I get a first real sniff of spring. As yet, no such joy.
The good news, however, is that while there are few physical signs that soon we will shed our winter gear (a tiny clutch of snowdrops here, or half an hour of sunshine there), much of what I am working on now reaches out to activities in the late spring and summer. For example: with colleagues last week I planned the draft programme for my school’s PhD student trip to Firbush Outdoor Centre in April; I finalised details for a one day training course at the ESRC Scottish Graduate School Doctoral Training Centre summer school on behalf of the Information Science pathway, and yesterday I received a batch of conference paper abstracts to review for the i3 conference in Aberdeen at the end of June. I am very much looking forward to all these events.
A further sign of warmer times ahead is the number of calls for award applications and nominations distributed in January and February. Indeed just last week one of my colleagues and two students submitted applications for funding to support attendance at two different conferences later in the year, and I also nominated another person for a national award, the outcome of which will be announced at a forthcoming conference.
Then yesterday morning I spotted the reminders for one of the most exciting awards available to early career information professionals in Europe: SLA Europe’s Early Career Conference Award (ECCA), the deadline for which is this coming Friday 15th 2013. The ECCA offers winners the fantastic opportunity to travel to the US to participate at the SLA annual conference, which this year takes place in San Diego in June. Winners also benefit from being matched with a designated mentor for the duration of the event and beyond. I saw this system in action when I attended SLA 2011 myself, and I have to say how impressed I was with the whole set-up, and how the awardees Samuel Wiggins, Natalia Madjarevic, Ned Potter and Chris Cooper clearly benefited from it. If you’ve seen the ECCA call, and you’re eligible to apply, I strongly suggest that you do so. If you haven’t yet seen the details, go and take a look. And if this call isn’t your kind of thing, look out for others that are. If you’re studying for a library and information science (LIS) qualification or work in LIS, there’s a whole mailing list dedicated to calls for award applications and nominations. Sign up for this, see what’s on offer and give it a go. If your work is in another domain, look out for the calls from professional bodies, or that come through by e-mail, on Twitter, or in the professional press.
There’s so much to gain from a successful application. There are opportunities to learn about the latest developments in your subject area from the researchers and practitioners who have direct experience; to mix with established professionals in your field at the networking sessions; to find out about future job opportunities; to learn how to become more professionally active yourself; to tell others about your work and career amibitions etc. Added to this is the chance to travel to an event which might otherwise be impossible for you to reach (for example, due to cost, or your position within your home organisation), and something special to add to your CV. Often the funding bodies ask you to write a report about your experience as an award winner, and this gives you a guaranteed opportunity to publish, which, in turn, is something else to add to your professional profile. If you’d like to read an interesting account of the impact of winning a professional award, check what Simon Barron had to say last year when he reflected on his experiences as an ECCA winner in Chicago at the 2012 SLA conference.
So no more “The competition will be too strong”, “I haven’t got time to fill in the form”, “There’s nobody who will nominate me”, “Oh, I’ll never get it” etc. The truth is that only the judges ever see the full extent of the competition, you can usually squeeze in an extra hour or so somewhere to make an application (get into work an hour early or stay on a little later than usual in the evening), and to find someone to support your application all you need to do is ask (just like you do when you need a job reference). Over the many years that I’ve encouraged candidates to make applications, and instances that I have served on award panels, I have seen several individuals with such doubts surprise themselves. in reality there’s only one certain way that you won’t be successful at winning an award – and that’s if you don’t apply at all. Do your career a favour and make that application!