Don’t be afraid to ask questions

Asking questions can be very daunting on any occasion. Whether you’re in a new role, on a course, at an event or travelling in a different country. Working up the courage can be scary, especially for an introvert like me who has feared social interaction for most of my life and who is scared of asking a stupid question.

However, I have found that life is so much easier when you ask. Instead of struggling for ages to find the answer, someone else can save you the time and the needless effort you spent scouring the internet or wandering around in circles.

Within my role, I’ve had quite a few requests where I literally have been clueless. In particular, as I work within a bank (with no previous bank or financial institution experience) many of the terms were new to me (still are). This meant that I had to search for what the term meant and then figure out how to find the information and/or data associated with it.

I have also had requests where I have had to fill out a form in order to get information, but have not known which form to fill out and what information to put in; or provide a specific type of information on a company where I haven’t been given the full name or jurisdiction or which document would be able to provide the information needed.

I know that if I had struggled in silence, I would have frequently provided and requested the wrong information, which would have wasted a lot of time and money. Thus asking the questions that need to be asked has become a necessary part of my role and has become easier to do in life.

So, I regularly talk to my account relationship managers, use the chat feature provided by some subscriptions, fill out contact forms on websites and email contacts, asking the question. In addition, I go back to my clients asking for confirmation on the details of their request and my manager is always there when I need her.

The great thing about asking questions is that it doesn’t only help with the current request or predicament, but also provides you with information you can use in the future. It helps you increase your knowledge in different areas that you can then pass on to others.

However, I can’t just ask the question and then think that I’ll remember the answer for next time. I forget almost everything if only told to me once. And when I am constantly working on a variety of different requests at one time, it is easy for things to slip my mind.

So, from the beginning, I wrote things down – well typed up everything into an Excel Spreadsheet (I really love Excel). This included the different types of requests I get as well as where to look and the other terms people use when asking for that information. I can then always go back and refer to the ‘guide’ if I ever am unsure, but know that I’ve had a similar request in the past.

So, never be afraid to ask questions, you will always gain something from it. And never forget to write things down, you won’t remember everything.

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Pursuing Research

Research is one of the things I love doing as an Information Professional, as it allows me to find out about so many different and interesting things. In particular, within my role, I can go from performing research on a particular market or industry to finding information on the sociological aspects that affect working within a business.

However, performing research for others can leave me feeling a little wishful about completing a project of my own. I get to utilise my skills and my resources for someone else, which is fine, but I don’t get to participate in the creation of something and seeing it through to the end result. Thus, I do wonder whether being an Information Professional is right for me.

I love information and I love the fact that it comes in so many different forms. But finding a role that allows me to fully develop and grow in the areas I want to, has been difficult. So, I have been thinking about reinventing the role to suit who I am, my skills and what I’m passion about, if the role doesn’t exist already.

I am grateful that my current position has allowed me to develop my research skills. But I believe that there is more I can do without the constraints of being in a business.

 

 

 

How to realise and help with the information needs of your clients

My primary role as an Information Professional is to identify the needs of my clients, in order to facilitate their activities. There are several ways of doing this, without badgering clients about what they need and want from our service.

One way is to meet the new starters. New employees are usually more gun-ho and enthusiastic and so are willing to meet and discuss what they do and how we could help. In addition, they are in a better position to pass on information about our services to their colleagues and managers.

Another way is when speaking to account managers, you can ask questions about who would use and benefit from their service, without feeling embarrassed about not knowing about certain functions of a business or what certain acronyms mean :S.

Furthermore, keeping track of the kinds of requests certain departments/areas of business have made, can help. I have categorised the different kinds of queries we get and who we get them from. This enables me to see what kind of information is needed by different groups and how often they come to us for help. Similarly, I can see which areas of business don’t come to us as often or at all.

In addition, reaching out on an internal social platform, by sharing news, research and events etc. will enable those who don’t know about out service to reach out to us.

By keeping track of the kinds of requests we get and the areas of business that use us and by posting information on the internal social platform, I can reach out with informed material.

Managing Subscriptions

As part of my role, I am required to help with managing the subscriptions of the users within our institution. This includes setting up and renewing the subscriptions, as well as keeping track of who our users and contacts are.

This can get quite complex as we manage a lot of subscriptions from different suppliers, with different account managers and any number of users. In addition, there is the added issue of people leaving and having to deactivate their logins.

So, in order to effectively manage them, having an organisation system helps. Using Excel to keep a record of the subscriptions, with information on costs, users and renewal dates, is incredibly helpful when needing to regularly update the list. In addition, the suppliers can help by providing a list of users. Also having a way to keep track of who has left will also help with knowing for definite who has what, how many users there are and if anyone can be added or swapped.

Keeping the contracts and invoices in a place where they can easily be retrieved also helps. As well as having information on costs, they can have information on the name of the subscription, supplier details, description, number of licenses, t&cs, renewal date etc. Thus, when subscriptions are renewed, this information can be put consolidated into the Excel spreadsheet, where the information can be easily seen and sought.

I mentioned in a previous post that I have created two separate spreadsheets to keep track of the subscriptions. In addition, in the document that has the information on users costs and renewal dates, I have created other sheets that have information on users that need to be deactivated and subscriptions ordered by renewal date, so that we can renew in a timely manner.

Using a subscription management service can also help with those subscriptions where only 1 or 2 licenses are needed for each subscription. It can help with renewal deadlines, creating a new subscription (finding out costs, negotiating, etc.) and keeping track of costs.

There may be other ways that are useful for managing subscriptions, but these are the ways I have found that help. Although, I would like to find a formula I can use that will automatically update the renewal dates and possibly costs in the ‘renewal date’ Excel sheet.

New Chapter

Over the past few months, I had been contemplating about whether I should leave my current role or not. I wasn’t sure where I would go after I left, but I knew that this role wasn’t for me. I did have a look at roles available within the industry, but found that they weren’t quite what I was looking for. This meant that actually leaving could mean that I wouldn’t really have a place to go to, or I could end up in another role that didn’t really give me what I wanted. But after talking to my friends and family (with the odd complaints), I found the courage to talk to my manager.

There were a few reasons why it took me a while to decide to leave. One was that I am in a two person team. Leaving would mean that my manager would be left alone, which made me feel uncomfortable. Another reason was that my current role is pretty comfortable. I work 7 hours a day, no weekends, on a good salary. I have my own desk, I can go for a walk at lunch and the clients are mostly really really nice. In addition, the requests can be varied, which adds dimension to the role.

However, there was something that was always bugging me and it took me a while to figure it out. I kept thinking about how I felt at the places I had at worked before; what the environment, culture, work and people were like. About how I fitted in at those places and how I fit in at the place I work at now.

I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t happy, and that I wanted something more and different. I didn’t feel happy coming to work, I didn’t look forward to meeting new people and I didn’t want to participate. I had become disengaged.

Disengagement is a real issue, as it means that I won’t do my best work and go out of my way to do things. For example, when I first started, I developed the SharePoint site, wrote a couple of blog posts and actively looked out for any interesting articles and reports that would be of interest to my clients. Now, I have become lazy and disinterested, which is not someone I want to be.

So I made a decision. Despite all the monetary and skill benefits that I would gain here, I knew that I wouldn’t fully take advantage of them and needed to figure out what I wanted to do. I needed to this whilst I had no responsibilities and no one relying on me.

When I found the courage to tell my manager that I was leaving something amazing happened. My brain started firing with all these possibilities. I suddenly had an idea of where I wanted to take my career and I felt excited.

I started thinking about starting my own business, which was something I had never really wanted to do. I had always thought I’d work for someone else, in a company or a university, but now I was thinking that I want to work for myself and for my own reasons. I also started thinking about temping, so I could work in different environments and with different people. This way I could figure out what path I wanted to travel.

After speaking with my friends about my business idea, things started becoming a little clearer and I even asked them to help me out, by giving me topics to research. This way I would be able to figure out where I could possibly to take my career.

Using Microsoft Excel as an Information Professional

Microsoft Excel is really a wonderful tool. It can be used for all kinds of things and I have found it extremely useful to use as an Information Professional.

For example, I have used it to keep track of all the subscriptions we have, including having a spreadsheet dedicated to subscriptions, users and costs and have a separate spreadsheet dedicated to descriptions of the subscriptions and what category it belongs to.

I have also used it to organise what I would like our SharePoint site to look like, having a separate tab for each page on the site, which makes it easier to update as we would just need to copy and paste, since SharePoint can be limited in what it can do.

In addition, I have used Excel to keep track of important information, which has, in a way, become a guide. For example, I have used it to record the different searches we perform (including what database to use and what to look for), who our suppliers and account managers are and the different company registries.

Most importantly, it is being used to keep track of our requests so that we have an idea of who is asking for what, what kind of information they are asking for and how long each type of request takes.

I find Excel useful because it allows me to have a number of sheets in one document and I can filter, alphabetise, calculate and update information really quickly and easily.

Library Portal: Part 2

puzzle tree

Creating a library portal was something I really wanted to do and expressed as much in my interview. It was something I thought would benefit the business as well as make things easier for us to share information.

 

hmm

Although, I expressed concern about how relevant it would be and whether anyone would be interested (which was mentioned in a previous post), I decided to persevere, with the encouragement of my manager.

Initially, I wanted to create an actual site that would be added onto the business site. But this would have included quite a lot of work from the IT department, in terms of coding and design. So we were forced to use the intranet site we were already using. This meant having to get a bit creative by fleshing it out a bit, making it more appealing and accessible.

 

I created an Excel workbook where each sheet represented a page that would be on our intranet site. This meant that I had a place where all the information was held and could be modified at any point. It also made organising the information a lot easier.

I did have a bit of trouble with IT, when asking for help on how to change/modify certain things, but they were eventually helpful in making the site look a little better. They helped create a tile layout, where each tile became a link to each page of the site. This meant that we could have nice images that represented the contents of each page.

 

proud

I feel really proud of the fact that I was able to fulfill something I had intended to do from the very beginning. In addition to this, a little bit of me will forever be there, as I was the one who started this whole process.

In the future, I hope to make it a bit more aesthetically appealing and to have content that others will find interesting and useful, that will then encourage them to regularly check the site for any new information.