As I am writing this blog, I am sitting in my bedroom. It’s an odd combination of the hot air coming from the vents, but the freezing air coming from the window. Like everyone and their grandmas, the pipes at our house have frozen a couple times this week. Living in DC, we don’t experience much single digit weather, but we make do. As I have been wallowing in self pity of my household woes, I caught up with a friend who is currently in her last semester of library school and applying to jobs.
However, this blog is not about the job hunt, it’s about informal peer-to-peer mentorship. While there are many formal programs, relationships, or structures to this type of mentorship, a lot of us “fall” into it. When I got my first job at American University, this particular friend was thinking about going to library school and I found myself being giving her the information and mentorship that I wish I had gotten before starting library school.
Almost two years have passed since my friend entered library school and our friendship has evolved in many ways. While we are experiencing different phases of our lives, our conversations changed from the topic of library school and recommended classes, to the very first job search and the stress and anxiety that comes with that.
In the midst of sharing my own interview tips, I was caught by surprise. I noticed that the roles had flipped. She was now mentoring and giving her assurance to me. Seeing as how I am geographically bound on my current job search, she was sending me job posts and assuring me that the job market would pick up. She was telling me that everything was going to be alright.
This type of informal peer-to-peer mentorship relationship is important because it helps the next generation of librarians, but also because of the shared experiences the two of you might encounter and share, both positive and negative. Peer-to-peer mentorship relationships are an integral part of your growth as a librarian.
Anyone can share their experiences in library land, their journey through that first job hunt, or any other helpful information. However, there are some topics that may be a little hard to discuss and share with just anyone.
I believe that the foundation of a good mentorship relationship of any kind is trust, empathy, and respect. It takes these three things to be able to talk openly about some difficult topics in librarianship. Topics such as being the very few women of color at your workplace, microaggressions, unspoken rules of interviewing for a job, or navigating difficult relationships.
Having these conversations allows for reflection, discussion, and action. The great thing about this relationship is that you’re able to see the growth of the other person, both personally and professionally. It’s almost as if you’ve grown up together and become adults. I encourage everyone to cherish these relationships because your education as a librarian is never over. The best teachers are the ones closest to you.