Ages & stages

I can’t be the only one thinking a little bit more about retirement these days.

When looking at lists of pending retirees in recent years (both within AISL and at my school) , I have been taken aback by the increasing number of people listed whom I consider mentors. It really does seem like yesterday when I first met them, had the pleasure of learning alongside them, and began seeking  them out for guidance and direction. These librarians and teachers have had a seminal effect on my growth, largely professional but in many ways, personal. I focus on being happy about someone’s planned retirement while feeling something akin to distress. 

So – where to from here?

Theorist Donald Super offers these 5 stages of self-concept & career development

I wish I’d seen this a couple of years ago when I was flummoxed by the plateau I was feeling; I now realize that it was the stagnation noted in the Maintenance stage. 

Almost 20 years into librarianship, I have been fortunate to be involved with some major tasks: three LMS migrations, the revitalization of a school library program, a renovation and integration into our new school commons, and much technological transformation. I firmly believe that our school deserves dynamic people at the helm, and my diminished emotional state was making me question whether or not I should be passing the torch.

Fortunately, by this time last year, I seemed to have gotten my rhythm back. Just in time for the pandemic – ironic, but also timely, and it has provided opportunity for creativity and innovation in ways we couldn’t have imagined.

I’m going to embrace being at the Maintenance stage: holding on to what is serving my students well, updating what needs to be refreshed, recognizing feelings of stagnation if they return but aiming to push past them by continuing to innovate

I’m also going to work finding a new word for the 5th stage: “Decline”, my posterior. It’s clear Super never met a KARL 😉

12 thoughts on “Ages & stages

  1. Shelagh,

    Thanks for sharing this! I hadn’t heard of the stages and they are so useful for conceptualizing my career.

  2. Agreed, “decline” is nonsense! Retirement just means finally having the free time to further develop all those other passions that are part of your “self-concept” along with your work.

  3. I have talked with many librarians this year about “burnout,” which makes sense in a global pandemic, but I also think that in a non-pandemic year it could be helpful to have a Zoom session for librarians in the establishment and maintenance sections of their careers.

  4. This is just what I needed this morning, Shelagh. Thank you for putting into words what I have been feeling. Belonging to AISL has been the best professional development/ mentor experience of my career and you have been a large part of that. Thanks again for sharing.

  5. Great post, Shelagh! Thinking about career stages is so valuable. And I concur with your last line–rather than declining, I feel as if I am now blooming! Maybe reinvention is a better name for that last stage.

  6. Agree with all above comments! Great post, and as Nancy noted – AISL has been the most significant, helpful PD in my librarian experience as well.

  7. Thank you for this blog…I am also relating it to marriage…but I feel you go in and out of all the stages at various times in your life…maybe that is how it works for your career too….I always say, “I am never growing up” …. and try to look at each day as an “adventure”…and yes, there are days I feel I definitely made the wrong turn…but there is always a new road ahead…waiting to be traveled. Thank you for the great reflection!

  8. Agreed, Shelagh — as a recent retiree, I would substitute Delight for Decline as the final stage. Having time to take delight in learning new things and pursuing interests aside from career considerations is truly liberating. So … maintain, and then delight!

  9. What a great post, Shelagh! I know what you mean about “maintenance” sometimes feeling like a struggle. I still want to “create things,” but it sure seems a lot harder to figure out what to build. I worked with an AMAZING mentor librarian nearing her retirement who once told me, “I know that I can learn to do what you and and Anna are doing, but I’ve just reached the point where I just don’t want to so I know it’s time for me to move on to other things.” I’ve reached a point where I know, very clearly, how she felt. What isn’t so clear is whether I’m feeling that way because of my frustrations in this moment in time, or whether I really am coming to the end of what has been a super fun and rewarding run. Thanks for your wonderful food for thought!

  10. This has been an interesting year. These stages for evaluating self-development and careers are thought-provoking. Is there a subcategory for denial, illusions, and fatigue? Thanks for sharing.

  11. Pingback: From the archives: Moving up a stage – Venn Librarian

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