Feeling like a phony

This post written by David Beales.

Is there a part of your job that you’re not very good at? For me, the answer to that question is “yes”. Now, the internet is forever so Future Me would want Present Me to be careful that I set this up properly before I scare off potential employers:

When I was a teenager, I used to look up to my father. Mainly because I was guiding his feet from rung to rung as he climbed slowly up and down ladders. Why? He needed the money. There there was money in roofing old Cornish buildings at the time, so he learned how to become a roofer and got to work. He was good at it too, but for one minor problem; he was scared of heights. Sometimes it would take half an hour for him to climb a ladder. Helping him work through this fear may well count as the most boring summer job I ever had. Still, it was a matter of pride to him that during the Great Storm of 1987 not a single slate fell from any of his roofs (and neither did he). So, that was his weakness; this is mine:

My name is David Beales and I am afraid of the phone*

I can stand in front of a  hundred people and talk for an hour without breaking sweat, but I can’t talk to one person down a wire without having to write down the major keywords in case I forget. This, among other things,  makes outreach harder for me than any other part of my job. It doesn’t mean that I don’t do it, but it is something I have to really work at and I know that there are people who find it much easier than me.  I feel alright about saying this because I suspect that most of us have our own areas of insecurity that we try not to talk about:

  • If you are a subject librarian and don’t know the difference between a JR1 report and a JR5 put you’re hand up (now put it down again, people are looking).
  • If you’ve ever thought to yourself “None of my teachers ever had to throw sweets at me because they were scared I’d be bored”, you’ll know that some of us are more confident teachers than others.

Are you still reading or have you rushed off to tell your boss how bad you are at your job? No, I haven’t done that either but I have decided to be more open about what I don’t know. Karen and I have more to say on this subject but I have to stop for now. I have a meeting to discuss this rubric I wrote and how bad it is.


*Dear potential employer, I have since overcome this weakness. I now love phones. I also thrive under pressure and am able to effectively manage my time.**

**Dear current employer, I am really happy here and not looking for another job.

Photo: Arthur Tress – Girl with Dunce Cap, New York


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