2020 IFLA Coaching Experience

Written by: Roana Marie Flores, Readers’ Services Librarian, De La Salle University, Manila, Philippines, roana.flores@dlsu.edu.ph

Photo caption: The coach, Rajen Munoo of Singapore Management University.

Photo caption: The coachee, Roana Marie Flores of De La Salle University, Manila,

Last 19 August 2020, Wednesday, I attended my very first coaching session initiated by IFLA Section on Continuing Professional Development and Workplace Learning (IFLA-CPDWL). I first heard about this program via my personal Instagram handle and without any hesitation, I registered to one of the available slots on my preferred date and time zone. I was able to book a session with Rajen Munoo of Singapore Management University.

The session started with an introductory note from my chosen coach. Rajen humbly shared his experience beginning early from his career up to the present. He engagingly shared stories along with the lessons he learned along the way. After sharing the story of his professional life, I shared mine. I told him my humble beginnings– how I started as a school librarian then becoming a public librarian into an academic librarian. After telling a brief narrative account, we got to the meat of the matter: my indecision of a Ph.D. degree to take. I told Rajen that I have just finished with my master’s degree this year and that I am planning to take a Ph.D. degree, three years from now. Hence, this discussion will be a useful one to plan out how I will strategize in attaining the goal of finishing a Ph.D. soon. From our discussion, I have taken note of three important things from Rajen: 1) revisit motivation/s, 2) find my niche, and 3) the value of prioritization in life.

1. Revisit motivation/s

The most important thing of all, according to Rajen, is to be completely clear with our motivation/s, especially when deciding to leap into a new venture. I find this very obligatory because motivations are the fuel that keeps us from going. Without it, all things will be meaningless. We must look for things or moments or anything that light up our inner fire from time to time in order to remind us why we are pushing through in our career and life, in general. In my case, I should probably ask myself: why would you want to take a Ph.D. dgree? Or, what drives you in finishing a certain goal?

Photo caption: Rajen and Roana during the actual virtual coaching session.

2. Find our niche

In connection with reexamining motivations, it is equally important to find a niche that is suitable for ourselves. We don’t have to do what everyone else is doing and we should not let ourselves live always in the famous mantra of “go with the flow.” Certain situations in our life need our unique selves. We have different interests and passion and not all person is created alike. In looking for a Ph.D. degree, Rajen pointed out to understand thyself first. What things are you really good at? Do you really want to take data science or are you pressured because everyone else is taking it? There is no need to go where the majority are going into. Be extraordinary. Be unique. Be yourself.

3. The value of prioritization in life​

Taking a Ph.D. is no joke. It will be the most critical five years of your life. Rajen pinpointed how prioritization is crucial during those times. We need to sacrifice a lot of things–time, finances, plus people i.e. our social groups, to name a few. Getting back to our life goals and motivations is much needed at this time. That is why Rajen, started his advice on me by asking me my motivation.

The conversation with my coach is very interesting, meaningful, and direct to the point. I think that what I learned from this session will not only help me in my professional life but my personal existence as well. It has been a long time since I had a conversation like this with an expert and I am grateful that I signed up for this. One hour is not enough in this coaching session, but that one hour is one of the most remarkable ones in my librarianship life.

To conclude, let me share with you the parting words from Rajen: “Aim for the stars and keep your feet on the ground.” We always need to give our best, be it in a small task of fixing something small. These small steps will lead into a greater purpose and sense of completion. Success and failure are part of our lives. While we want ourselves to be successful in our life endeavors, let us not forget other people who also need our help. Most importantly, do not let accomplishments get into your head and drown you. At the end of the day, we do not own this life. All the success we accomplished will be thrown on our graves when we leave the earth, and what will matter most is how you was able to relate and use that accomplishments to help our fellowmen.