When creating the training programme for the Oxford Skills for the Future trainees it was recognised that arranging regular opportunities for the trainee to have a 1:1 with myself as their Project Manager would enable the trainee to update me with their progress and to talk about what they had been doing on placement. In reality the 1:1s covered so much more, and reflecting on the process I believe that they have been an integral part of the success of both the trainees time here in Oxford and in their future careers.
Generally the 1:1s have taken place once every fortnight, sometimes less so, other times more regularly. They lasted approximately 1 hour and took place in any of the following environments: a quiet space away from others, in museum galleries, or over a coffee in a local café. Sometimes when space was difficult to find the 1:1s happened in office spaces where other members of staff were working. This was not an ideal environment!
For many trainees 1:1s were something new. Some of the trainees responded positively to the opportunity of chatting to their line manager, for others it took them longer to adjust, especially in feeling comfortable and confident talking about themselves.
To ease trainees into the 1:1s it was important to introduce and explain the process and purpose of the meetings and how as their manager I was there to listen, support, and advise. During the early 1:1s my role was to lead the session, encouraging the trainee to engage with the process and to feel more confident in shaping the meeting to meet their own needs. On average trainees took between 6 weeks to 4 months to feel confident taking the lead in the 1:1s.
If trainees had specific things they wanted to talk about in the 1:1s they were asked to email me in advance. This gave me time to think about the things they wanted to discuss and also ensured that I was in a position to support them in the best possible way. If they were worried about finding work beyond the traineeship it gave me time to carry out a job search for suitable positions. If they were interested in developing particular skills and knowledge I was able to use this time to speak with colleagues to find out if they were able to support the trainee in gaining this knowledge, or if not then time for me to search the internet for external training opportunities.
The things covered in meetings varied hugely. Some of these included:
- Update on placement progress, including what the trainees had been doing, who they had been working with
- Reflecting on things that had gone well and things that had been more challenging
- Professional development
- Personal issues, including accommodation difficulties, health and well-being
- Placement and training difficulties
- Time management
- Working with specific audiences
- Discussing ideas for independent projects and finding ways to develop ideas
- Discussions about the wider museum and museum education sector
- Feeling low in confidence and finding ways to increase confidence
- Understanding the job market, identifying jobs, applying for jobs and interview preparation
The following are a selection of quotes from trainees sharing their feelings about the importance of 1:1s:
1:1s are useful for sharing ideas, asking tricky questions concerning structuring a project and time management. They are also really valuable in preparing for job applications, especially relating practical experiences gained on the traineeship to skills required of a role.
1:1s are the time we get to speak about anything in regards to the traineeship with our Coordinator. Whether that is just an update on what we are doing at our placements, to help with job applications, or to just talk through a difficult situation we are experiencing. They are a great way to keep the lines of communications open with our Coordinator and a place that we can trust that what we share doesn't go beyond our meeting, unless the Coordinator and trainee agree. Personally, I cannot image the traineeship without them.
I am finding the 1:1s useful throughout the traineeship, the nature of discussions changes in accordance with what I’m learning. Reflection about my professional development and planning for my future careers are integral parts of the traineeship and normally I find both of these things difficult to do. At university I didn’t have a tutor or mentor, so while I find the 1:1 meetings occasionally stressful for a variety of reasons - reflecting on both positives and negatives of my work and attempting to rationalise my ideas for the future – I can now see the benefits of taking the time to talk with someone who has more experience and can see the bigger picture of museum education.
1:1s are really important as a chance to reflect on what we have been doing and how we have felt about it, and also to plan for what we feel we need to do more of as our traineeship progresses. We are able to get advice and feedback and ask questions about anything we feel unsure about. They are also a chance for us to get in depth mentoring on important aspects such as developing our final projects, and starting to look for and apply for jobs in preparation for our traineeships coming to an end.
On reflection I feel very positive having offered trainees 1:1 meetings. They provided an opportunity to support the trainee individually rather than as part of a group, encouraged them to reflect on their own progress and to identify their training needs, positively challenged them to think about doing things in a different way even if it meant taking a risk, and encouraged them to understand who they are as professionals and what they have to offer the sector.
I hope a lasting legacy will be that former trainees will remember how important 1:1s were to their own development and therefore, when in a position to do so, offer them to their own staff and trainees throughout their future careers.