There’s no shortage of career advice out there, but what works for one person in one situation might not be helpful in other cases. In this article, we’ve collected some of the best advice for all phases of a career—in a variety of tricky job-related situations.
We talked with Sara Kelly Johns, retired school librarian, online instructor, and school library activist; Kathryn Kjaer, head of library human resources at University of California, Irvine; and Jill Klees, career consultant to students and alumni at San José State University School of Information.
Finding a Job
Don’t neglect networking. According to a 2016 survey by hiring consultant Lou Adler, networking plays a role for at least half of applicants who find jobs.
Cast a wide net. Assess your skills and all the ways they can be used. “Students and recent graduates often undersell their skills,” says Klees, “so they tend to shy away from applying for jobs if their skills don’t match the description exactly. People don’t see the transferability of their experience.”
Consider lateral moves, which might not immediately increase pay but will teach you new skills and increase your value. In the meantime, “develop your career story and your narrative,” says Kjaer, “so you can explain what you’ve done, where you’re hoping to go next, and why.”
Kjaer recommends assessing your skills and experience: “If you’re interested in branching out, build on the experience you have and look into opportunities in different areas.”
Get involved with professional associations at the local, state, and national levels.“Get over any personal shyness you have,” says Johns. “In order to make a difference in my library program, I had to accept that it wasn’t about me—it was about my students and working collaboratively with faculty.”
Maintain the connections you build in school. Recognize that most librarians are happy to meet colleagues who want to learn from them, and that finding a mentor can play a big part in job satisfaction. According to a 2016 Deloitte survey, having a mentor more than doubles the chance that a millennial will stay with an organization for more than five years.
Continue to make connections in classes and at conferences, workshops, and ALA meetings. Don’t forget to follow up after an event! Says Klees: “Any time you’re making a career change is a great time to reach out to your network, and so are people’s birthdays. Meet them for lunch or coffee, or schedule a chat on the phone.”
Consider consulting or remaining involved in the field after retirement. Reach out to your network beforehand to let them know your plans.
Kjaer suggests setting clear objectives: “An annual plan where librarians work with their supervisors to develop goals …. and ideas for professional development can be really valuable.”
Collect information about career opportunities and necessary skills, using your school’s career resources, librarycareers.org, and ALA JobLIST to understand typical library jobs. “The best thing is to talk to people who are doing jobs that sound interesting to you. Get as much information as you can,” says Klees.
Fight burnout! If you find yourself just going through the motions, find ways to refresh or innovate in your position—or take your ennui as a sign to move on.
Plan for succession by identifying key people and making sure they have the skills necessary to transition into and thrive in a new role. Also determine how involved you want to remain in the profession after retirement.
“Never be afraid to accept challenges,” Johns says, “even if you don’t have the needed skills or resources yet. You’re going to find them from other library professionals and from conferences and workshops, as well as online and through social media connections.”
Apply for ALA’s Emerging Leaders program. If there’s a project you want to work on, speak up; let your team know your professional interests. Read professional journals, and read and contribute to blogs and discussion lists.
Look at job postings to see what skills employers are looking for, and take classes to keep up with market trends. Develop skills by volunteering in the community and leading committees or task forces. Consider applying for the ALA Leadership Institute.
Explore postgraduate certification opportunities. Review leadership training resources such as the ones on this list.
Engaging with the profession outside your organization can open your eyes to new possibilities and provide perspective. Be honest with yourself about how professionally involved you want to be outside your main job. “Not everybody needs those challenges in their life,” Johns says. “Maybe their challenge is to climb mountains instead.”
Get to know your community and administration and what’s important to them. Understand that not everyone in your community will be ready to incorporate your ideas right away. “Find a few people who are willing to change their instructional practices to incorporate your information,” Johns says. “And then promote the collaboration—success breeds success!”
Stay energized. Says Klees: “If I were working with someone who’s burned out, I’d say, ‘Let’s look at your values and compare that to your job and see where the gaps are.’” Take note of resources for caregivers.
Understand that giving back through mentoring and professional involvement can be personally as well as professionally gratifying.