Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Wait, you really are an expert!

When I first started posting here, I didn’t think much attention would be paid to what I had to say. I had only just gotten my degree. I had no post-degree work experience. I was a nobody. What I didn’t quite realize at the time is that I was an expert in something. I was an expert of my own experiences. People listened to what I was saying because I got up every morning and scoured the job listings, applying to what I felt I was qualified for and what interested me. I was an unemployed job hunter while the “Great Librarian Shortage” hue and cry was at its most recent peak. And, even more importantly, I was willing to talk about those experiences.

Being an expert in something doesn’t necessarily mean you are the most knowledgeable person on a topic. You may be the only person willing, and in some cases able, to convey your knowledge to others. Sometimes one high profile gig will net you the title of “expert”. But, only by repeatedly speaking and/or writing on the topic or related topics will you retain that title.

I still don’t consider myself an expert on being a young librarian. I’m still only an expert of what I have experienced. And, I’m still willing to share my insights with those who ask.

Okay, short and sweet today, but an idea that’s been circling in my brain for a bit.

For the Illinois librarians who read this

In case you haven't heard already, applications for Synergy 2007 are being accepted through November 30th.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Some fun for the day

For those who don't read Unshelved (and why don't you?!?), and you're of the creative sort, and you've got an extra bookcart lying around, check out the "Pimp My Bookcart!" contest.

Overdue Media - Blog

Listening to your gut

At what point do you pay attention to the red flags? The job trolling stage? The interview stage? The I’m-already-here-I’d-better-make-the-best-of-things stage?

I hope you answer one of the first two stages. Sometimes the red flags don’t come out until after you’re already there. At that point, you have to decide if it’s a true red flag, or if it’s just transition jitters.

If you’re at the job trolling stage and you’re already picking up red flags, be very wary. This is where networking comes in handy. If you’re not familiar with the organization, think who in your network may live/work geographically close to it. At times like these, I appreciate my friends who are even better networked than I am. Your contact may not be able to give you more information from a personal standpoint, but they may be able to put you in touch with someone who is.

Okay, no red flags jumped out at you in the application process. Not uncommon. They’ve asked you to come and interview. Great! First hurdle down. Erin Barta wrote a great article for LISCareer.com called “Why I Won’t Work for You”. Go read it now. She’s listed red flags to watch out for and why you should be watching out for them. I interviewed for a position earlier this year, and a piece of advice I’ve carried with me since grad school is that you, as the interviewee, need to ask questions in the interview. I did so much research on this institution that I had a whole lot of questions floating through my head. These were questions I wanted to make sure I had the answers to if I were given the opportunity to make a decision on whether or not to work for them. They covered everything from how many hours the position would be assigned to desk duty to what kinds of benefits they offered, and didn’t offer. I decided to type them up so that I had room to write the answers rather than cramming them onto a piece of legal pad paper and try to decipher my bad handwriting. I’ve uploaded them to the website in both Word and PDF. Use them as jumping off points for your own set of questions. Red flags don’t necessarily mean the institution is a bad place, just that it could be the wrong fit for you and your professional goals.

Now, you’ve accepted the position and the red flags are popping up. If you’ve already started, you might just be in a transition period. You’re going to run into that with every job. There is a line between transition jitters and get the heck out of there signals. This line is going to be different with every person, and you really need to know yourself well. If you’re thinking of bailing ship, give these items consideration.
  • Are you financially able to jump ship? If you’re not currently able, will you be soon?

  • Did you sign a contract? Is there a “no fault” period where you can just walk away?

  • What is it really that’s bothering you about the position? Do you think it can be resolved with honest communication?

  • Is your health being affected by stress? Is the stress self-generated or situation-generated?
Be very honest with yourself because you’re going to have to go back out into the job hunting pool. If that’s a more appealing prospect than staying in the new job, I wish you the best of luck.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


No, not of the bike variety. More, the job market kind. Let me start by saying I believe that you should always be looking at job ads, even if you are extremely happy in your current position. This is two-fold. You may be looking again one day and you’ll have an idea as to what’s out there and what skills are desired. Also, if you’re already in your dream job, but you see a position description with a duty that fires up your imagination, you could talk with your employer to see how you can incorporate it into your current duties.

I was recently talking with a friend of mine, a relatively recent graduate and new job holder. She’s been observing the positions open postings and got a perception that she would be a viable candidate for many of them only once she’d achieved that magic number of 2 years experience post-degree. I find this perception intriguing as when I started looking for my first position, many of the postings required 3-5 years experience. About this time last year, it seemed as if there was a flurry of entry level positions being posted. This year, as I’m coming up on my third year anniversary at my current position, it seems as if there’s not much out there for public librarians at all. Now, my friend is in a different section of the job market, so she’ll be seeing a different cycle. The cycles you see are also going to be dependent on where you live, how tied you are to that community, and where you look for job postings.

You can’t plan for cycles. They’re never going to be the same length, and, unless you’re psychic, you’re not always going to be in the right place at the right time. But how do you handle your career planning? By being fluid. You may get into that first job and think you’ll be out in two years. Be prepared to stay up to five. You might start thinking “this is it, I’m not going anywhere until I can cash in that retirement plan.” Opportunity could be knocking on your door six months later. Sometimes, you may have to give up that dream job offer because you realize that it’s not the right time for you to move for reasons other than your career. In this profession, having a second income through the person you live with makes career decisions paradoxically easier and harder at the same time. It’s easier in that you may have the financial freedom to consider positions at a lower pay level, and harder because you have a second persons whose needs and wants have to be considered in job change decisions.

Personally, I’m reaching a point where I need to decide how committed I am to the area where I’m currently living. I have a personal goal that is not specifically career related, but it is intimately tied into what the next career step for me will be. Finding the balance between career and greater life decisions is hard. I think in many ways it’s even harder for the younger generation as we have many more years ahead of us to live with the consequences of our decisions. As long as we keep in mind that having a healthy outlook will help to keep things in perspective, I think we’ll do okay. And maybe some cycling of the bicycle variety couldn’t hurt ;)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

What they don't teach in library school

You may have noticed that I'm trying to keep to at least a regular Tuesday posting schedule. This is because I normally work Tuesday nights and have the mornings free to think and consider my posts here. Today I had planned on doing a long and, hopefully, interesting post regarding AmazonUnbox and the Day Against DRM as brought to my attention by Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn (BugMeNot for those not registered). However, you are reading this. Everyone talks about creating a class on what they don't teach in library school. Basically, everything that's covered by that little clause: "and other duties as assigned." This can range from throwing out the pervert who's hiding back in the stacks to cleaning up after a little kid who's day just got even worse by being sick if a janitor's not available. It also includes putting the library back to rights after a disaster happens. My place of employment will be fine, our collection is fine, but do not be surprised if one day you are called up and asked to come to work in your grubbiest clothes and be ready for physical labor. I don't think they necessarily need a class on this, but a one week workshop before they send you out into the "real world" wouldn't hurt.