Saturday, April 25, 2009

Career Building and Staying Relevant in Trying Economic Times

Cake celebrating SLA 100th anniversaryYesterday, the Upstate New York Chapter of the Special Libraries Association held an all-day event on "Career Building and Staying Relevant in Trying Economic Times" at SUNY Albany. An abundance of good information was exchanged during the event, as well as during the informal times in the day.

The morning speaker was Rachel Singer Gordon who is an author, editor and webmaster of LISjobs.com. Gordon divided her talk into the 12 R's which all have to do with establishing your career:
  1. Refocus
  2. Recognize the need to be proactive
  3. Reinvest
  4. Resume
  5. Relocate
  6. Resources
  7. Reconnect
  8. Ready yourself
  9. Rethink
  10. Reframe
  11. Resilience
  12. Realize
If I were to summarize her talk, I would say that her message was to understand yourself and your options. Think broadly. Don't be quick to eliminate possibilities. Keep yourself current (and your resume). Set goals and set a path for achieving them.

Gordon pointed to LISjobs.com as a site that does contain resources for job seekers and noted that many people don't take advantage of that part of the web site. She "hammered home" that there are conference scholarships, etc., that are available for people to apply for, yet few submit applications.

Gordon noted that how you think about your career is impacted by who you think is in control of your career: you or external forces. The key is for you to take ownership of your career.

Another resource for us to know about is Beyond The Job which contains "articles, job-hunting advice, professional development opportunities, and other news and ideas on how to further your library career."

The other morning speaker was Noah Simon from the SUNY Albany Career Center. Simon said that this economy is teaching use about career development. Everyone wants a recession-proof career, but we all should have been building recession-proof careers before the recession hit.

Simon talked about the 2% rule. He believes that you should spend 2% of each work week focusing on your career (that's 30 - 60 min. per week). What should you be doing with that time?
  • Update your resume
  • Look at your skill set and think about which skills are transferable to other types of jobs
  • Make new contacts
  • Follow-up on old contacts
  • Place yourself in appropriate social networking tools (e.g., LinkedIn)
  • Work on your skills
  • ...and more
He emphasized over and over again that we need to be in control of our careers. We spend a lot of time planning vacations, etc., shouldn't we also plan our careers?

One question he asked was, "Are you being shut out of your current field (of expertise) or are you shutting yourself out?"

During lunch, Chris Miller, treasurer for the Upstate NY Chapter, talked about the resources available through SLA. there are many, many resources available to members on the SLA web site and most of us are unaware of what is there. If you have not explored the web site in the last year, please take time to look at it. Your membership dollars are providing an increased number of resources to you.

BTW Miller used this interactive map during his presentation which shows when jobs disappeared in the U.S.

After lunch, Ruth Wolfish, Association Chapter Cabinet Chair-Elect, spoke about SLA's Alignment Project. She provided us with a overview of the project and some of what had been learned. She encouraged each of us to go through the information on the SLA web site about this project. The goal of the Alignment Project is to help the Association and each of us understand how we should be positioning ourselves in the mind of our employers and clients. We know that the terms "special libraries" and "special librarians" are not clear and so what words, etc., should we be using?

SLA has been thinking about the "name thing" for a long time and this project is a very organized attempt at figuring it out. I think our earlier failed conversations on this really paved the way for this project. I, for one, have an open mind about the results.

The final part of the day was a panel discussion with Ruth Wolfish, Euan Morton, Polly-Alida Farrington, and myself talking about our career paths. None of us would have guessed the paths our careers have taken! Three of us are now independent information professionals with our own consulting businesses. Three of us had worked in IT or library systems during our careers. Three of us had corporate backgrounds. (And I should note that who the "three" are changes with each statement.) All of us had worked in libraries at some point. Our tips overlapped and included:
  • Remaining flexible
  • Being curious
  • Learning how to network
  • Developing and maintaining a good network
  • Understanding how to promote yourself
  • Being open to the possibilities that come your way
While hard to define, those of use who had some IT experience felt that it was a good addition to our skills set. I think our consensus was that the how-to wasn't as important as understanding how to communicate with IT and how to collaborate with them.

The themes of the day continued on the drive back to Syracuse between four of us who carpooled together (two MLS students and two information professionals). The day raised questions and also provided inpetus to "get moving". The students really saw the day as a wake-up call.

One of the conversations we had was about the value of the MLS. I've been in several conversations this spring on this topic. My bottom line is that there are library positions where the MLS is important: reference, research services, cataloguing, and management. Some libraries are hiring retail managers to run specific "client-facing" departments. In those areas, there are skills that those people have that an MLS may not have. The staff in circulation tends not to have an MLS, since circulation does not require the knowledge that is gained with an MLS. Those who do technology training within a library (for staff and users) often do not have an MLS. As for the IT area, that group may be a mix of MLS and non-MLS employees because both will bring necessary knowledge and skills to the position.

It is important to recognize that those who have an MLS and those who do not are all doing important, valuable work. Without each group, our libraries would fail. Members of each group are active in the overall profession through their writing and speaking, volunteer work, and leadership.

Yesterday was a long day. We left at 6 a.m. and return to Syracuse at 6 p.m., but it was very worthwhile! I'm glad for the new people I met and for those that I got a chance to see again. Hopefully everyone took away some action items; I know I did. Besides being reminded to tend to my own career every week, I was reminded to encourage others to tend to theirs. Of course, I found some tools to check out including Prezi and Wordle (I may be the last person on earth to try Wordle).

BTW for Upstate NY SLA members, I know that there will be a longer summary of the day likely in the next newsletter. These are just my notes and I know they only skim the surface.


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1 comment:

Recession Proof Career said...

Just wanted to add a small tip on creating a recession proof career. It would be a good idea to plan out your career or business by considering government contracting. This is a very lucrative financial opportunity that can help you stabilize financially and increase your income flow if it is done the right way.

If this is something that you are interested in to put an end to your financial worries, get yourself registered with the Central Contractor Registry which is a federal clearing house for vendors and small businesses too. Also identify a product or service that you can supply to the government and which the government needs in order to get a contract.

You can win such billion dollar contracts and secure your career or business better even during this phase of recession.