Guest Post: Navigating your career compass by Nicole Pagowsky
I am pleased to welcome my first guest blogger! Nicole Pagowsky is an Instructional Services Librarian at the University of Arizona. She is a 2011 ALA Emerging Leader, a volunteer/admin for Radical Reference, and Tweets @pumpedlibrarian. If you are interested in writing a guest post, please contact me.
Navigating your career compass
by Nicole Pagowsky
One night before a panel presentation, a combination of lack of sleep and nervous/excited energy prompted me to completely scrap my original outline when I was hit with a random-seeming epiphany about a thing I called a “career compass.” That panel presentation was at ALA Annual 2011 in New Orleans, and it’s where I met Erin, as we were on a panel with a number of other librarians for REFORMA’s How I Landed My First Librarian Position, And What I Did ‘In Between’. Luckily for me, my explanation of this idea was coherent, and so Erin invited me to write a guest post for her blog explaining this concept and to also write about one of my projects, Librarian Wardrobe.
The panel and some background
So first, a little background on this panel — it was geared toward LIS students, early career librarians, and any information professionals looking for their first position in the field. Those of us on the panel had a variety of experiences, from being academic, school, public, or special librarians, as well as spending time on hiring committees. The main purpose though was to have us new(ish) librarians talk about what we did before and during our search in a very rough economic downturn to ensure we were attractive to employers. We all have been involved in a number of projects before and after our first positions, so we were asked to share our advice with the audience who may feel lost or unsure about what to do during the first job search (aside from applying to jobs).
At the time, I was a community college librarian in Dallas, TX, but have since moved on to be an Instructional Services Librarian at the University of Arizona. So now I have two job search experiences under my belt, and both in tough times (2009 and 2011). This career compass I thought of that night imparts a 360 view to your job search and your personal brand.
Your career compass
So, essentially, backwards on your career compass is your experience. This is your baseline need for applying to jobs. If you don’t have certain required experience, you won’t even be considered for the position. This experience is a given and makes up the foundation of your profile. Don’t miss out on this during library school or a period of unemployment.
The next step on the compass — side-to-side — would be networking and your career connections. Once you have the experience necessary to be considered, your connections will help reinforce your personal brand, either through having the chance to work on projects or scholarship with others, or opening up other opportunities in general. Networking doesn’t have to be a dirty word: I wrote a bit about it on my blog.
And finally, looking forward on your compass, you have the projects you’re excited about, and your plans for what you are doing beyond the job and your basic experience. This makes you stand out from the other hundreds of candidates competing for the same position who have the same amount of experience as you. What makes you stand out? Why should they pick you? And, looking back at networking, having more interests gives you more stuff to talk about so it’s even easier to build those professional connections.
Wrapping it up
Consider the whole picture when you are assessing your effectiveness as a candidate. Look beyond your experience and requirements for the job. To tie in Librarian Wardrobe (LW), since I have an interest in early career issues, I thought it would be useful to others to create a resource on what librarians wear to work (and job interviews, and conferences, and presentations, etc.). I myself was a little unsure about what was appropriate to wear when I was first starting out, and I can see many others are as well from the LW web stats by how many searches are done for “what does a librarian wear to work?” and various iterations. From metadata collected by each post, you can search by tag to see, for example, what academic librarians wear, or what an instruction librarian wears, or what kinds of scarves librarians are wearing, and so on. Being on Tumblr, the content (aside from interviews) is user-submitted, so we get a wide variety of positions, locations, types of libraries, and also styles. I recently participated in a virtual panel for the SLIS Library 2.011 Conference: Riding the Long Tail: Leveraging a Niche to Build a Network (the recording is now available through that link). We had some great discussions about library communities and homegrown networks.
Thanks to Erin for inviting me to write a guest post! The REFORMA panel will be offered again as a webinar in the future, and hope to see you at #alamw12!