10 career building tips for library students and new graduates

I recently spoke at an online careers evening, with two other library professionals. The central idea for my talk was “It’s Up To You” and I wasn’t surprised to hear the other speakers talk about taking control of their career post-study, reinforcing my theme perfectly! And I wasn’t surprised to hear that both speakers talk about seizing opportunities, making hard decisions around study, moving for work and joining special interest groups to network and learn.

Once you have graduated from your library course, the learning begins all over again. You might secure a role straight away and HELLO! time to learn all the things about your organisation and job. Or you may be job searching or learning how to maintain your enthusiasm and library knowledge whilst working in another industry. But how do you find the right people to connect with, find a mentor or learn more about the specific area of library/information you are interested in?

Before the information session started, I created a Google Doc to capture articles and links that would be useful for those attending, and of course I shared it on Twitter and the Turbitt & Duck Facebook group, with a request for my fellow library people:

The collaboration and knowledge sharing game is strong in the library and information world, so here are ten tips from the It’s Up To You Google Doc, Twitter discussion, information session and me!

  1. Join Twitter – it’s brilliant for following conferences from afar, connecting with people, finding resources and sharing knowledge.
  2. Brush up on your interview skills.
  3. Ask a colleague or friend to review your resume or use a resume review service. If it’s been a long time since you’ve updated this document, do it now.
  4. Join a special interest group. You will expand your networks and find opportunities very quickly!
  5. Be curious! Ask questions and read widely.
  6. Create networks. If you are happy to do this online, join Twitter, Facebook groups, participate in online chats. If face to face is your thing, find a local group or event or start one.
  7. Volunteer at GLAM events. You’ll meet people, hear from industry experts and flex your networking muscles.
  8. Professional development comes in many forms – articles, blog posts, YouTube videos, podcast episodes, hands on learning, books, online discussions  . . . get creative!
  9. Spend time learning about transferable skills and how to translate what you already have into library and information terms.
  10. Don’t expect your employer to provide opportunities for you. It’s up to you to develop the skills, attributes and knowledge you need.

The “It’s Up To You” doc will stay open to all, so if you have something to add, please do! And thank you to everyone who has contributed, let’s keep adding and sharing!

Three lessons I’ve learnt from Turbitt & Duck podcast guests

As we head towards twenty episodes of Turbitt & Duck: The Library Podcast, I’ve been thinking about our guests, the topics we’ve covered and what I’ve learnt along the way about the library and information profession and the people working in it.

Being interviewed isn’t easy

On reflection, it’s rather similar to a job interview that’s being recorded but with a friendlier panel! For some of our guests, lots of preparation and planning with regard to our questions has (somewhat) alleviated the stress of being interviewed. It’s a challenge to be present, speak clearly, remember what you want to say (and what you can’t say) and I admire everyone who has recorded with us so far for accepting the challenge and letting us share their voice.

Generosity

Every guest has given us their personal time to record – on Saturday mornings, Sunday afternoons, after work on a Tuesday. If we could only interview people during their work hours, we probably wouldn’t have any guests! I’ve learnt that our guests have given up family, reading, exercise, sleep, shopping, second job time to record with us. And that some people will say no because recording out of work time encroaches on other aspects of their lives. There’s no right or wrong, just what works for each person.*

Honesty

Even though some of our guests haven’t been able to fully disclose or discuss their work for various reasons, they have all been honest about challenges, what went wrong and also what they think are the issues in our industry. These are the things I believe need to receive just as much attention as the great, amazing, clever, thoughtful work. We need to address the multiple elephants in the room and talk about failures and how we can be better at what we do. There are a number of guests who have started these conversations, and I’m looking forward to continuing the discussions and also checking back in with them to see what’s changed (or not).

But wait there’s more

I was tempted to highlight specific episodes, however I didn’t. Because honestly, you will learn something about these three ‘lessons’ and more from every single guest. I’ve been challenged by each and every guest, to think harder, read more broadly and consider my own biases and ways of working.

You can listen to all of the Turbitt & Duck episodes on our website or via your favourite podcast app.

*So much of the professional development that people can access is possible because of volunteer labour. Program committees for large conferences, entire committees for symposiums, unconferences, Facebook groups, special interest groups, Twitter chats – ALL volunteer run (remember that when you throw around criticisms or rude feedback). And what if you can’t volunteer because of financial, accessibility or personal reasons? Do we need to push back at employers so that volunteering occurs within work hours (if work related of course!)

3 lessons I’ve learnt about how to move from thinking to doing

How many times have you made the decision to start something new: write an abstract, start a new project, join a group or committee, start a blog, apply for a job, and then, nothing happens? It’s easy to convince yourself that the timing wasn’t right, or that it was too hard or you aren’t ready (hot tip: you’ll never be ready), we’ve all done that. When I’m stuck in that “I want to start but am caught in the headlights” position, I remind myself of these three points to force myself into action.

You will make mistakes

I’ve made a lot of mistakes, so have you. Lots and lots of mistakes. Each mistake has been an opportunity for reflection and to figure out how to fix it next time. Obviously I’ve ignored the opportunity to reflect sometimes, wallowed in my mistake and never tried again. Hasn’t everyone?

When you can recognise the learning opportunity that comes with mistakes, then you’re on to something. Find how to fix the mistake, document the process, tell someone you stuffed up and explain how you’ll do it better next time. If I had given up the first time I stuffed something up, well there would be no Turbitt in Turbitt & Duck. And probably no library degree hanging on my wall or…well you get the picture. We all make mistakes. Dare to be bad. And then keep going.

There is no gatekeeper, there is no gate.

You will never be ready

This has been written so many times before by many other people. You will never be ready. So you may as well take the first step, get started and make some mistakes. Apply for that job, ask someone to help you rewrite your resume, start that research, return to study, ask for a secondment, learn how to paint, start that zine, write the abstract.

There will never be the right time for any of these things so you may as well start now.

The starting is the hard bit for lots of people, particularly if you’re partial to procrastination and perfectionism. To you I say, the first version is going to be a bit shit, so you may as well get it out of your system.

You Aren’t Lazy – You’re Just Terrified: On Paralysis and Perfectionism.

Everything you need is within your reach

If you are starting a new project, wanting to know more about yourself, looking at a new field of study or research, wanting to find a buddy to start a podcast with, thinking about writing a conference abstract, everything you need is out there waiting for you.

And if you have a library qualification, you are more than capable of finding what you need to get started.

Reach out, ask for help, connect with people. Don’t be an island. Isolation is the dream killer so be loud and proud about what you’re doing. Turbitt & Duck came about because Amy and I shared our dreams and ideas with each other. I’ve wanted to start a podcast for a long time, but it took opening up to Amy who understood what I was rambling about to make it happen.

Sharing your plans, dreams or project may also give you the accountability that you need to keep going. If you’re worried about getting it “right”, refer to points 1 and 2. Take small steps if you need to, but just start.

Isolation is the dream killer.

What’s one thing you can do right now, one small step, that will start you moving towards your goal?