by: Ken Haycock
Following my convocation address to the 700+ MLIS graduates at San José, I was asked to make my talk available (it was of course streamed live with the convocation itself to graduates and their families around the world, and will be available on the San José website). This is a condensation, organized according to ten elements for a productive career, without the jokes and sidebars, based on my own forty years of good times.
As I pointed out to the graduates, it may be less appropriate to offer an inspiring message concerning our particular profession and its prospects in a tight economy but we also sometimes forget that this too shall pass.
The term convocation denotes a coming together, in this case for a celebration of achievement, but it is also a commencement, a beginning, a beginning of a new career and a new life, and also a beginning to learn, just as one gets a driver’s license but then really learns to drive over years of continued learning and experience.
So, my pieces of advice:
#10. Understand the education you got. Much of what has been taught will be irrelevant or even wrong in five years; we don’t know what exactly but you should have learned to assess, to adjust and to continue to learn. You have gained the mindset of the professional, a way of thinking as a librarian, and a way to continue to learn about your profession and craft. This is just the beginning: commit to moving forward, to pushing boundaries.
# 9. Recall always our enduring values. These include most especially our commitments to service, to equitable access to information and ideas, to the public’s right to know and their right to enjoy privacy and confidentiality, and to freedom of expression; these distinguish us from other professions.
# 8. Continue to demonstrate that we make a difference. Insist on data and results in your work. You have learned the evidence, continue to extend it. Medical libraries save lives with a majority of physicians changing their advice to patients after using the library; schools libraries have a positive affect on student achievement; academic libraries influence the research grants obtained by faculty and the grades received by students; public libraries change lives, transforming the experience of residents; and so on. But notice our language here. Stop focusing on the place; focus on the profession not the building; it is not the library so much as the librarian who made difference, and by behaving in specific ways based on our research.
# 7. Your job title is irrelevant. The discipline is Library and Information Science, the profession is Librarianship (in my opinion, there is no such profession called Information) and the job title is irrelevant. Don’t look for a job title in the ads, look for a reflection of your knowledge, skills and abilities. There are jobs, good jobs, if you don’t limit yourself by geographic location, by type of preferred work environment or type of library or by lack of imagination. Remember that employers do not care about your grades or the courses you took but do care deeply about what you can do and how well you can play with others. The largest employers of librarians today are not libraries but vendors, and they are challenged in finding qualified and capable librarians to work for them. In my forty years I have never had the job title “librarian”; indeed, my professional skill set was probably most useful when I was a school principal where we planned action research, made decisions based on evidence and collaborated through partnerships. There are examples of corporate libraries being closed while new graduates were hired to develop training programs in immersive environments: both groups held the MLIS degree from San José —was one group more real librarians than the other because they worked in a library?
# 6. Take advantage of the career resources available to you. You won’t find better career development material available to you than through the School’s career centre and the SLIS career consultant. Take a god look at the career tips, review the resume and interview resources, have your resume reviewed… search the jobs databases. Attend the many virtual workshops. Draw on their expertise. You paid for it. Use it.
# 5. Develop your network. There is growing evidence that this is even more important than previously thought. This is why it is often easier to learn about other jobs when you already have a job. The U.S. Department of Labor notes that almost 70% of the jobs in our field are not advertised. You need a network. You may have to force yourself to network but remember that your network also includes your family and friends. Never leave home without your business cards.
# 4. Build your board of directors. There is no question that mentors are important, especially for women interested in library leadership according to studies. But mentors can play limited roles in complex environments; have several mentors, different people who play different roles in your life. Put 8-12 on your personal board of directors and call on them, ask their opinion and perspective. These are people whom you trust and who have your best interests at heart. They need not even know or give permission to be on your board. And serve on the boards of your friends and colleagues as well.
# 3. Continue to learn. Prepare before you need it. Luck is the intersection of preparation and opportunity. Take chances; prepare for an unknown future. Imagine this scenario: a state library consultant who is 23 years old; the head of a large university library who is 32; the coordinator of 110 school libraries who is 28 and who has been a consultant elsewhere already. I knew these people; they were the norm in the 1970s, and this situation is coming back. An urban library recently hired a manager of branches two years out from the MLIS, age 28, and she had never been a branch manager; another hired a deputy director five years out, at age 31. Why? The boomers have not just plugged the top positions but also the middle range and many existing mid-managers are comfortable in their positions and see no interest in career advancement. The implications of retirements go far beyond entry-level positions. Employers are increasingly keen once again on your potential more than your direct experience; they are less focused on your skills than on your team building and interpersonal abilities, your relationships. Embrace change; yesterday was Friday, today is Saturday, get over it. How we engage with our communities is going to become very different. How we “do” reference/information services is very different today than five years ago and will become even more different as librarians become embedded with community groups, just as academic librarians will move beyond liaison to being embedded in research groups and departments.
# 2. It is all about you. It really is all up to you. Determine what distinguishes you and how to express it. Have a passion for your profession, your career and the opportunities in front of you. Too many employers pass on hiring someone because they demonstrated no passion for the organization or the position available or the prospects for making a difference. If you can’t demonstrate enthusiasm and passion in an hour interview, how will you do so in the community? And it is passionate librarians who engender support from community leaders and funders.
# 1. Celebrate. Celebrate your achievements, starting with being here today. Celebrate your family and friends, your personal network, who helped to make it possible. Celebrate your School, an example of cutting-edge innovation and creativity blended with quality assurance. And celebrate yourself, you did it!
We salute you. We wish you well.
Now go out and make a difference in this world and make us all even more proud of this profession and of you, our newest members.
from: Ken Haycock