Career advice for new and seasoned information professionals — Valerie Perry, Candidate for Director

Candidate Question #3: What sort of advice would you give to professionals, both newly minted and more seasoned professionals, who might be interested in non-traditional career paths?

I am Valerie Perry and I am a candidate for Director.

While I was in library school, one of my favorite professors advised me that our profession is constantly changing – so being adaptable and open to new opportunities is essential. I believe the majority of my information professional colleagues have found this to be true, even in academia. We are travelling along non-traditional career paths. Our clients may be standing in front of us or may be connected virtually several continents away. We may be solo or part of a large research team. Our efforts may result in a new product, marketing strategy or medical procedure. Many different variables may distinguish us from one another. And though our jobs and titles may vary greatly, a common thread for most of us is that we focus on meeting the information needs of our patrons or clients in one way or another.

One of the things I love about SLA is that the diversity of experiences and types of information professionals blend so well with one another. In SLA, I can talk with fellow food and agriculture librarians from around the world in government libraries, food corporations, non-profit organizations, consultants and more. We have much in common in spite of our different job responsibilities and titles. The members of SLA are multi-faceted and I have learned this is an organization which provides opportunities for each of us to explore an infinite number of possible job responsibilities, career choices and possibilities.

With this in mind, my number one piece of advice for professionals, both newly minted and more seasoned, is to become active in professional organizations. In SLA you can network, work on committees, and develop professionally with a diverse group of information professionals with many different areas of expertise located throughout the world

Second, seize new opportunities and develop skills in areas that interest you. This also means being willing to let go of some things you enjoy in order to make room for new opportunities and continue learning about trends in the areas inside and outside your area of expertise. A simple example is to attend a conference presentation not directly related to your current job or interests. I have picked up many excellent tips from colleagues and presenters outside of my area of expertise.

Third, hone your communication and leadership skills. No matter where you go, or with whom you work, these skills will help you become a more effective professional. SLA is a great place to practice these skills through serving your chapter, unit or the Association. I believe that the skills I learned as a unit leader helped prepare me for the responsibilities in my roles leading an agriculture library and serving as director of branch libraries.

Finally, it is easier to be successful if you love what you do–so understand yourself and find a rewarding career which challenges you. SLA is a great place to seek out mentors who will help you discover more about yourself and the information profession. So, get involved, learn new skills, volunteer and network to help yourself and the Association today!



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