Advice for Both Newly Minted & More Seasoned Professionals Who are Interested in Non-traditional Career Paths – Leslie Reynolds, Candidate for President-Elect

I’ve worked in a variety of positions in my career thus far:  engineering librarian, business & marketing librarian, manager of a fee-based research service, director of a management library, and currently as administrator of a university library. One of the reasons I decided to get my graduate degree in library and information science was so that I would have the skills, knowledge and ability to research anything (including alternate careers, should academic librarianship not agree with me).  I’ve been lucky enough to love working in the university setting, but I know this world is not for everyone.

So, for anyone looking for a new or alternative career, I would suggest that you choose a path of activities that you enjoy, which makes good use of your expertise, and allows you to learn something new so you can continue to grow professionally.

When selling your unique capabilities, talk about them in terms of benefits to your customer or potential employer.  Our professional foundations open doors throughout our knowledge-based economy; all you have to do is walk through them and take on the challenge of the path (potentially) less traveled.  One thing is for certain, in SLA you will find colleagues with many “non-traditional” careers who take full advantage of their library and information science skills every day – from market research, social networking consulting, search engine optimization, to information architecture, and so on.  SLA can also help you build new skills and competencies to make your non-traditional career path dreams come true.

When I was a newly minted librarian, I was given the advice to take the initiative and make things happen in order to find ways to be valuable to my organization. As a new librarian to the tenure track, I heard about a grant for converting traditional courses to online learning environments.  This may sound like old hat, but it was 1997 and the most technologically advanced people were using dial-up modems from their homes.  I had never taught a course before, but I knew html, and I was fascinated by the possibilities of the web.  I talked a couple of colleagues into writing the grant with me, and we got it!

So, I recommend the same to you: take the initiative and make things happen.  As you think about this advice, know that you don’t have to be completely trained or have all the facts – you really only need to have the guts to fail. Stay current in our profession (read blogs and journals, attend SLA Annual Conference, etc.) and take the opportunity to get actively involved to continue growing your skills and knowledge.  As a candidate for President-elect, member retention through active engagement and involvement is important to me.   Look at volunteer opportunities within SLA to see if we can help build your toolkit of skills, knowledge and abilities in a safe and supportive professional environment – from event planning to bookkeeping and a whole lot more.  We exist to help each other grow and develop to make our professional dreams come true.  Reach out to an SLA colleague that is working in an area that interests you and chat with them about what they do, how they got there and what additional advice they might provide to someone wanting to follow the same path.  There are many ways up the mountain of a career in library science, but it is always a good idea to talk to someone who has already traveled on a path that interests you.

Always pursue your passion. If you follow it, your career may or may not end up non-traditional, but I guarantee you will love what you do.  If you’d like to talk more about careers in library and information science, or if you’d like some feedback on your resume, I’d love to connect with you at, Twitter (@leslier), or on LinkedIn.  I look forward to hearing from you.


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