Competencies: A Roadmap to a Sustainable Career

Does special librarianship offer a sustainable career for information professionals? If so, how can you ensure you have the tools needed to succeed in this field, and how can you articulate your knowledge and skills to potential employers?

The November-December 2017 issue of Information Outlook looks at these questions through the lens of SLA’s Competencies for Information Professionals, which were revised in 2015-2016. These competencies comprise six “core” competencies and nine “enabling” ones that are intended to provide information professionals at all stages of their careers with a “common platform” for their unique skills and abilities.

The challenge for information professionals is to translate these core and enabling competencies into rewarding jobs and, ultimately, a sustainable career. Jim Matarazzo and Toby Pearlstein explore that process from the perspective of Andrew Abbott, a sociologist who studied how work evolves into professions. Abbott noted that many professions arise because certain people start performing duties that are not being done by anyone else, and these duties thus become the “jurisdiction” of those workers.

“Using Abbott’s terminology, the core and enabling competencies provide a framework for establishing jurisdiction,” Matarazzo and Pearlstein write in their article. “The path to sustainability lies in taking actions to align your jurisdiction with what your employer needs and values. For students and practitioners, the competencies framework articulates the skill sets needed to compete for one or more jurisdictions, depending on the desired career path.”

Simply mastering one or more of the competencies is only the first step, however; you must also be able to demonstrate that mastery to potential employers. Deborah Everhart encourages information professionals to not just collect evidence of their skills, but to curate that evidence as well.

“As you gain awareness of your own competencies, you’ll find it useful to collect digital evidence and artifacts continuously,” she writes in her article. “Ongoing curation of evidence not only avoids the problem of trying to gather and retrieve materials in a rush when there’s a timely opportunity, it also encourages you to be constantly aware of your own competencies and what you’re learning and achieving. Curation of your own evidence is important for building confidence and keeping an ongoing professional development mindset.”

To learn more about using the SLA Competencies for Information Professionals as a roadmap for career success—including Susan DiMattia’s advice on taking “baby steps”—read the November-December issue of Information Outlook.

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