Nontraditional Career Paths

Hal Kirkwood – Candidate – Director – SLA Board of Directors.

 What sort of advice would you give to professionals in their first library-related position who might be interested in nontraditional career paths?

My advice is have patience, develop your contacts and mentors, and build your knowledge-base by continuous learning. The information field is changing at an exciting and alarming pace so as you start out you will want to have the patience to identify what your true strengths are, what your true expertise is, before you pursue a nontraditional career.  Patience is an often overlooked skill within the concept of career development.  It’s common to come into the field feeling you know so much and have so much to offer, but inevitably the education you have acquired is just a foundation to build upon.  Patience will help you appreciate your successes as well as help you learn from your mistakes and failures.

Finding and developing your professional contacts can help you identify possible opportunities.  It can bring to light positions and experiences that you may not have been aware of within the information field.  Often these contacts become colleagues who can become a valuable source of mentoring, providing insight and expertise on how to navigate the nontraditional career paths available.  The Special Libraries Association is definitely a tremendous wealth of contacts and colleagues.  Attending the annual conference with the desire and willingness to meet people, to introduce yourself, to strike up a conversation can bring unexpected benefits and create long lasting relationships.  

Never stop learning.  Attend workshops and sessions at the SLA Annual Conference to sharpen and broaden your experience.  Look for other regional or local opportunities to develop expertise especially in areas you are weak like marketing or effective presentations or some technological gap in your skill set. As you begin to identify possible nontraditional career paths to pursue you will inevitably need a variety of experiences to draw from, start to build those now!

The Special Libraries Association can serve you well if you desire a non-traditional career path.  By growing as a professional, creating a group of colleagues that you can communicate and collaborate with, and by being patient to get to where you aspire to be this combination can help you succeed in whatever path you choose.

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