Nontraditional Career Paths

Chris Zammarelli, Candidate for the SLA Board of Directors

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

First, after you’ve joined a professional organization, be sure to volunteer for any division, chapter, or committee related to your topical interests. When I first joined SLA, I was looking for a federal government information related job. I joined the Government Information Division and volunteered to serve as its webmaster. I can say for certain that doing this got me the job I have today.

Not only will volunteering give you a great résumé builder, but it will also help you build a network of peers outside of your school cohort and your place of employment. This network is important because it will introduce you to people who can answer your questions and who can mentor you. It can also keep you apprised of any opportunities that may arise.

Second, investigate the type of information you’re interested in. Look for resources related to your topic of interests. Follow people on Twitter whose job is dealing with this type of information. Blog about what you’re learning. I think of Kendra Levine of the Transportation Division, who tweets about transportation information on her Twitter account and blogs about data trends on her Library Attack! blog. Not only can you collect and develop your thoughts, you can also show your network how serious you are about your career path.

Next, know how to look for the job you want. You may be looking a position that suits your skills and your interests, but isn’t labeled as a library or information science position. Learn the vernacular and learn how to market your skills towards the type of position you’re pursuing. This is another good time to leverage your network, as well as to look out for seminars and conference sessions that can help you.

Finally, be patient and persistent. Being on the right path isn’t the same as taking a shortcut.

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