Question 1 – Nontraditional Career Paths (Candidate Questions)

Question #1: What sort of advice would you give to professionals, both newly minted and more seasoned professionals, who might be interested in nontraditional career paths?

Joy M. Banks, Candidate for Chapter Cabinet Chair-Elect

In order to best answer this question, I think it’s important to define what I view as a non-traditional career path, since our definitions may vary. As someone who has been connected with public, academic, and now a special library, these are the institutions that I view as traditional. We have books and online resources, serve an identifiable user base, answer reference questions, and are generally defined as libraries. A non-traditional career would be one that isn’t necessarily in a library or even working with well-defined collections. When I think about non-traditional career paths for professionals in the library and information sciences field, I think of independent researchers, information architects, product sales representatives, and other positions involving new and emerging technologies.

Working with that definition, I think the foundations of library and information science programs prepare us for many more career paths than most realize, so my first bit of advice would be to recognize that fact. Both new and seasoned professionals should be able to evaluate their skill sets in relation to available positions to find how they may fit a non-traditional career. The best advice that I have for that would be to create a listing of every project you have ever worked on (in and out of your professional field) and assigning skills that were needed for each project. For example, I worked on a migration from Dewey Decimal to Library of Congress Classification. A listing of the skills I used on that project would include (but not be limited to) project management, spreadsheet manipulation, statistical analysis, supervision of student workers, data manipulation, and policy planning. Once a master list of your skills is established, it should be relatively easy to evaluate what career path may be best for you and to continue adding to the list as you develop and grow. This exercise may also produce some hidden talents that you didn’t realize you possessed. Remember, no experience is too small when thinking about career mobility. While interviewing for a job as a bank teller, I used my experience collecting fines in the library to prove I knew how to handle currency. How's that for non-traditional?

Any career advice needs to include the need to remain flexible in an ever changing job market and to never stop developing new skills and honing those skills you already possess. Continuing education is key to remaining relevant to the needs of today’s world. Explore the opportunities that SLA offers you through ClickU. See what other Chapters and Divisions are offering in terms of webinars. Look for local and regional connections so you can job shadow. By continuing to grow, whether currently employed or not, you show your future employer you commitment to your profession. That is a desirable skill no matter where you look.

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