Recently I had an opportunity to virtually connect with one of Hack Library School’s bloggers, Nicole Fonsh. Her career path has definitely been “alternative,” and I thought would make for a fascinating career profile. Nicole graciously agreed to let me pummel her with questions about her career path; see below for her answers.
What is your current position or professional role? Research Analyst at an investment firm in Boston.
How long have you been doing this work? I started as an intern in January 2010 and then as an 80% (4 days a week) full-time employee in September 2010. In July 2011 I will go to 100% (5 days a week).
How did you get your job? I found my internship through a posting on the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners job site.
What career path led you here? From age 15 I wanted to work in the finance field. I only applied to undergrad programs where I could get a B.S. in Business Administration and I ended up at Northeastern University, which has a thriving cooperative education program. It’s a 5 year program but every year after your freshman year, you work for 6 months and go to school for 6 months. By the time I graduated I had worked at State Street Bank, Fidelity, and Goldman Sachs, and had 2.5 years of work experience on my resume. I was offered a full-time job at Goldman Sachs shortly after graduation as a securities lending trader. I worked for Goldman for 3 years in Boston and then transferred to the London office for another 3 years.
It was probably about 2 years into my time in London that I realized I was feeling a bit complacent in my role and that I was ready for a new challenge. So after much discussion with my family and loads of wonderful librarians, I applied to Simmons to get my MLIS. Simmons was the only school I applied to because part of this transition was to also get back to the States and to Boston. I got my acceptance letter to Simmons the week that Lehman went bankrupt. It seemed the stars were aligning for me to get out of banking!
The funny thing is, though, I thought I had left the corporate world behind. I spent the summer before starting Simmons volunteering at my town’s small, but thriving, public library. I absolutely loved working in a small town library as I was able to take part in so many different tasks and responsibilities. However, when I got back to Boston and started my program I realized that not only was it going to be a bit more difficult to find a volunteer position with a public library than I had anticipated, but also that I would need something that paid, at least a bit.
I spent my first semester in two volunteer positions – at a school library and at the State Library doing a variety of things. While I learned from them both, I wasn’t entirely excited about either location. And then in December 2009, I found what seemed to be a “perfect” position for me – an internship at a local investment firm working in the Research Library. All of a sudden I realized that my resume and past work experience might not be as irrelevant as I was starting to think after being rejected by so many more “typical” pre-professional library jobs.
And I was right! Working in this library has provided an incredible opportunity to combine my skills from my past career along with what I’m learning throughout my MLIS program. And after 6 months of working really hard in my internship role, when a full-time researcher position opened in the library, I was offered it. I couldn’t have been happier. It felt like such a good fit.
What do you like most about your work? Every day is different. I come in and I usually have no clue regarding what kind of research request I’m going to receive. I have certain industries that I cover, but within those industries the requests really can be all over the place. And I really value that variety.
What least? Sometimes it can be a bit exhausting not knowing what to expect when you get to work! It can feel overwhelming at times. But I’m definitely getting better at prioritizing, organizing, and taking lots of deep breaths when necessary!
What do you see as the various career paths LIS professionals could follow with this type of skill set? That is something I want to know! I feel as though I am just starting to see the possibilities of non-traditional librarian roles in the world and I am so excited to find that there are others like me who value the fact that librarians have an incredible skill set that could be hugely influential in other settings. I really look forward to exploring where this current role takes me professionally.
What personal characteristics do you feel are important for someone doing this work? You need to be able to prioritize and to work under pressure. And to not take things personally.
I often do research for people who are under incredible deadlines and pressure, so it’s not uncommon to not always get huge praise for what I provide. However, when I do get praise and even just simple “thank yous” it is amazing how far that can go to make my day! It also is great to see the positive impact I may have on the business.
Why type of LIS (or other) courses would best prepare someone for this type of work? Any kind of advanced searching or advanced reference courses. In my time during my MLIS I was only able to take the basic Reference course but I know that business reference and other similar classes were offered that I wish I had had the time to take.
What advice do you have for someone thinking about this type of work? Try to find out as much as you can about the office culture before taking the job. Whether through your own research or through the interview process. If you haven’t worked in a corporate setting before, it can really be a shock to the system (as some of my colleagues have told me). There is usually a fairly standard way of “how things are done” so if you know you don’t function well in an environment like that, it may just be something to keep in mind. Also- the hours can be long. My typical day is 8am – 5:30pm with an hour for lunch if I have time. For many, that may seem like a long day but I came from a job where I worked at 7am so…!
Also, in this type of setting, I have really learned that if you want to be more involved in something, ask! You will not necessarily be offered new challenges and tasks. If you want to do something, talk about it and do it! You cannot be shy.
What associations do you belong to and resources do you monitor to stay current? I belong to ALA and SLA. Would imagine that I will continue with those professional organizations post-student life as well. I would love to become more active in the Boston Chapter of SLA once school is finished.
I subscribe to what feels like 100s of blogs in my Google Reader. However, most are library-world related. The ones that really help me to stay current in my job and in my professional development are:
http://www.readwriteweb.com/ – FANTASTIC blog for technology and what’s current
I am also very active on Twitter and find that I get a lot of my information professional info there. And one more thing! This is where a lot of my blog influence comes from :
Great post! I love hearing about what others are doing with their library degree. It’s also inspiring to those of us who are looking to work outside of traditional librarianship! I’m so glad I stumbled across your blog!
Laurie, if you’re in the LinkedIn LIS Career Options group, be sure to check out Nicole’s answers to questions about her job and what a research analyst does there. If you’re not a member and you’d like to join, check out the instructions under the “LinkedIn Discussions List-LIS Career Options” blog post at http://infonista.com/2010/discussions-list-linkedin-lis-career-options-group/