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Freelancing and LIS career independence

One of the questions that comes up frequently when talking about LIS career options is freelancing. Does it make sense to pick up freelance work if you already have a job? The answer very much depends on your individual life circumstances, but for me, freelancing has been integral to my career growth (and opportunities) from the beginning.

Benefits of freelancing
Freelancing – also known these days as side-gigs, side-hustles, and project work – can be a great career “add-on.” It can give you a modest source of income in addition to your full-time job salary, it can help you build out your professional portfolio to include demonstrations of additional skills, and it can help you expand the network of people who have first-hand knowledge of those terrific skills.


6 ways to max out your “next step” job

Wondering if there’s a perfect LIS job out there for you that you’ve somehow missed? Considering a potential new position but aren’t sure if it’s the perfect fit for you? If so, welcome to one of the most popular groups in the world – the ‘I’m still looking for the perfect job’ club.

In fact, it’s such a hot topic that a quick cruise through any online bookstore will also make clear what a financial bonanza it is for the publishing industry: there are thousands of books related to finding your path, landing the job that’s perfect for you (I especially like the title that also promises a $250,000+ salary), creating your best work, and identifying working environments that will unleash your inner peak performer, among other topics.

In their own way, each of these books is likely to have a nugget (or several) of wisdom to help you get closer to your perfect job. But it might be a lot more effective to shoot for a great career rather than a perfect job. Why? Because, as Emerson noted, life’s a journey, not a destination. So, too, are careers.

Moving into your next step

The great thing about careers as a process is that almost every job can in some manner be a “next step” job – one that enables you to accomplish things that get you closer to a job that’s ideal for you. How? By taking control of your goals and outcomes. Specifically:

Consider your professional equity (PE).  Think about your professional equity as a Venn diagram of overlapping circles: what you know (your information skills), who you know (your network), and who knows about you (your brand or professional visibility). Your goal is to continue to build out each of these areas – this is the career asset that will continue to open up great opportunities for you the more you invest in it.

Create an annual agenda.  Keeping that professional equity in mind, in what ways can you use your current job or the job you’re about to take to expand in one, two, or all three areas? What can you learn? With whom can you establish new relationships, especially in new professional communities? Is there an opportunity to raise your career visibility by writing, presenting, blogging, or in some other way sharing a new or expanding area of expertise?

Once you’ve thought this through, create an annual job agenda that reflects your professional equity goals and what actions you’ll take to accomplish them. Give yourself some accountability – how many people will you reach out to over what amount of time, by when will you have gotten that photo up on your social media accounts, what online tech course will you take, where and when? Then put your agenda in play – that way you’re making forward progress toward your career goals, building your professional equity, and moving closer to your ideal job no matter what else is going on in your current one.

Take charge of performance reviews.  One of the great things about millennials in the workplace is they seem to be having a wonderful effect on the highly-detested annual performance review…as in, they’re going away. In their place, managers are more often now giving feedback in the context of the moment, which of course makes much better sense. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t create your own (perhaps quarterly or semi-annual) performance review. The difference is, when you’re initiating your own performance review, it can focus on helping you reach those agenda goals you developed earlier.

So, for instance, if one of your goals is to learn more about project management, let your manager know that you’d like to take on more responsibility in this area and make it clear that you’re willing to do any necessary learning to do so, including taking courses, reading books, reaching out to experts, etc. (if necessary, on your own time). You want to make sure that the skills you’re trying to build/expand will benefit your employer as well, but try to “double down” as often as possible. 

Create DIY learning opportunities.  Do-it-yourself learning opportunities can often be found via volunteering for new project initiatives within the organization and learning as you work. Other ways to learn new skills on the job include working with a mentor (younger or older, but someone who’s got the skills you seek), organizing “lunch and learn” presentations, taking free online courses and then sharing your knowledge with colleagues, signing up for vendor training (often free), and participating in LinkedIn group discussions relevant to your job/organization’s focus.

If you’re working for a great employer, they’ll fully support your efforts by giving you time during the day to build your skills. If, however, you’re working for a normal employer, you may end up doing your learning on your own time. But really, that’s okay – you’re investing in your career future, and you’re the one who’s going to reap the long-term benefit of those efforts.

Focus on the key player: you.  By now almost everyone knows the drill: no matter who we happen to be working for today, we’re all self-employed. That’s not because employers are terrible, it’s because we’ve moved into a workplace reality where budget constraints and “operating efficiencies” outweigh all other considerations. That boss who loves you and understands what a terrific job you do may still have to lay you off at some point. It may tear her up, but it won’t be her decision to make, no matter how much she values you as an employee and a person.

The takeaway for all of us? All working relationships – including those in libraries – are business relationships. That means that you must be your own best advocate and protector. No one else can do this for you. So in every job situation, your responsibility is to make sure that you’re using the job to enhance your future career opportunities while you’re also doing a great job for your employer. The two can actually dovetail quite nicely if you do some strategic thinking and planning.

Pay attention to the bridge.  Every next-step job (which actually means almost every job you’ll ever have) is a platform from which you’ll build the bridge to your next one. Essentially, the professional-equity-building work you do in your current job should ideally be positioning you for the next opportunity you’d like to grow into. What skills would you need? Who would be helpful to know? What could you do to start building visibility (and credibility) with this new-opportunity community?

Not sure what next-step job might interest you? Now’s the time to start exploring. Join LinkedIn groups, read trade journals, scan conference programs, do information interviews – come up with as many different ways as you can to expand your career horizons.

Moving toward your perfect work

As you move through your LIS career, each stop along the way can provide you with valuable information and positioning opportunities, but only if you take responsibility for that outcome. Is it worth the effort? As someone who’s done this throughout her entire career, I’d say absolutely yes – if you want to continue to move toward your perfect work.

Annual LIS Careers Book Recommendations – 2018

The following books represent the core titles describing LIS careers, including career paths, career development, and career strategies and tactics. They’ve been separated into those published this year versus those published previously in order to “call out” any recent titles you may have missed. The selection criteria were:
– a strong focus on LIS careers or an aspect of LIS careers
– actionable information
– published within the past ten years

I attempted to be comprehensive in my coverage, but please let me know if I’ve missed a title that you feel should be included; I’ll be happy to add appropriate recommendations to the list.

Also, I purposely didn’t include the ubiquitous Amazon links because I’m hoping you’d rather support your local public library or independent bookseller should you seek these titles out! (more…)

Social intelligence, your boss, and you


A socially intelligent leader helps people contain and recover from their emotional distress.
If only from a business perspective, a leader would do well to react with empathy rather than indifference – and to act on it.

– Daniel Goleman, Social Intelligence

One of my 2018 goals was to read lots more books by authors I admired, including Dr. Daniel Goleman’s Social Intelligence: The Revolutionary New Science of Human Relationships (Bantam, 2006). Yep, that would be the Daniel Goleman who launched a publishing cottage industry with his Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More Than IQ (Bantam, 2005).

You may have noticed I’m just barely skinnying this particular goal under my end-of-year deadline, but I’m happy to report that Social Intelligence was both worth the wait and the late nights spent making that deadline. Why? Because so much of what Social Intelligence addresses has an immediate and important application to your LIS career satisfaction. (more…)

Questions to Move You Forward in 2019

Ask the right questions if you’re going to find the right answers.
– Vanessa Redgrave

I love the end of the year. It’s an opportunity to celebrate the fact that I’ve weathered yet another 12 months of life’s challenges. Some days I’ve handled things brilliantly, other days not so much. But it’s a great time to reflect on where you’ve been, and where you’d like to head next. I do that by asking myself a series of questions and noting the answers in my career journal. Here’s how I approach these questions: (more…)

Grow your LIS career in fifteen minutes a week

You know just how to get your career moving. Problem is, between work and the usual gazillion other commitments most of us have, it can be a bit challenging to put your plans in play.

The solution? Break your plans down into smaller – really smaller – chunks. Consistent incremental progress, the type you can make in 15 minutes or less, is still steady progress, and will get you to your career goals faster than no progress at all.

How to get started

Think about your plans – what you want to accomplish and why (the why keeps you motivated). Break those plans down into their smallest actions, i.e., pieces that can be completed within 15 minutes or less. Then make a checklist of your mini-action items for your highest-priority career moves.

This pre-planning ensures that rather than waste that precious 15 minutes a week trying to figure out what the best use of your time career-investment would be, you can simply move right into action. (more…)