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The Starter Job: Or, Why You Should Consider That Job in Smalltown, USA

I wrote this post for Rethinking Information Careers a couple of years ago, but just found myself in a conversation on this topic with several former students about to graduate. So I thought it might be useful to revisit this issue for all of those about to complete their degrees and start the job search…I hope it’s helpful!

Recently I had an opportunity to work with a young woman who had just graduated from an MLIS program. She was unsure of how to proceed with her job search given the precarious job market for librarians (and everybody else).

This young woman had never worked in a library before, and, like many of us when we complete our degrees, wanted to get a job in the same town where her university was located. But the reality is that with little or no library experience and facing the stiff competition that comes in an area flooded with fellow MLIS graduates, this young woman’s job prospects would be dim at best.

In fact, probably her best opportunities lie in a direction often avoided if not dismissed by recent grads: working for a library in Smalltown, USA.

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Information and Knowledge Professional’s Handbook

Subtitled “Define and Create Your Success,” this recent and welcome addition to the collection of LIS career books is a delightfully personal compendium of advice from two of the profession’s most respected and experienced practitioners: Ulla de Stricker and Jill Hurst-Wahl. Both have worked in a wide variety of information roles throughout their careers, and bring that breadth of experience (and lessons learned) to the handbook.

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For 2011: Say Yes

Ah, where was I before all hell broke loose, which is another way of saying before I started teaching this past fall? The double whammy of teaching my alternative LIS careers course for the University of Denver and then the holidays means that it’s been an embarrassingly long time since I last posted.

Perfect timing for a New Year’s resolution to be a more diligent blogger, yes? Maybe, maybe not.
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Putting Yourself in the Path of Opportunity

Creating a dynamic career is often a mix of good luck, hard work, and an ability to position yourself smack in the middle of the “path of opportunity” – that spot where cool new things are happening, and someone needs to take charge. If that’s where you’d like to be, consider the following four actions to get things moving:

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F. Scott Fitzgerald Got It Wrong

In fact, I think he completely missed the mark with his “There are no second acts in American lives” remark. On the contrary, we are completely capable of reinventing ourselves – and our careers – on an ongoing basis.

Sometimes it happens just by accident. You start out doing one job, and then you end up being the person who just happens to be good at that new thing that needed to be done, and your career takes off heading in a new direction. Or you volunteer for a project and then realize that you not only love the new work you’re doing, you’re also pretty darn good at it – so you keep doing it. Or you’re promoted into a position that at first feels way over your head but then ends up being a perfect match for your growing professional skills. In each instance, you’re reinventing your career.

Other times, however, reinventing yourself – creating that next act – becomes a purposeful choice. Perhaps you’ve simply outgrown the job you’ve been in for years, and are ready to explore the question of what type of work or work environment might re-engage you. Or perhaps a change in your job (new boss? new leadership? new expectations? new mission?) has left you feeling like it’s time to consider other, more rewarding, options. Or perhaps your personal circumstances have changed, so that what worked for you previously no longer meets your requirements.

For whatever reason, you’re ready to reinvent your career.

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