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.
Sara Mooney has managed to combine a love of theater with her LIS skills in a highly unusual job, with a highly innovative organization. She managed to follow her own interests while also doing a great job of creating business value wherever she went. Her comments about her job and her eclectic career path:
What is your current position or professional role?
Technical Documentalist for Cirque du Soleil
How long have you been doing this work?
Approximately 2 ½ years although I’ve been with Cirque for eight years.
In his Career Profile, Stephen Abram discussed his career path, including his highly-visible work with information vendors, his publishing and presentation work, and his involvement with many national and international professional associations.
Here, Stephen talks about working with a vendor as a career path, and the opportunities he sees emerging for LIS professionals in the coming years.
Stephen Abram has had multiple high-visibility, high-impact roles within the library profession the most recent with Cengage Learning, known formerly as Gale. His career history provides a terrific tour through the ways an information professional can continue to grow and add value in a constantly changing environment. Sort of like the one we’re in now.
Following is Part 1 of a two-part interview with Stephen. Be sure to also see Part 2, LIS Career Insights from Stephen Abram.
Recently the Wall Street Journal ran an article debunking the oft-repeated mantra that most of us will go through seven career changes throughout our working lifetimes. Basically, the Department of Labor has completely disavowed the statement, and no one’s ready to ‘fess up to having started the seven-careers rumor.
However, I think a more valid (and useful) way of framing this is that we may, in fact, be much likelier to have at least seven career extensions throughout our working lives. With that frame, I’ve had at least seven so far, and have friends and colleagues who’ve had even more as new opportunities have opened up (or been created by them).
One has only to participate in a few LIS discussion lists or online groups, hang out at a professional conference or two, or read some of the many LIS blogs and their comments to realize that the library profession is in the midst of extensive and somewhat discouraging change.
Although the long-promised “graying of the profession” is in fact underway, the equally long-awaited results – thousands of professional-level jobs opening up and tons of great, entry-level opportunities for new grads – are simply not happening. Nor are they likely ever to do so again.
For the past ten years I’ve had the enjoyable, enlightening, and often humbling experience of teaching a course in alternative career paths for LIS students and professionals as part of the University of Denver’s MLIS program. Without a doubt, I learn as much from the students as they learn from me.
Throughout all ten years of classes and students, my overriding goal has been to find ways to help people create careers that feed their souls, intellects – and income streams. In order to do that, we consider what career paths exist (or can be created) for LIS professionals; what constitutes meaningful, rewarding and authentic work for individual students; and how to connect the two.
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.
Amelia Kassel is well known to hundreds of San Jose State University and Simmons LIS students as a great teacher and career mentor. She’s also known among countless researchers and independent information professionals (not to mention clients) as an expert researcher on myriad business topics.
Amelia has had an amazing impact on the profession. She shares insights about her career here…
There are some LIS professionals that, given the opportunity, I always read: Mary Ellen Bates, Stephen Abram, Rachel Singer Gordon, Pat Wagner, and a handful of others.
I also keep an eye out for anything written by Jamie Larue, because, besides the fact that he’s an interesting thinker, I especially like his approach to public librarianship, which I will loosely paraphrase as “get the hell out of the building and into the community.” (Actually, in his defense, I don’t think I’ve ever heard Jamie swear…)