Kim Dority is a fount of knowledge about non-traditional (and traditional) LIS careers. You may remember her as the brain behind Infonista, featured on this blog back in February. Reading her bio just now, I was also reminded of the wonderful group she manages on LinkedIn, LIS Career Options. If you’ve been looking for a place to discuss the twists and turns in your career path, look no further. She very kindly wrote this post about what looking for outside-the-box information can do for your career. In addition to this wonderful strategy for resilience, I hope you will enjoy getting a taste of what you can find in her most recent book:
How do you navigate all of the challenges, changes, and opportunities – both anticipated and unforeseen – that comprise a typically dynamic LIS career? Given how unpredictable the profession has become, trying to gain firm footing on our shifting career sands can be both an adventure (good day) and crazy-making (not-so-good day)!
One of the things I’ve found most useful in attempting to create a resilient career is to learn not only from thought leaders and experts within the profession, but also from those outside it.
At an early point in my career I worked as an executive information advisor for a corporate CEO and developed the habit of doing a monthly “magazine cruise” to expose myself to emerging ideas in multiple areas of research and endeavor. I’d hit my local bookstore, start with art, and happily make my way through magazines devoted to art, foreign affairs, history, military strategy, science, sports, technology, travel, and all the topics in between. My goal was to look for developments and insights outside the usual information we’d automatically be exposed to within the industry, and then reframe those developments and insights into a meaningful context for our work.
Adding online resources, I’ve continued this environmental scanning habit ever since. Yep, I monitor all the key LIS information sources, but I also scan tons of other non-LIS information sources at least once a month so that my thinking – and career framework – is broadened beyond the traditional LIS field.
Although I sort of fell into this process and then realized later how powerful a broader information universe could be to my career opportunities (read: I can’t take any credit for this being a brilliant career strategy on my part!), it has, in fact, been incredibly helpful in building a resilient career. Here’s why I’d recommend this type of information monitoring for your LIS career as well:
- You’ll usually know at least a top-level something about nearly every topic a patron or client might bring up
- In an LIS environment, you’ll be able to bridge concepts and solutions between libraries and, say, the corporate world (or military strategy!)
- You may often help patrons or clients spot new opportunities outside their usual information universe
- It’s a great way to stay intellectually engaged with the world outside the library, which will make you a better librarian or information professional for your entire career
- It’s a great way to take charge of your career by developing the habit of looking for and often finding emerging opportunities for information skills
In 2012, I wrote LIS Career Sourcebook (Libraries Unlimited), which addresses each of the career stages LIS professionals are likely to encounter and the recommended resources for navigating those stages effectively and successfully. For example, there are chapters on the LIS career universe, education options, job hunting, professional development, building a professional network, establishing a professional brand, managing, leading, going independent, and dealing with career transition points. As I began putting the materials together, I tried to take a similarly inclusive approach to help readers expand their frame of reference beyond the library discipline.
So, for example, the chapter on management recommends not only Curzon’s Managing Change: A How-to-Do-It Manual for Libraries, but also key management books from Peter Drucker (Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices), Marcus Buckingham (First, Break All the Rules), Robert B. Cialdini (Influence: Science and Practice), and Daniel Goleman (Working with Emotional Intelligence). Although none of these thought leaders had libraries or information organizations in mind when they wrote these landmark books, their lessons and insights are nevertheless highly applicable.
When it comes to creating a resilient career, I’d strongly suggest that one of your goals be to create a broad knowledge base, both inside and outside of the LIS world. My recommendation: go for a magazine cruise once a month and look at all the different topics (scanning the tables of contents usually suffices), set up an online environmental scan using the reader that works best for you, and follow thought leaders in non-LIS disciplines using your favorite social media tools. Because in my experience, the broader your information universe, the broader your career opportunity universe.
Kim Dority is the founder and president of Dority & Associates, an information strategy and content development company. During her career, she has worked in academia, publishing, telecommunications, and the library fields, in for-profit and nonprofit settings, for both established companies and start-ups. Kim created and teaches a course on alternative LIS career paths in the University of Denver’s LIS graduate program, and is the author of two books on LIS careers, Rethinking Information Work (2006) and LIS Career Sourcebook (2012), both published by Libraries Unlimited. In addition, Kim created and manages the LinkedIn “LIS Career Options” group, which now includes more than 6,000 members from 60 different countries commenting on roughly 575 discussions. She received her MLS from the University of Denver.