Reflections one year out of library school

This past June marked a year’s time since I graduated from library school, and this July marked the end of a one-year contract that I started just weeks after crossing the stage.  I was real fortunate to find work so quick after getting my MLIS degree, and I thank my lucky stars for that everyday.  Of course, there was some skill and good grace involved, but I know that finding work often involves being the right person in the right place at the right time, and I’m happy that things worked out as well as they did.

Anyway, July was a whirlwind for me.  Between wrapping up projects and clearing off my desk, using up the last of my vacation, and taking in a few more short conferences, I had little time to think about what I’ve done since graduating and what that meant.  But now that I’ve found a moment’s peace, I can lay out some advice to recent LIS graduates, based on what I’ve learned the past year.  It’s imperfect, I’m sure, but nothing is ever 100% or complete in this world, so I’m okay with what follows.

Advice to LIS graduates from a recent LIS graduate:

  • Share your opinions with your employers and colleagues
    • You still have a lot to learn, and these people can help you along the way.  But more importantly, these people want to know your opinions, too.  You may be new and green, but to a lot of people, you represent vast potential because you can bring different and new ideas to the table.  You shouldn’t ever take over a meeting with your opinions and antics, but you should definitely speak up and be heard.  Remember: you won’t be hired to be a bump on a log, so make sure your contribute to your library and your team.
  • Don’t shoot for the moon
    • Once you land a job, you may be so full of enthusiasm that you’ll want to tackle everything at once.  Don’t do this.  Prioritize what needs to be done against the library’s timelines, your schedule, and also against your own learning curve.  Taking on too much will burn you out and potentially let others down.  Instead, create a schedule with your supervisors or mentors, and return to it regularly to adjust it up or down.  This shows foresight: they’ll appreciate that you’re balancing your duties and also keeping them in the loop.
  • Ask Questions
    • You’re going to be a brand new hire at a brand-new-to-you organization.  Your co-workers will know this and expect you to have some questions.  Frankly, it would be weird (if not unfriendly) if you never ask them anything about how things work locally.  These people will become your mentors, and they will be expecting you to be looking for guidance on some things and instruction on others.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions – it’s best the way to get to know your new workplace, colleagues, and duties.
  • Spend time at the end of the day planning for the next one.
    • For your mental health, turn off your e-mail 20 minutes before your day ends in order to focus on what you’ve accomplished today and what’s in store for the next.  This is a simple planning technique that will make 830AM Wednesday not appear so daunting because you’ll walk into Hump Day knowing already what ought to be worked on first.
  • Keep reading.  Keep learning
    • Librarianship (especially academic librarianship) is an awkward blend of theory and practice.  Take time in your schedule (mark it in your calendar) to research what’s going on your field:  look at academic and professional journals; read some blogs; get in the conversation on Twitter and Google Plus.  Since you’ll have just started work (or will soon be starting work), it will be easy to fall out of the loop on account of the duties you’ll be taking on while on the job (see my points above).  Therefore, plan ahead and reserve time to keep yourself up on LIS news and research
    • Look ahead to what you will formally study in the future.  Whether it’s professional development or a part-time degree or certificate, you should be thinking about what you may want to study in the future that will help you get the Next Great Job You Really Want, or that will help you stay informed about the Great Job You Just Found And Don’t Want To Leave.  “Continuous Learning” isn’t just a happy PR line.  It’s a requirement for life, in my mind.
  • Keep networking.
    • I don’t care if you do it in person or online, but don’t stop meeting people.  Networking isn’t greasy.  Networking is just what people do – getting to know other people, which will be helpful at work and at play (you never know who your new Best Friend Forever will be).  And make a point to meet people outside of Libraryland, too.  There are a lot of people working outside of LIS whose interests are similar to our own, and they can bring you new perspectives and ideas that you may not be thinking about simply because they’re working with a different network in the first place.
  • Keep writing job applications.
    • Don’t fret when you don’t find work right away.  And don’t fret when the term position comes to an end, either.  Like I said at the very beginning of this post – finding work is a combination of your hard work and a little bit of chance.  Find postings that appeal to you for whatever reason, and then apply to them.  Don’t worry about what you can’t control (i.e., the candidate pool).  Just write the best damn application you can every time (but never lie), and know that you’ve given it your all every time.  And keep applying.  The world may be going broke, but there are still jobs out there.  And your perseverance will pay off, I promise.
      • (Sidenote: Are you interested in academic postings only?  Keep in mind that the hiring process in academic library land can be real slow, and that often, postings open three times in the year: Fall, Winter, and Spring.  Don’t let this get you down: it is what it is.)
Have you got any advice to share?   Comment below and share your insight!