Monday, September 17, 2018

Career Launch

My favorite podcasts like Marketplace and Planet Money have been doing retrospectives lately on the financial crisis for the 10 year anniversary. Listening to their programming has made me realize I don’t think I knew just how close to the brink we came to worldwide financial collapse. We were in truly uncharted territory and as interconnected as the worlds economic system is today (as evidenced in modern supply chains) sickness in one part of the economy quickly spreads. Both Marketplace and Planet Money are great podcasts that really helped me understand the economic news and sparked my interest in economic theory. They both highlight current trends that I might otherwise miss (and now Planet Money has a daily podcast, which is a deep dive into a single economic datapoint).

Much like Planet Money (which premiered a week before Lehman collapsed)my career was just launching during the financial crisiS.It was almost a month after graduating from library school and I found myself looking for my first professional position in a quickly contracting job market. I had planned on being a taxonomist though hadn’t found a position before graduation so I ended up taking a retail position with a great company that could supplement my library assistant job I had gotten during school. A few months later found a part-time librarian position working for my librarian idol(who still inspires me) and started working in taxonomy development while still working in retail to pay the rent. About 8 months after that I found a full time position as a Content Analyst for a government contractor managing a large digital library and left the Boston area for eastern Maryland. I worked in library school and made an effort to network well though I was also lucky. I got the job as the part-time librarian and met my librarian idol thru a class project in library school, which gave me the subject analysis and taxonomy experience to help land my next position. There was some skill involved for sure though there is also some value in being in the right place at the right time.

If anyone asks my advice on career management (which I will be the first to admit is something I am still learning) I recommend networking and keeping an open mind. Meeting people who share your professional interests is invaluable to planning your career and also helping you find your next position(s). Even once you have the position it is imperative to keep networking inside your employer and also within your professional organization. I personally belong to SLA, which collection of info pros including researchers, data managers, librarians, content analysts, taxonomists and many others. I’ve made a point of being involved in my local chapter and joined the board for a spell. The fact is your plans for your career could wary widely from the reality and it is just fine. Since working at the government contractor I’ve worked for an international law firm as a data specialist and most recently as a data analyst in higher education. Be prepared for change and be flexible.

Continual learning is going to be an ever present theme throughout your career. After getting some experience in data analysis in earlier positions I am looking to gain skills in user research and user design to help build better tools for information retrieval. I personally like more formalized education settings as I like being accountable to someone, but for those who are comfortable with a self paced approach there are MOOCs on a variety of topics and also bootcamp style instruction methods like General Assembly. It’s hard work at times though if you never stop learning and evolving in your skill set that will keep you engaged and ahead of the robots.

There is only so much you can control in your career and so much that you can’t (like graduating into a recession like me or boom market like today). There will be good times and bad times and the best thing you can do is be as prepared as possible and then be flexible when it comes to the route your career takes.