Image from Flickr User Arenamontanus
There are so many principles, best practices, and new ways of handling connectivity these days it all gets incredibly confusing unless one can dedicate hours to it each day. Since this time last year I have really started to get invested in the idea that blogging and other social media are not only fun and useful but also important for my continued development as a young professional. I like to excel at everything I do, and had I the time, I would put all my efforts into writing for the web non-stop until I felt I had a really good handle on it.
That said – I have been through several permutations of content focus in my blogging and have yet to find my niche. I really enjoy writing about tech current events, productivity, and other pseudo-geeky topics. But, I also find a lot of value writing about day-to-day work life and professional development. On top of all that, my dream job for a long time was to be a music journalist, and I still put on that hat every now and again. Lastly, my professional/academic interests in Special Collections, Emerging Technologies Librarianship, digital humanities and the history of collecting merit some of my blogtention too, right?
Sure, I could write about any and all of this, and it would still be a valuable experience and wholly representative of the “Micah Vandegrift” that I truly am. But I am starting to think about crafting a professional identity, focused and unique, with particular strengths that I can sell to an employer. When and how does one reign in so many disparate interests and start to write and become an expert in any one area? Or is it better to let a little bit of all this leak in every now and again?
What got me thinking along these lines was the fact that I have no idea who reads my blog. I am quite sure none of my friends or family do (lame!) simply because these topics are not of interest them. I have been writing to PR people because I admire their work, and to librarians because I am/will be one of them. But, who really is my audience? One thing I know for sure: as I continue on this journey my audience will change and adapt with my writing.
Do you define your audience by your writing, or vice versa? Is there a protocol for collecting data on fans, friends and followers in the blogosphere?
[Inspired by Niki Pocock's post on going to the next level in a career.]
By Doug Savage
Tired of reading tips on how to manage your online presence? Do you often know more than the presenter on the topic of social media in your profession? What does one do if all of a sudden you are functioning pretty efficiently in real life AND online?
These and other questions have been plaguing me for a little while. I really like this digital culture we are all growing so accustomed to and I’d like to think I am generally pretty good at it. I Google myself and am learning to manage my SEO. I do my best to create good content and share it across multiple networks. I am making connections and sharing ideas. So what do I do when every article I read tells me to “start a twitter account” and “connect with professionals” in my field? What is the next step?
For those who have followed me for a little while (all 5 of you!), you know I am obsessed with PR folks. It always seems like they are ahead of the curve on the new what next and I do my best to take advice as it is given. So here’s the quandary – I am not in PR. I am on track to become a Information Professional and will probably work in a library or museum. I wonder if there are different approaches I should be considering for a job search. Now the Library/Museum world is pretty hip and the tech craze is all the rage there too, but I am starting to get the sense that managing my online profile is one small portion of the work I need to do to land a career. (Do I really have to go to conferences and pass out resumes?)
I have no wisdom to offer here and no real conclusion. I guess the question is how do you take all the effort you have put into social media/online connections and transition that to real life opportunities? Does this work better in some fields and not in others? When can get I my “Ultimate Social Media Guru” badge and how much will that be worth IRL? (JK on that last one!) Tips?
(I am sure some of my PR peeps have written on this very topic, or could direct me to some good posts!)
No Books - Image from Photobucket user dark_x3r0
I know. This is like the worst confession of all time. I can’t remember the last book I read, and I’m ok with that. Its not that I’m anti-books, I just have other interests. And it was those other interests that led me into Library and Information Studies. I will say I am gaining a different appreciation for books through this degree, but not enough to make me as voracious a reader as many (all) of my colleagues. I can already hear fellow library school students, and future employers fuming “So, why do a degree based on a professional love of books if you don’t care about books?” Simply because, as I have begun to learn through the degree, Library School is much, much more than training in booksmithery.
I would like to borrow a format many of us are familiar with to lay out my reasoning here. This is my “Top 10 Things I learned in Library School (so far)” list. Please hold all comments until the end, and give me the benefit of the doubt before writing me off as a fool. In no particular order —
Top 10 Things I learned in Library School (so far)
- Libraries are extraordinary institutions in the fabric of society, especially in America. The phrase that resonated with me when taking a library history course with Dr. Wayne Wiegand was “Free and Open to All,” an informal creed adopted by many public libraries. I did a Masters degree in American Studies prior to beginning Library school and as an academic I am fascinated by the institutions and ideas that have created the modern American mind, and this concept is one that is subversive enough to be important to our past, current and future historical context.
- Collection and organization of information is a skill that can be learned. Despite the fact that I hate math, abhor sciences, and can barely stomach ideas like “data,” I am beginning to understand that the study of information is fundamental to librarianship. The ability to assess the information needs of a population group and also accurately approach data as research are tasks of the trade, and learning these I am becoming a more effective info-conduit for whomever I end up serving.
- As I already kind of alluded, a major realization in my studies is that libraries are greater than the sum of their books. Concepts like “Information Laboratory” and “Media Center” can almost more accurately describe some libraries these days. Being a media/tech guy myself, this has been incredibly attractive to me considering a future in this field.
- Following that point, there is not just one type of library. This blew me away as a new student in the program. What the hell are the differences between a public, academic and “special” library? My interdisciplinary radar went off when I realized I could kind of create my own path through the library world. With my background I am hoping to end up in an art library, special collections or museum setting. Being around cultural heritage objects and collections makes me happy.
- Library 2.0! Emerging technologies are becoming more and more integral parts of the library world, and being a user/proponent of those technologies makes this another exciting selling point for me! One of the best courses I have had thus far was Digital Media Concepts and Production with Dr. Lisa Tripp. Blog for class? OK! Start a Twitter account and connect with other information professionals? Yes, please! Learn and use digital media software to create multimedia projects? Done and Done!
- The stereotypical librarian is an urban myth. Sure, there are still glasses and cardigans (but that’s just because librarian-chic is “in” right now). The people behind the desks are multi-varied in their interests, cultural and educational background, and most often they are incredibly excited to help out. The shushing, boring old lady-type is not a majority, and in fact I’d argue that many more librarians are open-minded, young (in body and at-heart!), and invested in sharing knowledge and information with patrons at any cost.
- Libraries are complicated. The multitude of programs, initiatives and staff involved in running a library are astounding. I had considered for a second pursuing a focus in Leadership and Management, but I’m not sure I’d want to take on what some administrators have to deal with! In addition to running the building itself, libraries are always fighting for support from their benefactors, be that a university, the government or private funders. Library advocacy and lobbying is unfortunately an integral cog in the wheel that makes these great institutions function. So, support your library!
- There is this really weird, community connectedness that comes along with librarianship. I’m not sure if this is the same for other career tracks… like do lawyers really get together and have Library Cart Drills at their annual conferences? Yeah, we are all about to be fighting for the same few jobs (watch out for me!), but there has been a general feeling of camaraderie in the library school that I hope continues into my professional life.
- Library school is great training for work in a variety of areas. Being forced to think about how websites are constructed from raw code, or how best to meet the real/percieved needs of groups of people through books, media, info-literacy skills, searching techniques, etc, can prepare one to be effective in many careers. I am consistently surprised at the possibilities that exist for some who has better than average understanding of organization, technology systems, and media, which are all basic principles taught in library school. Don’t fret fellow students if the library market looks slim, you’ll just have to start now thinking about other ways to utilize your skills and sell that to an employer.
- Best of all, I am learning that the faculty in library school, especially at FSU, are invested in our success. They are all expertly trained, and are here to write and research but also to ensure that we leave with the knowledge and connections necessary to do well in our professional life. Am I sucking up? Most definitely. I am young and naive and can get away with a little schmoozing, right? Regardless, I appreciate the time and help offered by my professors and I hope that all MLIS students have as much investment in the relationships they are building as they do in the skills they are acquiring.
So, have I redeemed the fact that I am not a book person? I will argue that I read a ton, and I enjoy it very much, but most of what I am reading is online and better suited to my interests in emerging technology, social media and digital humanities. What do you think? Is there room in the library profession for “non-readers”? What are the most valuable things you learned in Library School?
I’d love to make this a series of guest posts, so if you are interested in sharing your experience please contact me!
As I kind of alluded to in a previous post, I am feeling strangely stuck between my former life as an academic and my current job as a professional in higher education. Also, this being my first “real” job (I’m not counting my part-time or graduate assistant work), there are many uncharted workplace areas that I am uncovering. Perhaps this will turn into a series of posts, but for now here is my current dilemma: what exactly is “professional development” (PD) and how does it work?
I have a vague idea of what constitutes PD – attending meetings, going to new training seminars, maybe even a conference on productivity in the workplace. But I am a 26 year old academic advisor confronted for the first time with a job that does not necessarily fit with my previous ‘experience’ (writing and teaching on subcultural music), and also work that is primarily dictated by the whim of students’ queries, which we all know are fickle at best. Is there more to PD than meeting, seminars and conferences?
Working for a university provides myriad opportunities for academic, professional and even personal growth, and I suppose the primary issue I am having is finding out where I fit, and what the rules are for my engagement with professional/academic life. Coming from graduate school, where the entirety of my experience was focused on MY interests and strengths, this whole job thing is very strange, being accountable upwards to Directors and Deans as opposed to horizontally to students or major professors. Here is my worry, does PD apply solely to my current job, or can it be as broad and varied as my schedule and interests allow? Don’t get me wrong… there are quite a few great resources for advisors on campus, and I take advantage of them as much as I can. But could it be that my personal professional development is comprised of advising and discussion and networking and blogging and coursework, ect? As I am also a continuing student in Library and Information Studies, can my participation in a “Digital Scholars” discussion group be fair game too? Or my interest in Social Media and engaging students in that medium? Or my burning desire to land an internship to augment my Museum Studies Certificate?
Bottom Line: Does Professional Development have a personal aspect? What are my options? And ultimately, who decides what qualifies, myself or my superiors?
PS. To be clear, I am very satisfied with my current work situation, and this topic was prompted because of my desire to be the best and most complete advisor I can. Just learning how to navigate the waters of the working world!