Tuesday, May 20, 2008

5 Things I Want in My Next Job

Being unemployed after successfully completing a contract fills me with a sequence of emotions: pride, reflection and conflict.

I feel pride because I am satisfied with having achieved the objectives of the contract. Whether 6 months, 12 months, or 24 months, I feel pride with my accomplishment.

Then I enter into a state of reflection when the last day of work arrives and I must, albeit reluctantly, start planning my next step.

And, finally, more often than not, I feel conflict, inner conflict, that is, an uneasy, nagging sense that the hard work and excellent performance I have thus far produced and delivered are not coalescing into a structured, developing career path of satisfaction and professional growth, like many of my library school peers and former colleagues now seem to enjoy.

In an effort to resolve these repetitious mixed feelings (and perhaps help others in the same situation at the same time), I put together a list of wants and needs, professionally speaking, that I want to see in any future job offer.

The list items are personalized, in some ways; but feel free to tailor them to your needs, if necessary.

Moreover, I want to hear what you think about these items. Am I too idealistic? Am I missing the point? Or am I hitting the nail on the head, so to speak?

Here they are:

1. Hired as a Professional, not as a Jack-of-all-Trades

2. Work in a University or other well-funded Institution

3. Attend Conferences, Seminars, Training Sessions

4. Work with a Team, and in a Healthy Environment

5. Work / Life Balance


1. HIRED AS A PROFESSIONAL, NOT AS A JACK-OF-ALL-TRADES

I have a BA in History/Religion and a MLIS degree, plus I have close to eight years experience working in this field, focusing on web design and content development, digital preservation research, and digitization projects. As such, I want to be hired as a professional (no, I am not the department’s “web guy”). I want to be hired because of my skills and abilities, and not because the employer needs a Jack (or Jane) of all trades who will act as a warm body in boring meetings, pitch in when there is a huge backlog, fill in for the front office administrative assistant, or troubleshoot that virus-infected, spyware-saturated public access computer workstation. No, I have heard from enough colleagues to say this practice needs to stop.

2. WORK IN A UNIVERSITY OR OTHER WELL-FUNDED INSTITUTION

An academic setting seems ideal for someone in the library and archives profession. The edenic campus grounds, the quiet library buildings, the youthful energy of hungry minds. But positions in academic settings are not easy to find. While I believe the academic environment would be perfect, I am still willing to accept a position at a well-funded institution. By well-funded, I mean an institution with sufficient resources to fund people and projects, and not just talk about them and sound hip.

I know the usual line in the library and archives field is that there is no money, there is no funding. But ironically there is money to pay for salaries of senior level staff and to fund a project or two that will make the department look good and therefore increase visibility and perhaps boost further funding prospects next fiscal year.

Listen: There is money; it is time to start using it wisely. Good professionals want to contribute, but also want good compensation (and benefits).

3. ATTEND CONFERENCES, SEMINARS, TRAINING SESSIONS

I want to attend conferences, seminars, and training sessions. I want to do so because I want to come in contact with other professionals, share and discuss ideas, form connection and perhaps fuel future collaboration. I want to be part of a greater community of professionals to learn, contribute and grow as a professional.

I want to attend training sessions—to learn something new—because there is nothing worse than professional stagnation. Any professional, regardless of field or years of experience, needs to be fed and supported by his or her institution. There are no excuses.

[Interestingly, there is a blog post by a librarian at Princeton University Libraries that discusses the issue of attending conference and giving speeches and who should cover the costs. The Princeton librarian also cites Meredith Farkas’ recent blog posts on the same topic, here and here.]

Many of us will never attain the frequent flyer miles as some of the more prominent professionals in the library field, or the opportunity to attend gaming and education conferences, or the technological ticket to attend a conference in Second Life. But as an optimist (or simply to stupid to know when to quit), I will never say never.

4. WORK WITH A TEAM, AND IN A HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT

Some of us like to work alone, while others like to work with a large team. I fall somewhere in between, preferring the solitude in times of project planning and welcoming a team when the time comes to execute the plan. I do not want to work any more in isolation, carrying the weight of a large-scale project. It is neither good mentally or professionally. We need each other to support our strengths and overcome our weakness. We need each other to get the job done correctly.

I also want a healthy work environment. Sadly, far too many archives offices are located below ground, in basements, in windowless rooms with poor ventilation systems. No more. Been there, done that. I need windows, sunlight.

5. WORK / LIFE BALANCE

I work hard, I put in the time required to complete the task. I know work is something we all do that consumes a large of amount time on a weekly basis. But at the same time that does not mean I wish to have my life outside the job to suffer or be limited. There is a line between work and personal life. I need to draw that all important line early on.

There it is.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't think anything on your list is too much to ask for. At all. I am in a similar position, having "successfully" completed a contract almost 2 months ago.

I put quotes around "successfully" because on paper, I fulfilled the objectives. I stayed until the end of the contract I signed. But I burned out. So much so that I am reconsidering ever working in an archives again - I know, it sounds drastic, and there must be better jobs out there SOMEWHERE, but I read the job postings and they all sound the same, and they all fill me with a sick dread.

On a much happier note, I feel like I'm waking up after a long nightmare and am looking into self-employment so that I can build my own career on my own terms.

I've been in the industry for almost as long as you have, and I'm also pretty tired of hearing "no funding available". I thought it was also pretty funny when the company I was working for decided they needed a wiki.....but no one thought to ask me, the company information person, for input. And I never did hear back from administration after I pointed out all the illegalities of their proposed privacy policy....

--- Former archivist

dkemper said...

Dear Former Archivist,

Your signature speaks volumes. I suspect this in the end of the line for you as well. Don't feel bad about leaving the field if there is a growing desire inside you to do something else. It's worth giving that something else an honest try.

You really warmed my coffee mug with this gem: "I feel like I'm waking up after a long nightmare and am looking into self-employment so that I can build my own career on my own terms."

All the best in your future plans!

And thanks for reading the DIGITAL Archive and submitting feedback!

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about the author

I am an information professional, researcher, and writer with over eight years experience in the information services field with experience in information and communication technology.

I have a B.A. in History and a Master's in Library and Information Studies and working on a Web and Multimedia Design certificate.

I believe that empowering people with information can enrich lives and transform the world.