Monday, June 16, 2008

How Blogs Can Save Your Career

Earlier this week I had lunch with a friend, a fellow library school grad. We had a conversation about professional development…or the lack thereof. We both graduated in the same year and we both had a roller-coaster ride during our first years in the library and information field following graduation.

While he has found himself as a librarian in a documentation centre and I continue to carve out a new career path altogether, we both agreed that professional development in the field (or any field, for that matter) had to improve.

“Aside from attending a few local conferences,” he explained, “I haven’t done much or learned much. I just do what I have to do at work. That’s it.”

I was shocked by his indifference. “So what do you do to stay current?” I asked.

“I read a few journals, but that’s about it.”

I told him that I had attended roughly 4 conferences / seminars / workshops in my 8 year career. And I bemoaned the fact that I had I wanted to attend more to learn, to connect, to meet with my peers, but was thwarted by a number of setbacks, including the usual limited budget.

Placing the blame on the usual suspects, such as limited funds, indifferent employers, or the limitations imposed on contractual positions, can often alleviate the frustration, but it does not erase the truth: professional development is a must.

In 2002, Barbara Quint, editor of Searcher Magazine, wrote a very insightful column in the July/August issue of the magazine. In reflecting on her career path, and offering advice to her readers, she stated boldly:

“When an information professional stops learning, they start dying, or at least their career does. And any information professional in this day and age, with all the changes upon us and more coming, who does not or cannot allot a significant portion of their work time to learning and study will not be able to perform well the job they have now for much longer, much less the future jobs they should have.”

I agree 100% With contractual positions, as I have been in over the years, the employer’s interest, for better or for worse, is to ensure the work he or she has planned gets done, not necessarily to support the professional development of the person hired.

So what should one do?

As I walked down the bustling streets, I was caught in my thoughts, wondering how I have managed to stay current (more or less) despite being on contracts or, more recently, unemployed.

One word kept surfacing: blogs.

Seriously, if it were not for the many library and archives, Web 2.0, new media, digitization, digital preservation bloggers and social networkers on the Web, I would be far, far behind the curve.

It is thanks to those who, in the spirit of sharing, write and talk about their work, projects, ideas either daily, bi-weekly, weekly or monthly that I have been able to stay current in the field.

I hesitate to list the blogs I read, so as not to alienate anyone, but my blogroll is to the right, and I continue to add to the list.

I believe in the power of blogs, their immediacy, their intimacy, and their uncanny ability to auto-generate communities, because I know I have benefitted from them and learned from them. And continue to do so.

For example: How did I find out about Twitter? Through a podcast I heard. How did I find out about the latest happenings in education and libraries? Through several bloggers whose daily commentaries are food for thought. What prompted me to be concerned about blog preservation? The many mil-blogs out there whose posts chronicle the story of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are many more examples.

Professional development involves participating in several areas. Make sure the blogosphere is one of them. You never know who you are helping.


Dani said...

Well written. I don't have the opportunity to attend many conferences or workshops (we are seriously understaffed) so I use blogs, journals and Twitter to keep current in my field. Furthermore, using these platforms has forced me out of my comfort zone (of wordprocessing only) to try new things, which enables me to help patrons when they have a "how do I..." question.

dkemper said...

Thanks for reading and commenting, Dani. I agree, it's all about being proactive in one's own professional development, particularly where funding is limited or staff numbers are terribly small.

If these tools have helped, as they have helped me, so much the better. I'm glad you find them useful as well.


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.