Summary – 15th May – Careers
Our chat on 15th May was on careers, and was one of the liveliest chats we’ve had. Sorry that this summary got missed earlier in the year! We’re going through our tweet archives this month and trying to catch up on all the outstanding summaries.
The discussion covered many of the troublesome aspects of making a career in libraries and information, including the difficulties of changing sector, finding jobs outside of the traditional library, and keeping up with professional development throughout your career.
As this chat was so popular we have proposed a session for Library Camp 2012 on the same topic, so if you missed the chat or want to have another discussion about all things careers-related, either see us at Library Camp or keep an eye on the #uklibchat hashtag on Saturday 13th October.
Q1 Are companies aware of our role in society? Do they know us enough?
@rugabela: I think that there are still many companies which don’t really know what we do
@Annie_Bob: Not sure about corporate libs (is that what this q is referring to?) but in the college I work in I do feel appreciated
@theatregrad: Bit of a silly question in response but what do we mean with question 1? Do companies know what librarians are?
- @LibWig: @theatregrad I presume it means about those untraditional roles often filled by IT etc
- @theatregrad: @LibWig That’s what I first thought but in my head it was a vague Q! Those who need to know do know in my company
- @uklibchat: I think @Annie_Bob has a good answer – maybe it a means to discussing if LIS is considered a career by others?
- @AgentK23: I remember the horrified look on my friend’s face when I said I wanted to be a librarian
@NicolaFranklin: Short answer = no; some companies have some idea, few (can’t think of any e.g.) realise everything info pros could do for them. E.g. some firms have intranet/content mgrs, &/or knowledge mgrs, &/or records mgrs, but often not connected internally
- @Kosjanka: picking up on @NicolaFranklin‘s point, that’s the case here. Info man skills are spread across directorates and deps and teams.
- @theatregrad: @Kosjanka It’s the same in my org too, people manage info in all sorts of roles but don’t see them as information jobs
- @NicolaFranklin: @theatregrad @Kosjanka sometimes firm sees it as info work but ppl don’t, sometimes the ppl realise it is but firm doesn’t!
@AgentK23: well for sure I think most people outside of those who work closely with libs, have no clue what librarians can and do do.
@bumsonseats: Yes & no. they are aware libraries & librarians exist but not necessarily what we do/can do for them. Need to be more proactive
@LibWig: I think q1 needs reversing and answer do librarians know about the roles they can fill but don’t have library in job desc
- @NicolaFranklin: I’d say ‘not always’ to this one; some have good broad awareness but many only know the 1-2 areas they’ve been in
- @rugabela: Do you really think that we can work in all type of companies?
- @NicolaFranklin: @rugabela yes definitely; have worked with bank, law, pharma, societies, charities, mfr, retail, list goes on – all with info job
- @Annie_Bob: @rugabela well @philbradley was saying on Friday at #CILIPnpd12 that all other sectors depend on information professionals
- @theatregrad: I’m discovering many roles that aren’t branded as LIS but that we would be good at, many jobs in tv are about information
- @rugabela: @theatregrad @uklibchat #uklibchat I agree. There are many job posts suitable for us but perhaps we don’t know where they are offered
- @MadelineInCH: @LibWig I’m curious about information professional roles beyond “library”…do you have suggestions on how to start exploring? What do you look for in a non-”library” job, is there additional training that you think is appropriate/relevant?
- @NicolaFranklin: @MadelineInCH @LibWig main things are skills to gather/extract info, organise it, and get it to right ppl at right time
- @LibWig: @NicolaFranklin @MadelineInCH and a lot of it is looking outside of traditional library orgs – so companies not unis etc
- @sarahcchilds: e.g. of a job that’s hard to find but requires library MA – “Sales Engineer” for CUP http://t.co/lOOlbsZH
Q2 Are there job roles we’re qualified for, but aren’t aimed at librarians? (e.g they’re filled by other professions e.g. IT)
@AgentK23: I think yes, but may require you to have an extra skill? like TV would require media/film knowledge?
- @theatregrad: @AgentK23 True. Probably why people often end up staying within one sector as they build knowledge
- @AgentK23: @theatregrad yup once you’ve had some sector experience, it becomes easier to get another job in that sector.
- @rugabela: @AgentK23 @theatregrad I totally agree because it happened to me
- @AgentK23: @rugabela @theatregrad me too, i think my case my experience in two different sectors helped.
- @laurelburn: @AgentK23 @theatregrad OK. How easy do you think it is to move between sectors?
- @theatregrad: @laurelburn I’ve applied for LOTS of jobs recently. Only interviews I got were for jobs in my current sector. Hmmmm?
- @AgentK23: @laurelburn @theatregrad I wouldn’t say easy, but I do know people who’ve switched sectors, so it’s not like it’s off the books
- @weededlibrarian: @laurelburn @AgentK23 @theatregrad I moved from Higher Education to Health. Sectors that have something in common so easier.
- @bumsonseats: it’s who you come up against in interviews (or stages b4 that) – if they have moved sectors they are more likely to be interested
- @NicolaFranklin: Pickiness probably due to cuts; lots of choice=hirers have luxury of finding exactly right match; it’s not always like this
- @myweeklybook: @NicolaFranklinYes, in my field of information architecture, orgs require specific software experience, not transferable skills
@SiobhanTThomas: I’d feel able to do a general admin job, I spend half my time sorting post anyway, but other than that I don’t know. I think I could only get a job in retail or libraries, and I really don’t want to work in retail
@bjf_librarian: A lot of project management/consultant/systems analyst roles at LMS suppliers are filled by information professionals
@Lady_PGD: How can we identify non-traditionally named job roles that are info jobs?
- @sarahcchilds: @Lady_PGD it’s harder to search for them but searching “information” and “knowledge” give you some good jobs
- @NicolaFranklin: @Lady_PGD ignore job titles, search on / look at skills being called for – also see Bethan’s point about skills audits
- @rugabela: @Lady_PGD I believe it’s better to know what sectors use a great amount of information in their daily work
Q3 What tasks and field is it tough to get experience in? How can we overcome it?
@uklibchat: Personally – have found getting cataloguing experience difficult
- @myweeklybook: @uklibchat Getting cat experience as a volunteer – working with local museum, using Adlib. Slightly different discipline but v useful skills (MyWeeklyBook)
- @Annie_Bob: @uklibchat that’s a good point, quite a few volunteer or temp cataloguing projects come up but many will require experience
- @joenglish: @uklibchat agreed – I had to have cataloguing in my job description to be allowed the training. Had to have the training to get the job. I was v. lucky to have supportive colleagues who were willing to ‘modify’ job description to get me catalogue training & experience
- @MadelineInCH: @uklibchat regarded cataloging as a giant mystery till I started at a tiny library where there’s no one else to do the cataloging
- @cjclib: Hard – every LMS different, training time-consuming
- @uklibchat: @cjclib although #marcmustdie – it’s more transferable than learning non- MARC LMS
@AgentK23: Cataloguing experience, unless you volunteer. Systems librarian – you need more IT bg. Art Libraries – too competitive
@erikadelbecque: If you have time to volunteer, getting cat experience is easy … I completed 2 cat. placements this yr. Just email libs and ask!
- @Annie_Bob: @erikadelbecque but would they have taken you on if you had zero cataloguing experience & they had to train you?
- @erikadelbecque: @Annie_Bob Some libraries are very generous w/ training. Wellcome Library esp. was brilliant, lots of training sessions etc
- @bjf_librarian: @ErikaDelbecque @Annie_Bob our univ. library very good too, re. training – Shadowing programme, learning hours, external courses
@NicolaFranklin: In my exp, hardest to get started in= law libn, unless u do pre-lib 1yr in law lib before masters; they always look for law exp
@bjf_librarian: Going by job adverts it seems difficult to get into corporate, esp. law sector without previous experience in that sector.
@weededlibrarian: Think this varies but in big setups often management skills are hard to experience, especially people and finance
- @bjf_librarian: @weededlibrarian couldn’t agree more about management skills. Still trying to find a way, but haven’t been successful so far
@theatregrad: I worry about how I will be able to progress up to management jobs that require things like supervisor experience.
- @sarahcchilds: @theatregrad if you’re doing project work tho you will get some of the skills but in a different way
- @theatregrad: @sarahcchilds Hopefully! Will have lots of transferable project experience but my role won’t involve directly managing others
- @Annie_Bob: .@theatregrad makes a good point about supervisory experience, any suggestions of ways to get this if you don’t supervise at work?
- @niamhpage: @Annie_Bob leadership roles in Guiding got me my first supervisory roles, easier to get subsequent ones
- @NicolaFranklin: @theatregrad mix of vol self to train any new starters at work, org stuff for info groups, exp at clubs to start, build gradually
- @bumsonseats: @theatregrad I agree with @NicolaFranklin. See if you can volunteer to organise projects, lead subteam for projects, etc
@shaslav: Probably management – sometimes can be more likely to gain in smaller organisation where do more of everything
@bjf_librarian: Often a bit easier to get experience in new fields if you work in smaller libraries.
@MadelineInCH: Getting management experience seems tricky. Colleagues in US say the same thing, but I don’t know if this holds true in UK/Europe
- @bjf_librarian: @MadelineInCH yes, it’s the same over here and on continental Europe, from what I’ve gathered and experienced so far.
- @NicolaFranklin: @MadelineInCH ‘mgt’ v broad; if u wait for someone to give it to u=long wait! go get it eg, budget mgt=vol treasurer for group
@rugabela: Archives and very specialised libraries. You need additional background and formation. Also, some IT jobs
@AgentK23: Jobs that require specific language skills will obv not be available to those without them. I think European counterparts to UK have an edge over us in that most have to learn English?
Q4 Is there a gap between what we have studied at University/Library School and the labour market?
@AgentK23: Maybe more that market is so competitive and they will hire people with experience. Training on the job happens less
@Lady_PGD: I am currently at Library School & thru my current job search I’d say there is a BIG gap which I am worried about
- @Annie_Bob: @lady_pgd what are the main areas that you see gaps in?
- @Lady_PGD: @Annie_Bob i just do not think my course practical enough; I’ve learnt loads but it is only theoretical. We have some practical assessments & tasks but we defo need more or extra training courses to go on
- @bjf_librarian: @Lady_PGD @Annie_Bob no placements as part of the course?
- @Annie_Bob: @bjf_librarian the UCL course has a two week placement halfway through
- @Annie_Bob: @lady_pgd the UCL course is fairly practical (work placements, cat&class training etc), but I think it could be even more so
- @schopflin: You need theory to make skills transferable – technical skills date too quickly and often too specific. (@Schopflin)
- @Annie_Bob: @schopflin @lady_pgd that’s a good point, but equally practical experience helps you to apply the theory
- @rugabela: @Annie_Bob @lady_pgd @uklibchat New Technologies, digisitation, Content Management Systems (all about Business Inteligence)
@LibWig: Not necessarily a gap, but a completely different way of applying it and putting it into practice. And there will always be in house processes to learn and sector knowledge to pick up but this is true of all professions (@LibWig)
- @weededlibrarian: @LibWig True – I think willingness to learn and knowledge of underlying principles are most important in new professionals
- @LibWig:@weededlibrarian definitely! If you have the basics and strong core skills, terminology and extra K will follow soon enough
@weededlibrarian: Not sure abt this – I qualified a long time ago so any practical skills lrnt wd be useless. Theory/knowledge still ok
@AgentK23: At Brighton U, your dissertation is based on a work placement, so more practical than most other places it seems?
@shaslav: I think courses will never fully prepare for the practicalities of the work place and will only become more distant over time!
@erikadelbecque: It’s essential to work/volunteer during MA course to develop practical skills. Dont wait until after ur course to address gaps
@Lady_PGD: I think the graduate training scheme needs to be combined with the MA like an apprenticeship, then can apply what you learn to your job.
- @AgentK23: @Lady_PGD I would love that but not enough graduate trainee schemes around
- @laurelburn: @Lady_PGD @uklibchat I’m studying by distance learning while working so I’ve made it like an apprenticeship. But still aware of the gap between para-professional job and masters course
Q5 How can we update our knowledge and skills? Do you think there are enough and accessible resources to do it?
@cjclib: At @hvcats we are still working on a cat23, but will be departure from usual 23 things. Still cpd tho + welcome new suggestions. I’m also thinking abt the possibility of using #codeyear style model for informal cataloguing training (rda?)
@theatregrad: I’ve struggled with this since moving out of trad libs. When in HE lots of training but my organisation has less opportunities. External opportunities are often expensive or far away plus don’t want to use all my leave on training events. Taking advantage of everything suitable through work but online self teaching and informal is my current strategy
- @sarahcchilds: @theatregrad yep i would urge anyone working in HE libs to take advantage of all the training that (most) offer
- @shaslav: agree HE good for this – far less so corporate
@Lady_PGD: I have been trying to gain experience but cos am on MA I can’t get considered for lower level jobs…and there’s no volunteering ops
- @AgentK23: @Lady_PGD I’m a graduate and i have an information assistant job. which is about as low as you can go, well maybe above shelving
- @Lady_PGD: @AgentK23 I have been told I wasn’t considered for a lib asst job cos they thought I’d move on within a year!
- @AgentK23: @Lady_PGD #uklibchatvaries from place to place, I was rejected for a grad trainee role because someone else had a PhD, so don’t get so downhearted about that, different places have different standards
- @theatregrad: @Lady_PGD Next time tell them that you won’t? Was seen as over qualified for my current job so told them my reasons for wanting it
- @Lady_PGD: @theatregrad yes I have been trying to make it clear that I want to be there for a long time. The problem I’ve faced w/ potential employers is that they think I’ll leave within a year even if I say I wont
- @uklibchat: @Lady_PGD you might be better off not working for those kind of people. sounds like they wouldn’t want to train you
@kosjanka: Have found it much more difficukt to find relevant, affordable training since moving to govt sector. Esp living outside Ldn. Most development I’ve done has been vol work, mentoring, job shadowing, prof reading, odd meeting and new responsibilities.
@rugabela: Sometimes I feel I can’t cope!!! Constant Changes in technology, catalogation, labour market trends…
@tinamreynolds: You need to use CILIP, BIALL, SLA etc cheap and free events to build skills if work won’t help. If you organise an event, you can get the benefit & not pay. Also @El_Isabe gives a room for free at work to get free attendance for staff
- @jwebbery: @tinamreynolds organising events helps you develop your professional voice/identity – useful to get distance from current job
- @cjclib: @tinamreynolds Yes, v good point, plus useful experience for CV
@cjclib: I think informal + free is crucial for training/cpd, there’s not enough of that on offer just now. Need more imagination
Q6 How easy is it to change sectors? Is your first likely to determine the sector you will be in for the rest of your career?
@shaslav: Different sectors can link together in my case government led to investment to property in logical fashion. Use skills and experience imaginatively when applying for jobs-every little helps and may differentiate you
@AgentK23: Staying in the same sector becomes the path of least resistance.
@theatregrad: Have found moving within current sector a lot easier. Tried to use transferable core skills to get move sectors but comp tough
@NicolaFranklin: Easiest at start of career (e.g. series temp roles while study) & later in career (senior mgt skills become more vital than sector)
@bumsonseats: I’ve worked in HE, retail, then again HE, now public libs. it’s possible but stressful as loads of different things 2 consider
@kosjanka: I started off as para prof in pub lib. Moved to academic lib, then on to gov lib. Gained prof role by progressing in govt lib. As I only have Dillon and acilip, I doubt I could move back to academic lib, but know others who have done with ease.
@rugabela: About changing/ working in other sectors: I think it depends on your CV, abilities, skills, experience, knowledge…
- @AgentK23: @rugabela you need to know how to sell yourself and your skills-set to convince the one doing the hiring
@tinamreynolds: It isn’t easy to change sectors but is possible. Depends on the role, level and sector
@herslantfinely: 1st job HE, 2nd Health, always thought I’d swap back once qualified but definitely want to stay with health now, think passion and interest influence more than 1st job alone, especially as most skills transferable
Q7 do you have a job that is below your qualification level? Has anyone succeeded in getting a job above qualification level?
@AgentK23: I’m still searching for that elusive professional role!
@Lady_PGD: If u want a job above your level do you just showing willingness to learn?
@theatregrad: I ended up in job where MA made me overqualifed +LIS quals not recognised in my sector but it has led to exciting opportunities. I’m the only person at work with a LIS qual & I’m low down the ranks
- @LibWig: @theatregrad who is above you then? Is it primarily management staff? @theatregrad: @LibWig In current role (not new project job) there are more senior librarians and supervisors above me then library management
- @tinamreynolds: @theatregrad @LibWig Common in corporate libs too
- @LibWig: @tinamreynolds @theatregrad so you both have senior librarians that have no formal LIS qualification at all? Just LIS exp?
- @theatregrad: @LibWig Yep. I guess television is a world with its own rules.
@kosjanka: I gained a role as Info Spec, prior to completing degree (I only have UG dip). Did it with lots of external vol work, enthusiasm, proving I had skills – gained elsewhere, getting involved internally w projects, and demonstrating capability.
@joenglish: Qualified 6 months ago, just got first professional role
- @theatregrad: @joenglish Congrats. Out of interest, how do we define a professional role these days? Which sector? (@theatregrad)
- @joenglish: @theatregrad Interesting question – for me the change in job title was recognition that I’d now qualified
- @bjf_librarian: @theatregrad my understanding has so far been that a person spec. for “prof. level” job has library or info degree as essential
- @jwebbery: @theatregrad we have posts for professional librarians, including Chartership requirement
- @AgentK23: @joenglish so what helped you to get that do you think?
- @joenglish: I’m doing exactly same job as before – they gave me new job title,f/t hours, and more money because I applied for other jobs
- @AgentK23: @joenglish @theatregrad what did your job title it change from and change to?
- @joenglish: @agentk23 p/t library assistant to Reader Services Librarian – only diff is being f/t I have more time to enact the ideas I had
@tinamreynolds: Mine was above my qualification level when I got it
- @uklibchat: @tinamreynolds that was a few years ago right? I think the job market has changed a lot from what many people have told me
- @tinamreynolds: @uklibchat The deciding factor for me was having done work experience with my workplace so they knew me and how I work
Q8 Does library school do enough to inform students about the full range of career options – not just traditional library roles?
@AgentK23: Brighton University did, we had a session talking about different job titles. someone from Sue Hill also came in chat.
@Annie_Bob: I applied for a couple of digital comms jobs on back of a tweet by one of my lecturers, not formally on course though
Q9 Have you ever considered going freelance?
@shaslav: Yes but not libraries
@myweeklybook: Had my last permanent, full-time job in 2000. Have been either freelance or running my own company ever since. Jobs are highly overrated, IMHO ;D
- @AgentK23: @MyWeeklyBook what is your own company?
- @myweeklybook: @AgentK23 Web development agency http://t.co/U7CYoqNt We built the NLD12 site for CILIP.
@theatregrad: I have no idea how you would even go about going freelance…not that I want to
@r_n12: In theory sounds great and intriguing but surely you would need to be v.v. flexible and have back-up cash for lean times?
@myweeklybook: It’s a trade-off. Jobs = stability. Self-employment = flexibility. Need to find your place on that spectrum.
@AgentK23: Freelance librarian?? Or freelance some other kind of job?
- @myweeklybook: @AgentK23 Some qualified librarians work as consultants, eg our own @Philbradley. Lots of roles for freelance info pros.
@shaslav: Probably more opportunities in past before everyone was expert in Internet! Although still some options…
@elizabethutch: Would love to go freelance…not sure who would need my skills though!
Q10 How can we get potential employers to consider us if we’re over qualified?
@myweeklybook: If you have a credible reason for wanting the job – e.g. I want some stability and regular income to fund study.
@LibWig: Can’t say I can speak from exp but for other jobs (ie supermarkets) jst downplay other roles & emphasise diff skills
@jwebbery: Employers focus on what skills are required. We have many staff more qualified than required – most paraprofs have Masters
- @theatregrad: @jwebbery Academic library? Seems easier to get higher up without chartership/LIS quals in less traditional sectors/jobs (@theatregrad)
- @jwebbery: @theatregrad yep. University. Quals also imp to grading (count in job evaluation)
Q11 What type of companies are more likely to contract us? Where can we find a job easily?
@rugabela: I think that some companies when it comes to looking for new workers they seem to be seeking a Prince Charming
@rugabela: I’m sure that all related to Internet, Digital Media have good employment prospects for us
Q12 What are the best and worst types of companies/fields to work in?
@myweeklybook: Public is intensely rewarding and also intensely frustrating. In IT you can do fantastically interesting work but sometimes feel distanced from your users.
@joenglish: I loved working in public lib. while doing MA, but lack of job security / feeling unvalued was a killer. Now working in HE.
@laurelburn: Surely this depends on personal preference? I have found the work environment to be more important than sector
@ErikaDelbecque: HE very good sector to work in imo. Good wages, lots of training opps and support, career progression
- @laurelburn: @ErikaDelbecque I would’ve thought there’s more likely to be the chance of promotion/career progression in a larger organisation
@AgentK23: HE is good, but depends on place you end up. I’ve been warned off places that are very ‘hierarchical’ [won't let you do more]
- @r_n12: @AgentK23 My experience to a t unfortunately.Diff HE institutions organisation culture and training/dev landscape can vary wildly. I get great opps for ext. training&events but trying to actually DO more in my team is like getting blood from a stone
@tinamreynolds: It is a tiny field but I love property consultancy work. Can’t imagine working outside of corporates/with adults. Like the sound of HE in theory as people like @liz_jolly enforcing #Chartership & more CPD opportunities
@Lady_PGD: Working in a secondary school is rewarding if you have support from wider school but it can be isolating. Great op to learn lots of skills
@shaslav: Agree HE very good for reasons mentioned – also corporate as less likely to set boundaries based on quals – more about ability
@SuzyRedRec: My one piece of careers advice: take responsibility for your own development/career/life.
@NicolaFranklin: Library careers are at the centre of my role – I would advise continual learning and an open mind for success
@medievaljenga: Are there any cataloguing courses I can take if I end up doing a postgrad course that doesn’t offer it (as lots don’t)
- @sarahcchilds: we discussed in a #uklibchat chat last yr that some unis offered their modules as standalone CPD http://t.co/NMwCem4N for cat, UCL is probably best – tho doesn’t seem to be on list http://t.co/hTF82WTq. Try asking @annewelsh
- @myweeklybook: @Annie_Bob @agentk23 Trying to fit p/t job, self-employment and fixed-time volunteering together atm. Very creaky, just works
- @AgentK23: @Annie_Bob 3 day weekday + Saturday Job + plus home-based research. I will have to work very hard! already started prepping. (@AgentK23)