by Amanda Viana, Head Editor, INALJ Massachusetts
With Eyes Wide Open: seeing your learning and experience in a new light
As an undergraduate English major I had a professor who was memorable mainly for her absurdly specific essay guidelines: ‘five sentences per paragraph, three paragraphs per page, go over and I won’t read it’. But I remember that professor for giving me one other gift—the ability to see beyond the expectations of my major and apply my skills to the wider world. One day in class she (very unusually) went off-syllabus. I don’t remember exactly what she said, but the gist of it was that we English majors had the world by the tail. As English majors we weren’t just lovers of great literature—we had the ability to analyze texts of all kinds, we had mastery of language; we could succeed in the worlds of law, government, journalism and far beyond. I had decided to become a librarian early on in life, so I didn’t share the worries of many of my fellow students about what the future held, but it was the first time I remember feeling as though my undergraduate career was more than just a stepping stone. It was the first time I thought about applying my skills to careers outside my comfort zone.
Post-MLIS, INALJ has provided another one of those moments for me. Each day I pour through dozens of job postings and each day I come to a broader understanding of what it is to be a librarian and an information professional. As an Information Services Librarian at a public library, I don’t have to stretch very far to apply my knowledge and skills to my job. But my volunteer work at INALJ has shown me how far and wide an MLS/MLIS can take you. Job seekers don’t need to be reminded of how tough the market is, particularly for libraries and other non-profits. It’s discouraging to train for library work and not be able to find a position. But if I can offer one piece of advice it is this: know that your knowledge and skills can shine in a broad range of positions. Open yourself up to the idea of exceling in a non-library setting. Take a look at those jobs that might not appeal at first glance, consider how your qualifications would fit, imagine the possibilities.