by Courtney Butler, Head Editor, INALJ Idaho
Open Minds Open Doors
Recently there were some complaints on INALJ that some editors were posting too many “out of the box” jobs. The disregard for Head Editors’ time and efforts aside, I had a lot of trouble understanding why such a complaint would ever exist. In Support Staff Silos I talked a little bit about how a wide array of skills and experiences makes a job seeker a much more marketable candidate – but that’s not the only benefit of trying some unconventional positions.
Take my story, for example:
I began in middle school wanting nothing more than to work for the federal government. Eventually I decided I wanted to specialize in Russian politics and, with that in mind, I headed off to Cornell College to major in both International Relations and in Russian Studies. It was during this time that my career goals took a dramatic turn. I wanted a summer job for the period between my freshman and sophomore year that would give me experience in my intended field, so I applied to every government agency in my hometown looking for summer help. To my good fortune, it was none other than the Missouri State Archives that offered me a position. At the time I had no interest in libraries or archives as a profession. Sure, I’ve always loved history, but to me this was just a government-related job to put on my resume. I started out doing data entry and making a few copies, but eventually I was trained to assist with research requests and suddenly the archives came alive. I absolutely loved the work I was doing. And even better? I was pretty good at it. I returned the next summer and I was allowed more and more responsibilities as I thrived in the workplace. A couple of years later when it came time to apply to graduate school I realized I still wanted to work for the government, but I didn’t want to be an analyst anymore. I wanted to be an archivist.
This turn of events landed me at Indiana University where I began pursuing a dual Master’s degree in Russian and Library Sciences. While it would have made the most sense to find a job in one of the many campus libraries like the rest of my classmates were doing, I chose to take a chance on another out of the box job and took a position at the Center for Learning Technology and Instructional Enrichment (basically the foreign language lab and tech center). There, I found tons of ways to use the skills I was learning in my library classes such as reference interviews, teaching, adjusting to different types of technology, and just good communication with different types of patrons. The students and faculty that came into the lab came from a plethora of cultural backgrounds and had a large variety in English and technological proficiencies. Thus, I not only found a job that was beneficial to my future career but I also had the opportunity to interact with a number of fascinating people in ways I would not have in a traditional library. And it was all because I was willing to look outside of the box.
I don’t mean for this post to sound like a cover letter – and apologies if it does. My point is simply that anyone who is stuck on working in a very specific type of position in a very specific type of institution is really missing out on a lot of amazing opportunities. I would encourage these people to examine their reasons for this closed-mindedness. Traditional libraries and archives are wonderful places, and I encourage those in the field to at least visit or volunteer at these places whenever possible. But I also encourage job seekers to take a chance on jobs that aren’t necessarily conventional in the library world. You never know what skills you could take away, what opportunities might become clear, and what passions you might find within yourself.