by Kristen Jaques, former Head Editor, INALJ Maine
previously published 1/16/14
The Art of Finding Room to Grow in Your Current Job
While those of us who currently have jobs in or related to our field are fortunate, many underemployed librarians and information professionals will tell you that this can be a mixed blessing. Harsh realities for emerging professionals may include: too few hours, too little pay, and having a position in a specialty or field that is not part of the person’s envisioned career path. There are considerable benefits to having one’s foot in the door, but even jobseekers with solid professional experience can find that promotions and better jobs are competitive and hard to come by. Regardless of whether you are underemployed or adequately employed in a position that is a good fit for you, at some point you will probably want to take it to the next level. How can you get the most out of where you are working now and find opportunities to gain the skills needed to advance? Here are some guidelines:
First, know how to do your job. By truly mastering the basics and the more complex aspects of the position you were hired to fill, you demonstrate to your employer, and more importantly, to yourself, that you are ready to handle more challenging work. Don’t be afraid to do tasks that might be considered to be beneath you if the tasks enhance the overall mission of the library (or organization or company) and need to get done. This is your chance to showcase how dependable, detail-oriented, and competent you are. Until you are ready to move on or up, and find the opportunity to do so, hang in there, even when it feels like nothing new is happening: some changes occur gradually, and it takes time to become experienced. Though many of my days seem the same in my current position, when I look back over the past couple years, I can see that what I’ve learned from the time I started until the present day is immeasurable, and that I have been able to take on new responsibilities as trust has been built.
Know your strengths. The best way to ensure that you take full advantage of your time at any job is to be familiar with the more extraordinary qualities you bring to the table. These are the assets that will open doors for you, and they grow even stronger when you use them. In my workplace, I eventually became the go to person for troubleshooting computer issues, and I have been encouraged to handle many of the library’s written communications. Opportunities such as these allow me to serve my employer’s needs, while gaining experiences that will benefit me as a professional.
If you are currently in a position where you are not finding meaningful chances to demonstrate or build upon your strengths, don’t panic just yet. Your strengths may be benefitting you in less obvious ways for the time being. Keep up the good work and don’t stop searching for better work. Most of us have to use a job as a stepping stone at one point or another in order to get to where we are trying to go.
Know what your employer wants (and doesn’t want). Keep a line of communication open with your supervisors. Are there projects they would like to see taken on that they haven’t quite gotten around to assigning yet? Is there a gap in library services that you feel like you are able to address? Try to help your supervisors see your initiative and the full dimensions of what you can do for them, and you may be surprised at how often you find yourself acquiring new duties. However, it’s important to make sure you are not pestering your boss if you see they are resistant to a particular change, or if they state that they are too bogged down in other business matters to oversee another thing at the moment. While it is great to find opportunities to explore new challenges, the unfortunate truth is that not every position is structured to allow for it. Sometimes all you will be able to do is deliver the best work you can for your own job while storing your ideas until you can make your next move.
Know your other options. Regardless of whether you feel you are flourishing or stagnating in your current job, it’s never a bad idea to supplement your work experiences with outside professional development activities. Ours is a profession providing a vast array of helpful and fun professional organizations, conferences, blogs, and volunteer opportunities to choose from. Consider volunteering for INALJ…over the past year, it has given me an incredible chance to teach and learn about the great big world of job hunting, librarianship, and other exciting information careers. No matter where you are in the process of building your dream career, you have many options that will help you succeed. Keep working hard, and good luck, everyone.