by Sarah Roark Schott, former Head Editor, INALJ Arizona
previously published 2/26/14
A Few Tips for Transitioning into the Private Sector
In October I accepted a position as an Aircraft Records Analyst with a company based in Oregon. I applied for the job on a whim because it looked interesting, it was in the town I wanted to live in, and did not require a background in aviation. I figured with my background in archives and record management I could play up my organization and research skills if I got an interview. A few days later I was contacted by the Records Department Manager for an interview, which I quickly accepted. Before the interview I did all of my usual research on the company, made sure my suit was cleaned, and of course did some Power Posing right before the meeting.
Here is a tip for an interview with someone who might not know what an Archivist or Information Professional is: in very simple and straightforward terms tell them what you did at your last job on a daily basis. For instance, I worked as a Contract Project Archivist for the National Park Service, and every day I read documents and booklets and condensed that information into snippets so that researchers could look at my descriptions and understand what the documents are about. I also organized the documents and online collections in ways that made them quick and easy to find. Making information accessible and understandable is a huge part of the role we play as Information Professionals. Businesses and companies want people who can simplify and streamline the process of records management. You can do that!
The interview was a success, I was offered the job that day. Tip #2 is to go into work on your first day with a “fake it until you become it” attitude.1 organizing the aircraft records almost immediately, and set to work learning the lingo of the industry to help me get more comfortable with the information I would be working with 8 hours a day. Unfortunately despite my best efforts to fake it, I was and still am often asked if I have a background in aviation by some people who question my ability to make it with the company. This can be a downer for any new employee (even if you have praise and confidence from direct supervisors). So, a tip for anyone experiencing mean spirited questions from others is to be polite (maybe even nice) to that person, and tell them you might not have a background in (say industry here), but you are learning something new everyday. Then maybe ask that person if they have any pointers for you. You can tell your mom, bff or spouse about what a jerk that person was when you get home later if you want, but your best bet is to always be professional and polite.
My last tip is to ask as many questions as you can think of. I ask at least four or five questions an hour even at 3-ish months in. In the beginning I asked at least twenty questions an hour. Asking questions gives my manager and supervisor a sense of if I am understanding what I am working on or if I am completely lost. Even if I think I know the answer to a question, I will still ask that question until I am 100% sure I know the answer. I enjoy working in the private sector. Sure, you do not get as many holidays off, and student loans will not be forgiven in 10 years if I continue working where I am at, but it is interesting to be a part of a company that is involved in industries all over the world.
Amy Cuddy, ‘Your body language shapes who you are’ TED Talk. June, 2012 http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are.html?quote=1924