The Door closed and a window opened WHERE? Making the most of any opportunity

by Alexis Rohlfing, former Head Editor, INALJ New Hampshire
previously published 1/14/14

The Door closed and a window opened WHERE? Making the most of any opportunity

alexisr1As one year winds down and another starts, this is usually the time that people pause and take stock of themselves, and create a set of New Year’s resolutions. Most of the time, they’re very specific: lose ten pounds, create something, learn a skill, find a new job or get a promotion. How many New Years past have I had that last one? More than I’d like. I came out of library school with a very clear idea of what I wanted to do– yet every door that might have opened was welded shut. I didn’t have enough experience, or the location was just a little too far to be able to commute from my location locked home, or I could translate Latin and Italian but not German or Spanish.

Only in the last year did I sluff off the heavy mantle of “woe is me” and start to accurately assess the opportunities I had. There were no clear doors, and no nice big bay window opportunities that were clear cut and perfect fit. What I had was the equivalent of an access window and a MacGyver opportunity– with some random bits of knowledge, a bit of cleverness, and a lot of sticktoitiveness,  I got that opportunity opened up.

I started the year with just an ordinary office job. I ended the year with that same job, but with two other outside projects that tap directly into data architecture, resource management, and ‘non traditional’ LIS skills and the ability to make an argument for WHY these skill sets are an important asset. I am much happier at my job, and it shows in my work, both LIS and non LIS related. There has been more than one time when I’ve got my breath and wondered how on earth I can take this all on and still make time for life.

Fortunately, as with every open window, fresh air blows in. New responsibilities always carry with them new organization needs, and rearranging life to accommodate. With that in mind, here are a few things I learned from the last year:

  • Look for opportunity everywhere– especially if it doesn’t seem related: I know what you’re thinking, if its not related how is that an opportunity? Here me out: I work in a call center for a financial company. Not the place you would expect to find any way of employing any of the skills you learn in library school, huh? Thing is, like Sarah pointed out  in November, information is the currency of the realm these days, and every profession needs to organize it and anticipate how people who look to access information. Trust me, the opportunities are there, they just exist outside the box, and that’s a good thing.

  • Prepare to bend over backwards– when you’re putting forward an idea that’s new, you have to stand by it, and sometimes that means overtime. I came in a few weekends to make sure I got everything done. I didn’t think much of it because the work needed to be done, but that type of “get er done” attitude goes a long way to making your ideas seem more pertinent and feasible to those who are not familiar with them.

  • Work/life balance is real, and important– throughout this whole process, I also had a son to raise, an apartment to organize, a husband to be married to, a wedding party to be in, a novel to write, and holidays to plan and decorate for. Is it exhausting? Oh yeah.

    Was it worth it? ABSOLUTELY. My love of data organization and helping people is as important to me as any other part of my life, which means they all share space. The key is sharing– life is 24/7/365, and sometimes work bled into the edges of life, but it made life more bearable.

    Manage your stress, don’t take on too much, and make sure that you are doing what you like and enjoy as much as possible. There will be things that don’t happen– I didn’t get to do as much professional development as I would have liked. I didn’t get to any local conferences, but if I had tried I would have stretched myself too thin and not have gotten as much out of it. Better to space out personal and professional opportunities then spread yourself too thin.


Naomi House

Naomi House, MLIS, is the founder and publisher of the popular LIS jobs resource (formerly I Need a Library Job). Founded in October 2010 with the assistance of her fellow Rutgers classmate, Elizabeth Leonard, INALJ’s social media presence has grown to include Facebook (retired in 2016), Twitter and a LinkedIn group, in addition to the interviews, articles and jobs found on INALJ has had over 20 Million page views and helped thousands of librarians and LIS folk find employment! Through grassroots marketing, word of mouth and a real focus on exploring unconventional resources for job leads, INALJ grew from a subscription base of 20 friends to a website with over 500,000 visits in a month. Naomi believes that well-sourced quantity is quality in this narrow job market and INALJ reflects this many new jobs published daily. She was a 2013 Library Journal Mover & Shaker and has served on the University of Maryland iSchool Board from 2014-2017. Naomi was a Reference, Marketing and Acquisitions Librarian for a contractor at a federal library outside Washington, DC, and now lives part time in Western NY and Budapest, Hungary. She has heard of spare time but hasn’t encountered it lately. She pronounces INALJ as eye-na-elle-jay.