This Year, Try Writing a Career Mission Statement

This Year, Try Writing a Career Mission Statement

Q: How many readers out there have already fallen off one or more of their New Year’s resolutions?

CNW: I confess that this year I’ve already fallen off my resolutions – for example, getting this blog post out sooner. Inspired by a recent New York Times article, I am abandoning any remaining resolutions in favor of writing a personal mission statement. A personal mission statement is supposed to get at the “why” of change instead of focusing on the “what.” By identifying the reasons behind the changes you want to make, so the theory goes, you are more likely to stick with the program.

This makes intuitive sense to me. It is all too easy to experience a setback and never get back on track because you’ve already failed, right? There is also value in publishing your goals to the world as a means of keeping yourself accountable. So here goes:

2014 for me was all about my kids. But with my youngest now seven months old, it is time to refocus on my career. In 2015  I want to progress in my career by taking on new challenges at work. There is always so much to do that finding the time to identify and work on the areas of greatest impact can be a challenge. I resolve to give myself the space to develop those impact areas in 2015.

It has been some time since I’ve done any speaking or presenting outside of my organization, so I have accepted a role speaking on a panel at the upcoming Special Libraries Association conference in Boston. My ambition is to make that a positive experience and seek out additional speaking roles in the second half of the year.

Similarly, it has also been some time since I have published. My career move into knowledge management coincided with the arrival of my children and the commensurate shortage of time. Now it is time to start participating more deeply in the professional conversation through publication. That also means reading more professional literature.

Related to writing, I also want to nurture my creative side. Writing fiction has been a lifelong goal. It’s past time to get serious, so in 2015 I’ll be looking for ways to nurture myself in addition to my family.

And here are my LCP colleagues’ personal mission statements for further inspiration:

Susanne’s Personal Mission Statement:

 In 2015, I aim to seek out and discover new opportunities and collaborations on topics that are relevant to my role in electronic resources and collections. I want to narrow the scope of my professional development efforts and concentrate on more specific concepts, tools, and solutions. I want to learn from others who are in similar roles in different institutions, and to immerse myself into a (new) community of like-minded professionals. I want to feel engaged and challenged.

In an attempt to conquer chaos and doubt and to maintain my concentration, I intend to focus on my physical and mental well-being with the help of yoga and meditation. I want to slow myself down, and just breathe. In and out, in and out.

I will write more, because this is the activity that feeds my soul. I will commit to the practice of it, and to forming groups that support and nurture the writing life. And then I want to publish, to send my stuff out into the world and see what happens, in a concentrated effort to be more open to rejection and criticism, for the small possibility of success.

Tiffany’s Personal Mission Statement:

In 2015, I will accomplish great things.  I want to look back on this year and feel a sense of pride and contentment with what was accomplished and how my work affected the work and lives of others.  To achieve this, I will identify my priorities and put my effort there.  I will focus my work to what’s important and align my efforts with my endeavors.  I will try to reduce the number of email I send in the hopes it will reduce the number I receive.

I will also learn to say no.  In an effort to align resources with priorities, I need to know what’s on my horizon and I will need to learn to not take on everything.  This includes in my personal life.  Despite my wishes, I am not infinitely limitless.  I am bound by the same 24-hour day as everyone else and I need to remember that.  I also need to remember to make time for me somewhere within those 24 hours–to put on my oxygen mask before helping others around me who my need assistance.

And lastly, I will be thankful for everything I have and everyone in my life.  As a student of Positive Psychology, I will spend a moment every day giving thanks, being appreciative and building an upward spiral of positivity.  For those who want to know more about Positive Psychology, I highly recommend the work of Dr. Barbara Fredrickson.  She is currently teaching an online course on the subject, which is another thing I’ve checked off my 2015 To Do List—I’m currently participating in my first MOOC.  Starting the year strong with small successes!

To much success in 2015!

Q: How do I make the switch from a non-profit to an academic library?

Q: How do I make the switch from a non-profit to an academic library?

Q: I was an art director for 12 years and then went to library school. I have been working at a large non-profit for the past 2.5 years doing in depth reference requests, writing white papers, creating information graphics, creating web pages, very light cataloging, strategic planning for the information center. Although I am in a non-profit, the setting is VERY corporate and I am not really finding a comfortable fit. I would like to switch to academic (I also have an MFA) or find another non-profit that is less corporate. Ideally a career that marries my excellent research skills with design and writing. I am lost? Any advice? In library school I kept hearing how employers wanted librarians who could design, but I am not seeing that at all.

SM: This is a great question. You seem like you would be the perfect fit for an academic position. You have experience doing research, writing, strategic planning, creating and designing web pages and other materials, and you have an additional advanced degree (and you were an art director!). This all seems quite impressive and completely suited to a career as an academic librarian.

However, as you’re starting to figure out, the fact is – it can be bloody difficult to break into the academic library world, especially when you don’t have academic library experience. I hear this from so many people — new librarians, and those who have worked in other types of libraries — who just can’t get a foot in the (academic) door.

Now, it could be that part of the reason you are not getting interviews or jobs is that there just aren’t that many jobs available in whatever geographic area you are searching in, or you are being overly selective in your search. Whatever the reason, don’t give up your job search if academia is where you want to be. Here are some tips and ideas that may help:

Overhaul your résumé – create a CV that emphasizes and highlights your “academic-like” work: writing, reference, research, training, web design, cataloging, etc.

Start small – if you have never worked in an academic library, then that is one strike against you (unfortunate, but true). Look for part-time/adjunct reference work in an academic library, or an internship of some kind. These positions can provide you with experience and contacts who can serve as references when looking for full time work. And, these positions could potentially turn into full time jobs. In other words, identify the experience you are lacking (look at job descriptions) and go out there and get it.

Specialize, and sell yourself as special – what type of library position do you want? Why types of jobs are you applying for? Do you want more technical services, more public services, or a combination? Do you enjoy instruction or outreach? Would you like to be a subject specialist? It will be easier to get a job if you have a clear idea of the type of role you want to be in. Academic libraries and librarian roles can be quite different from special libraries (or corporate libraries)… different missions, different clientele, different expectations. And in some academic libraries you may be required to serve on committees and publish and prove your worth (so to speak) as a member of the faculty. Research, writing and design skills are all wonderful — but these are somewhat common amongst librarians. You need to combine them with something special, something that a hiring committee will remember.

Diversify – have you considered all types of academic libraries? How about community colleges, for-profit colleges, specialized schools (like design schools or trade schools)?

Write thoughtful cover letters – again, highlight your “academic-like” experience, and talk about why you want to move to an academic environment and how your experience and skills make you a great candidate for the job at hand (just remember to tailor each cover letter to the requirements of the specific job). Check out ones that have worked.

Utilize what you know – I always like to talk to and interview people who have worked in other areas, in different types of libraries, and had different careers. They tend to bring in new ideas and new ways to get things done. In your application materials, and during interviews, make sure to relate your past and current positions and the varied skills you obtained along the way, to academic librarianship and the job at hand. We call this: highlighting transferable skills. And these can make you special.

Create an online portfolio – which will be useful for displaying your graphic design work. This way, potential employers can view it and decide for themselves if your skills can be useful. You are right that web and design skills can be extremely beneficial for a librarian to have (and will come in handy, I guarantee it!), but unless the job specifically asks for those skills, then I wouldn’t emphasize them too much. From my experience, design skills are more of a bonus than a deal-breaker.

Become involved – join academic library organizations and associations in your area. Get to know people who may be able to help you find that job. Ask questions, volunteer for things, find a mentor or someone to talk to, get advice about your application materials, and ask your contacts to keep an eye out for job openings.

The job search process – and moving from one type of library to another – can be daunting and lengthy; but with a little ingenuity and a lot of patience, you should be able to get your foot in the door, and secure the type of job you desire. Good luck!

Q: How can I switch from public to corporate librarianship?

Q: How can I switch from public to corporate librarianship?

Q: I worked in public libraries for 10 years. I dropped to part-time after I had my first baby. After two years, I feel ready to go back to work full-time but there doesn’t seem to be anything available in my region (North Dallas). I’m also looking for a job change; I feel I’ve accomplished all I could in public libraries and would like to switch to corporate librarianship. Could you please tell me what’s the best way to go about doing this? Would taking online business courses help? I’ve always been interested in business research but my degrees, MLS and MA in literature, don’t include any business classes. Thank you for any advice you can give.

SM: Your interest in a particular job or field, and your motivation to succeed and to learn, combined with adequate skills and experience are often more important in the eyes of prospective employers than your background or undergraduate degree. You have a lot of experience under your belt, even if the last couple of years have been only part time. Ten years of library experience will benefit you as you look for work elsewhere, but your resume probably needs a little updating and tweaking, especially since you are looking to switch environments.

Moving to the corporate world will take a considerable adjustment, and your resume and cover letter should clearly reflect your desire to “make the jump.” Emphasize your transferable skills in public services and/or technical services, and your use of specific online and print business materials such as Lexis-Nexis, Hoover’s, ABI/Inform, Standard & Poor’s, or specific directories. Public libraries are, by default, corporate libraries for the public, where members of the community go to use (the often very expensive) business resources. You may have more knowledge of business resources than you think.

Taking business-related courses, online or in-person, is a good idea and shows prospective employers that you are truly interested in the business world and motivated to learn more. I would also highly recommend getting any kind of experience, paid or unpaid, working in a corporate library setting. Visit some libraries in your area and interview the librarians. Find out if you can volunteer or do an informal internship. This type of experience could even help you segue into a job, and will give you a better sense of what is involved in corporate librarianship while highlighting the similarities and differences between corporate and public libraries.

Many corporate libraries use recruitment agencies to find librarians for both temporary and permanent positions. Find out if there is a librarian recruitment agency that covers your locale, give them your resume, and talk to them about available positions. Corporations often post job listings in non-library specific job sites, so look at the general sites such as as well as your local newspapers.

Finally, get involved in your local SLA chapter and/or at the national level. Networking and socializing are important aspects of the profession and will only help to improve your chances of finding a job that you love. I have listed some resources and informative web sites that might be of interest to you. Best of luck!

Social Sites:

Business Librarian
An online social network dedicated to connecting business librarians.

IA: Intelligent Agent
A Blog by Robert Berkman, Editor, Information Advisor

The Corporate Librarian
Addressing issues of general interest to corporate librarians

Business Librarians’ Discussion List

Informative Sites:

SLA (Special Libraries Association)

Texas Library Association, Special Libraries Division

“Corporate Librarian 2.0: New Core Competencies”
by Alexander Feng

Finding Jobs:

SLA Career Center

SLA-CTX Texas Chapter: Job Board

Resume Writing:

“Resumes, Cover Letters, and Interviewing, Plus other Important Stuff to Help You Get the Job You Want”
By Ronald D. Pollock

“Crafting a Winning Resume”
By Tiffany Eatman Allen

Resume Writing and Interviewing Techniques that Work: A How-To-Do-It Manual for Librarians
By Robert Newlen