Alternative LIS Careers
One of the great benefits of developing the information skills that come with your MLIS degree is that there are so many different ways to use those skills. You’ve probably at least somewhat familiar with the traditional options of school, public, and academic (although even these career paths offer many nontraditional opportunities these days).
But what about other options found outside libraries, in the thousands of organizations whose teams need your information skills to achieve their goals, complete their tasks, or even stay viable in their communities and/or markets? Information – current, reliable, organized and accessible – has become a key asset for the sustainable success of almost every business, nonprofit, community enterprise, government agency, and start-up, among others.
Because the options for “alternative” LIS career are so nearly limitless, it helps to have a way to categorize and then explore those options in order to focus your efforts. To start, ask yourself these questions (you might want to note your answers somewhere where you can refer back to them):
- What type of work activity most appeals to you (and why)
- Why type of organization (and why)
- What type of organizational structure (and why)
- What type of organizational culture (and why)
If you’re not sure about your answers, think about your student engagements, volunteer work, past work experiences, what you’ve learned about others’ career paths.
Armed with these self-insights, your next step is to explore what options might be available to someone with confidence in their skills, a sense of adventure, and an interest in deploying their LIS skills outside of traditional library settings.
One of the challenges when exploring alternative LIS jobs and careers is that there are so many different paths to consider, it can be a bit challenging to figure out how to approach all those potential options. To help you organize your exploration, here are eight ways to think about or categorize alternative LIS job options:
You’ve probably heard of transferable skills – those skills you develop in one job that easily transfer to another, for example, web design or customer service. But when it comes to your information skills, you want to think in terms of translatable skills.
Because the way we describe our areas of expertise are often so tied to librarianship (e.g., bibliographic instruction, information literacy, literature searching), non-librarians (more specifically, potential employers) may struggle to understand just how valuable we can be to them.
Finding alternative LIS job openings is similar to the process for finding what job specialists often call invisible jobs or jobs within the “hidden job market,” but with its own special twist.
Invisible jobs are those openings that never get posted publicly, so job seekers are unaware of their existence. In this case, the primary way to get a foothold in the hidden job market is to learn of job openings through your professional network. (As always, the larger your network, the greater your job opportunities.)