Career Advice from Michelle, A Recent Grad
Published: January 20, 2017 by Kate M. Spaulding
Are you just starting INFO 203? Welcome to the iSchool and the Career Blog! Not as new as that? You’re just as welcome! In the spirit of resolutions and new beginnings, I asked some recent graduates to share their wisdom and advice for new students, but what’s below is 100% applicable to all of us in the program.
Michelle just graduated in December (yay!), and I know her because we were both Peer Mentors for INFO 203 this past fall. She graciously agreed to complete one final assignment and answered some questions for me. I love that her answers range from philosophical to practical! See Bethany’s advice in last week’s post.
First, could you tell me a little bit about yourself?
My name is Michelle Proper, and I completed my MLIS degree in December after attending SJSU full-time for 16 months. Before I enrolled, I worked in my local public library in Fairbanks, Alaska as a youth services library assistant for nine years. It was a great fit for a time, but I became interested in pursuing my master’s degree to learn more about the information profession in hopes of obtaining another position within the profession. I quit my job and concentrated on course work over four consecutive semesters; now I am in the process of searching for work in my hometown in either the public, secondary education, or university library communities.
While you were in school, how did you prepare for life after graduation? Did you attend extracurricular workshops (career or otherwise), complete an internship, participate in a student group, work part- or full-time in the LIS field, something else?
Because I had little knowledge of library practices in the education field, I completed an internship during my last semester at a high school library. It was an excellent opportunity to not only gain experience in information services at the secondary level, but also to supplement my course-based learning by demonstrating those learned theories in practice. While I had to do the legwork to create an internship (it wasn’t one in the iSchool Internship Database), it was simple to contact the school district to set it up. I’d recommend an internship to anyone completing an MLIS degree – especially if they have not had prior library work experience.
Last spring, my city hosted my state’s annual library conference, which a number of people suggested I attend as a student. I sat in on several workshops and meetings, and it gave me a new perspective on how libraries function within my community and within the state. There were also several opportunities to get advice from librarians and learn from their perspectives. All in all, it was a great opportunity to see how those in the profession are working together to enhance library services.
Is there anything you wish you had done while in school that you didn’t?
There were some things I missed out on by attending four consecutive semesters. For example, a few classes I was interested in taking weren’t available due to course rotation. I also didn’t take advantage of the iSchool student association offerings, or even do “suggested further reading” addendums to class assignments just because taking several classes per semester kept me so busy. However, I found it advantageous to be taking three or four classes per semester as there were several instances where theories, content, terms, and applications were mentioned in one class only to be mentioned again in another. The connections taught me that relevancy in one aspect of librarianship can easily cross over into another.
What is your advice for new students in terms of preparing for a LIS career? Some of the most rewarding assignments I completed were when I took time to investigate information services in my area, such as when I interviewed the bookstore manager in charge of the print-on-demand machine at the local university, shadowed the person holding the newly created position of digital literacy librarian at my public library, and researched a nearby community’s membership library. Take your assignment opportunities to learn more about the services in your area that interest you. It gives you a new perspective on your community that just may develop into something later down the road.
In addition, I’d suggest that all students create a business card for themselves while they are pursuing their degree. Buy a few sheets of cardstock and use a template you like in Word. Include your contact information, indicate that you’re a student of the iSchool, and include your projected degree completion date. Mine came in handy during the conference I attended and afterwards when making contacts in the profession. In this digital world, people really do still exchange those little paper rectangles of information!