How to Choose Your Career Pathway

Career Blog
Image of feet facing arrows going in multiple directions

Published: February 1st, 2023 by Hannah Nguyen

Many students enter grad programs without a clear direction or lose sight of their original focus once they realize how many career options are available. Since a significant amount of iSchool students are making a career change, it is understandable that they want to be sure they’re making a wise decision. So, let’s discuss some ideas and resources that will help you make a pathway choice you can feel confident about!

What You Need to Know

First, let’s go over some background information you will need to understand. Currently, the iSchool offers these career pathways for the MLIS program:

Each has a dedicated page that discusses potential job titles and suggested classes, which are meant to be used for advising purposes. Just to be clear, if you follow one pathway, this will not show up on your degree; these pages are mean to help you choose classes that align with your goals. Getting to know these options is a great place to start, but there are also many non-traditional LIS jobs worth exploring.

Figure Out What’s Important to You

It may sound obvious that some self-reflection is necessary to make a big career decision but asking yourself a few simple questions may be more enlightening than you think. It’s time to analyze what type of environment you like working in, what kind of work is fulfilling, and what kind of people you want to surround yourself with. Think about past work experiences and which aspects had the greatest positive or negative effect on your well-being. The career center has a great self-assessment worksheet to help synthesize what you are really looking for in your profession.

See What’s Out There

Once you are clear on the types of work that interests you, do some research on specific job titles. A great place to start is by looking at job ads; this will provide you with significant information including how often there are job openings. Some things to look for:

  1. Is the salary range adequate for your needs?
  2. Does the work environment appeal to you?
  3. How many years of experience is required?
  4. Are they looking for specific skills?
  5. Are the required qualifications attainable for you?
  6. Does the description of duties excite you?

Looking at an actual job, even one you’re not qualified for yet, is a great way to help you envision a specific goal. With that goal in mind, it becomes easier to visualize steps that will lead you there.

Make A Connection

If you find yourself drawn to a specific job, try talking to someone who has a similar job. This is a great time to utilize any personal or professional contacts you may have. Online learning can make it feel like you’re on an island, however there are a lot of networking opportunities in the iSchool and beyond. Try joining a student group, attending a conference, or simply becoming active on one of the iSchool social media groups. What’s great about information professionals is they really love sharing information, you just need to put yourself out there and ask.

Be Forward-Thinking

Although it is important to look at what kinds of positions are available now, it is also necessary to think about where libraries are headed, and what types of skills and expertise will be desired in the future. For example, American Libraries identified sustainability and data visualization being desired skills on the rise. It’s also a great time to look at the MLIS Skills at Work report, which showcases broad trends in the field and also provides suggestions for actions you can take to level-up your marketability today. Taking the time now to analyze what you’re looking for and choosing a pathway may help you focus your attention on classes that add the most value for you. Before you know it, you’ll be applying for graduation, so it’s time to develop a plan for what’s next!

Additional Resources

Two More Things!

Don’t forget to keep up to date with job openings on Handshake, here are a few that might be of interest!

Also, remember that internships can be an especially valuable part of your learning experience at the iSchool while also helping you when it comes time to look for jobs. Learn more about the iSchool’s internship program here, where you can check out the INFO 294 Student Handbook as well as the Internship Sites database.


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