Jean Bedord Advises: Expand Your Job Search

Career Blog

Published: November 29, 2016 by Kate M. Spaulding

iSchool instructor Jean Bedord shares, “Students are always amazed at the variety of organizations that hire MLIS graduates, although the open positions may have very different job titles.”

Today on the Career Blog, I am sharing an interview with Jean Bedord, an iSchool faculty member and an independent information professional. She’s had a really interesting career, and she graciously took time in her busy schedule to answer some questions and pass along a lot of very practical career advice. Thank you, Jean! 

Hi! Can you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about what you do and how you got to this place in your career? 
My name is Jean Bedord. I’m currently a content consultant and part-time instructor at the iSchool. Although I primarily teach INFO 244 Online Searching, I have also taught INFO 200 Information Communities

My career has evolved by exploring and accepting new opportunities every 5 to 10 years. I stumbled into the library world after completing my master’s degree in high plains archaeology (a not-very-employable degree) at the University of Wyoming. I learned some computer programming skills during graduate school and so was hired as a programmer/analyst for the then-leading edge Washington Library Network, which was developing electronic card catalogs, as well as circulation and acquisition software systems.

Since then, my career has paralleled the development of library technology, as databases and search engines evolved from mainframes to the web. I’ve worked in information systems departments in both academia and business, and I became a product manager at Dialog Corporation –  a pioneer in professional search engines. When Dialog was acquired, I became an independent consultant.
I started teaching online as a last-minute replacement for a colleague and enjoyed returning to my teaching roots. Ten years later, I’m still teaching at SJSU, and online education has become main stream!

What do you think most helped you get your current job(s)? Your education? Your network? Specific skills? Extracurricular activities, like presenting or publishing papers, volunteering, or something else?
Most of my jobs have resulted from networking, in the broadest sense. They’ve come from recommendations made by former colleagues, professional organizations, alumni groups, conference attendees, clients, and volunteer organizations. While I had to have the skills to do the job successfully, I learned about the opportunities from people who simply said “you might be interested in this.”

It also helps to have a broad skill set. My previous experience in giving workshops and conference presentations, as well as teaching mathematics way-back-when, were all factors that influenced my being hired for the adjunct faculty position at SJSU.

I found that membership in professional organizations and giving conference presentations were the best ways to develop visibility and keep in touch with colleagues. My major professional association has been the Special Libraries Association (SLA), which has student and local chapters, as well as an annual conference. SLA functions at the local level as well as the national, so you really get to know other members and learn about opportunities. I also belong to the Association of Independent Information Professionals (AIIP), which has an outstanding listserv for members, as well as an annual conference.

Given the current state of the LIS profession and all its different potential career paths, what skills do you think will be most in demand in the next 5-10 years?
No crystal balls! I live in Silicon Valley, and I could not have predicted the rise of Google, Facebook and Apple, and how they have transformed our world. Information professionals need to keep learning and adapting to a changing information environment. Some jobs will disappear, but others will emerge.

Technical skills have become much more important, and staying up-to-date on new technologies brings new opportunities. Did you know that WordPress, the blogging platform used in INFO 200, powers 25% of all websites? It’s also known as a content management system (CMS). Information professionals know how to manage content!

Be aware that the same skill set can have different names outside of “library land.” The term “cataloging” translates to “controlled vocabularies” and “taxonomies.” “Collection management” can be considered “knowledge management.” “Analyst” is a catchall title for a job requiring analytical and writing skills.

Reframe your skills by using the terminology found in different information environments (check out the Career Pathways and Emerging Career Trends Report for some alternate job titles).

What career advice do you have for students?
Don’t limit your job search to traditional libraries or librarian job titles. In my INFO 244 class, our exercises include searching LinkedIn for

  1. SJSU MLIS alumni and identifying their job titles and organizations, and
  2. Searching for open jobs that have MLIS or “library science” in the qualifications field. Students are always amazed at the variety of organizations that hire MLIS graduates, although their open positions may have very different job titles. 

Be prepared to change careers, and have a Plan B ready when life changes. Read widely, and not just library publications, but also articles on business, education and technology. Also listen to TED talks. I do environmental scanning by going to interesting local conferences with a free/low cost of registration. 

There are always a few new ideas! Step into new roles. Volunteer with your local public library. Serve on a board. You never know what new opportunity will emerge.


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