What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do

Career Blog

Published: November 22, 2016 by Kate M. Spaulding

Smart, confidence-inspiring pointers to help find the best career direction for your interests, skills and desires.

I don’t think I’m alone in having mixed feelings about my career direction. It’s not that I don’t want to earn my MLIS, and it’s not that I don’t want to work within the LIS world – it’s more that I had (what I thought were) firm plans when I entered the program, but the more options I learned about, the fuzzier that path got. Has that happened to you? I decided I should talk to Jill Klees about my concerns, and she replied with smart, confidence-inspiring answers that I am passing along to you.

Am I a Flake?
In my tenure at the iSchool, I’ve taken what feels like a fairly broad range of classes, including History of Books and Libraries, a web design course, peer mentoring, and marketing. I sometimes worry that I haven’t been focused enough, but Jill reassured me: “It is really up to each student to take a variety of classes that spark their interest. This is how you can find your fit. Think of your time spent as a student as your time to explore your interests, to reality test your ideas, and to try things out.” Phew, not a flake.

What Should I Do When I Grow Up?
I’ve looked through the Self-Assessment page of Career Development website, but…how can I figure out what career path to choose? What questions do I need to answer? Jill recommends asking yourself,

  • What do I REALLY enjoy doing and WHY?
  • What elements of this bring me the MOST satisfaction?
  • Why did I choose to come to iSchool?

She goes on to advise, “The more specific you can be with your answers the better. These nuggets of information lend insight into your passion and that information can be used as a gauge when determining which career direction(s) will bring you the most satisfaction and be the best fit.”

So Many Choices, So Little Time
One thing I’ve struggled with on this journey is that more than one LIS career sounds interesting to me. Plus, I keep learning about new and exciting ways to use the skills I’m learning now, like as a Cybrarian at Oracle, a digital marketing specialist, or a Content Manager at Mozilla. So what’s a student to do? Narrowing your choices is important, in part, because that way you can make smart choices about what classes to take, skills to learn, and connections to develop.

Not surprisingly, Jill’s response is practical and smart. “Do research. This is the part where I tell students to practice their newly developed research skills on themselves. Explore what it is like to do the jobs they are interested in by doing internet research and, most importantly, by talking to people doing those jobs. Take advantage of the iSchool’s Community Profiles and Alumni Spotlight pages. Connect with people on LinkedIn and reach out to ask them questions about what they do and how they got there. Do a mock job search as a way to identify who is hiring and where the jobs are.”

Next Steps
I know that right now, at the end of the semester, you are busy and trying to finish everything on time. But soon, classes will be over – yay! Winter break is a fantastic time to reassess the path you’re on, consider how you intend to make sure your career goals happen, and take action to do so. Use Jill’s advice to help! She’s super knowledgeable and always happy to answer questions from students. Send her an email to get started!