Advice for Finding the Best Career for You in the Information Profession

Published: Thursday, January 08, 2015 by Allison Randall Gatt

Want to know more about what life after graduation will be like? School of Information graduate Elizabeth Borghi talked about her experience and the iSchool skills that got her there in a lecture entitled “LIS Skills Beyond the Library” during the Library 2.014 conference on October 8. Listen here for the entire presentation.

Borghi graduated from the School of Information in 2012 with an MLIS. During her studies and since graduation, she has worked at in for a variety of different organizations, including the iSchool, Microsoft, Thomson Reuters, and the American Cancer Society. Currently she works as a knowledge manager in advertising technology at Rocket Fuel. “Every start-up should have a librarian,” says Borghi.

Opportunities Everywhere
Borghi’s presentation outlined in detail many of the different LIS environments and essential skills needed to be successful in those environments, working under specific job titles. As you search for jobs as an information professional, be mindful of the language that’s being used and seek out those jobs you’re qualified for, even if the wording isn’t what you might expect. “There’s no controlled vocabulary when it comes to job seekers and human resources and job recruiters,” says Borghi. She recommends creating a list of alternative keywords to describe your job, like researcher or analyst not just librarian or information professional.

After listening to Borghi’s lecture, I thought about all the skills needed by employers these days and was encouraged to see Borghi outline a huge variety of job titles and working environments. Even though I’m only halfway through my degree, I’m already more employable than I had thought.

“Everyone needs a librarian whether they know it or not,” Borghi says. Librarians and information professionals add value, improve efficiency, affect the bottom line, and have an overall positive effect on the organizations they work for, she explains. Nonprofit groups, institutions for higher education, and especially high-growth organizations like tech companies and start-ups all need information professionals. Technology, communication, people, and information skills are in high demand, especially those where it’s necessary to wear many hats and be able to fill lots of different roles. “We have never been more of an information society,” says Borghi.

Developing the Right Skills
Borghi outlined necessary job skills in the following areas:

  • Academic and Public Libraries
  • Social media
  • Information architecture
  • Instruction
  • Communication
  • Research
  • Technology

Different job titles will require a different set of skills, or require that some of these skills be stronger or more frequently used. Depending on your strengths and focus of study, you can decide what kind of environment you’d like to work in. A job in information architecture, for example, would require strong skills in taxonomies and hierarchies, vocabulary control, information organization and retrieval, cataloging, and metadata. Employers looking for information professionals who are adept in these areas would be looking to fill job titles such as taxonomist, database administrator, cataloger, and systems librarian. But remember, don’t limit yourself to just a few search terms; slightly different job descriptions may yield similar results and help you find just the job you’re looking for.

Bundling Your Skills
It is best of course, to have good working skills in every area Borghi mentions, but how do you effectively bundle those skills for different careers in today’s job market? If you’re unsure where to begin, or how exactly your skills and interests will fit into a job description, Borghi suggests checking out the iSchool Career Pathways. As a graduate student, she talked to school alum and faculty and networked with other information professionals to help her narrow down which career paths she was truly interested in.

When she chose her career path, she then checked the necessary skills required for jobs in that career path—Information Organization, Description, Analysis and Retrieval. When she felt she had adequately learned a specific skill, she checked it off her list and systematically acquired the skills necessary to be a contender for her ideal job.

After discussing various skills, working environments, and job titles, Borghi then went on to discuss how to bundle these skills and take them out into the job market.

“Draw parallels between your skills and listed requirements for job descriptions,” she says. “But don’t get lost in the details—if you have some similar experience, make sure you let the employer know that you have that knowledge. Ignore job titles and read between the lines in job descriptions.”

Borghi recommends using LinkedIn as a reference to see what other terms and key phrases others with similar careers are using in their job titles and skill descriptions, and to understand how the jargon is continually changing. So remember to keep your profile current.

“Say ‘yes’ to everything.”
Borghi’s advice is priceless when trying to combine your interests and skills and understanding how that works in the job market and specific careers. Her advice to students as they go through their studies at the iSchool: “Say ‘yes’ to everything that crosses your path—that’s how you’re going to know what you’re interested in. Stay open and stay fluid to the opportunities that present themselves.”

She also urges students to acquire broad exposure to the field through a variety of courses as well as internships and professional conferences. Remember to take advantage of student rates while you can.  For more information about Elizabeth Borghi and to see some of her projects and presentations, check out her website.

Related content:
Exploring iSchool Career Paths—Digital Curation

Emerging Career Trends for Information Professionals: A Snapshot of Job Titles

Exploring iSchool Career Paths—Information Intermediation

iSchool Career Blog—LinkedIn Recommendations

image courtesy of Elizabeth Borghi

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