Shaping Your Skillset to Fit the Career of Your Dreams

Published: Wednesday, January 11, 2017 by Allison Randall Gatt

On November 9, 2016, the SJSU School of Information offered a career webinar presentation by Sally Gore. During the presentation, entitled “Supply and Demand: Matching Your Skills to the Information Needs of Today”, Gore gave tips on how to inventory your skills and think about what exactly makes you qualified for a job as a librarian or information professional. Gore is a research evaluation analyst with the University of Massachusetts and has been in several different career fields, so she was well equipped to inventory job credentials.

Gore started off by asking attendees what their dream was for libraries. She encouraged everyone to think about what their dream was for librarians and what they are looking to do in the profession. “Remember what drew you to the profession in the first place,” she reminded people.

Then of course, you’ll need to make a plan on how to get to your dreams. Gore entertained attendees with a slide of her notebook that contained graphs and doodled illustrations for grant ideas, meeting notes and career goals. “Visual communications actually help us retain information better,” she noted, also admitting that she loves to doodle. Based on her love of visuals, Gore used insightful illustrations to talk about career goals. One such example was a Backpacking Strategic Planning Model that included the analogy, “Look up at the signs every now and then, to be sure you don’t stray too far off the trail.” Conversely, though just as important in following career goals, “Look down at the ground every now and then, to be sure that you don’t trip and fall.”

Gore encouraged listeners to keep their professional networks up to date and evolve their skillset, so that despite the constant flux of the library and information field, there will always be a reliable group of people and a marketable set of abilities to fall back on.

Identifying and Inventorying Your Professional Skillset
One of the biggest objectives of the information field is to bridge the gap between the needs of your patrons and your own skills. “You need to have a very good inventory of what your own skills are,” stressed Gore. She presented a slide of a word cloud listing all the jobs she’d ever had, starting with babysitting as a preteen. In my own experience, I wouldn’t have thought babysitting would be a skill worth considering, but it was the best experience I had for being a parent. I also realized being the parent of young children gives me a basic knowledge and a comfort zone around typical preschooler behavior, which is of vital importance when one is going to read stories to them as a children’s librarian at story hour. All the careers Gore listed had some skill that she felt was still applicable to the job she was doing today, effectively outlining how skills build upon each other.

During her presentation, Gore talked about the need to have a wide range of skills regardless of the specific job description. Too often in careers, people become too specialized. Basic soft skills, including public speaking, customer service and good communication are still necessary even if you don’t learn them in library school.

After inventorying your skills based on the jobs you’ve had, Gore said that you’d need to then match those skills to the following elements: your current or future job, your current or future job environment and your patrons’ needs. As you're planning for a future career, this is an excellent way to make sure you’re looking for a specific job that’s the right match for you. It is also important to connect your skills to desired competencies within the information field. One particular slide illustrated competencies and qualifications required in a circle graph, and a list of experience and skills on the right hand side.

Gore finished up her presentation with an especially pertinent quote for library and information professionals from Eleanor Roosevelt. “Life is interesting only as long as it is a process of growth; or, to put it another way, we can grow only as long as we are interested.” I was especially excited to read this quote because like Gore, I think this perfectly exemplifies the information professional’s philosophy of lifelong learning.

Constantly Re-Invent Yourself
In response to one attendee’s question about the biggest challenge of her job, Gore talked about the phenomenal amount of change that the information profession has gone through in the past 40 years or even just in the last decade. “It’s a huge challenge to be able to embrace the constant change and to be able to live within it,” she said. “The difficulty is that you’re constantly having to reinvent yourself or prove your worth to people and uphold that what you do is valuable and needed.”

With some careful planning, though not too far ahead counsels Gore, and an honest evaluation of your strengths and skills, you can realize your dreams, shape your goals and build your skills as an information professional. For those who have enjoyed the presentation and Gore’s down-to-earth advice, more of her musings can be found on her blog A Librarian By Any Other Name.

For related content, be sure to check out the iSchool's Career Blog and other posts here on the iStudent Blog, including:

SJSU iSchool Professors Outline the Details of Enrolling in an Internship

Enhance Your Coursework, Knowledge and Career Horizons with iSchool Webcasts

The iSchool's Best Resources for Networking and Planning Your Career

Images courtesy of Stuart Miles (JOB) and Sally Gore (graph)

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