Saturday, January 19, 2008

Recession-proofed industries?

The Career Hub Blog has posted a list of 72 recession proofed industries based on BLS data. The percentage refers to how much growth occurred/is anticipated in those industries. For librarians, the news is good since there appears to be modest growth at all levels of education; however the news should also be tempered with:
  • Institutions may be advertising these positions but they may not be filling vacancies with professional librarians.
  • Additionally, positions can be advertised but not filled if there are budget shortfalls or money is moved (we'd rather have a full-time math teacher than a half-time librarian).
  • Where are the librarians in this tossed salad? Are they professors/instructors or are they support staff? Were librarian positions even considered in these numbers or are librarians part of the "information" or "cultural" sectors?
I want you to look at the numbers in another way, not as educational support staff, but as information professionals in other industries. If librarians are part of the "information" sector, the news is good: summarized in another post in the Career Hub Blog, the BLS predicts a 5.8% growth in the information industry. Though it is below the average growth rate, there are positions available. I like my industries to be steady and not in decline. I want you to think about working in environmental consulting, health care and social assistance and in professional associations, special, rather than academic or school librarianship.

Now, I am not knocking either of those specialties and if you want to be an educator, that is one of the highest callings (IMHO). However, I don't want you to focus on only the educational market for librarians. There is a huge market for information and knowledge workers outside of education and the numbers seem to assert that growth is steady in those areas, leading to greater career stability over the long term. This means you need to think outside of the library job boards for your positions and look at professional associations in different sectors (the environment, engineering, law, health services, etc.) and swim in a different pond.

Begin by looking at your undergraduate degree: if you have an undergraduate degree in biology, why aren't you looking at consulting, health care and financial services that need knowledge workers with scientific literacy? Why aren't you tapping some of your undergraduate alumni who have worked in the industry for a few years and who can give you some information on where to look, if the industry is viable? If you worked in the industry, why don't you return to some of your older job board haunts and harvest some information jobs that you are now qualified to pursue? Heck, search on a vertical search engine, by industry or a company that you recognize, and see if they hire librarians. And yes, obviously, SLA can be of service in this type of search.

Update: I spoke too soon about the stability of knowledge workers: Tech Crunch has reported that Yahoo! is letting go of some of the employees in Yahoo! Answers. I never said the search engine industry was stable.

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