Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I don't take bad advice

Occasionally, The Brazen Careerist has a post with good advice, like how to identify someone who is giving you bad advice. You should apply this lens to all of the career advice that you receive: is occupationism influencing their advice? Am I clinging to erroneous career beliefs?

Occupationism (which, I believe, is the baby of Dr. John D. Krumboltz, as part of his career beliefs system) is like sexism or racism: you have a prejudice toward an occupation or profession because of a stereotypical or cultural image. For example, you may believe that all salespeople are deceptive, overly-hearty manipulators who just want to take your money. Especially those guys who sell SUVs.

Let's look at that: according to this myth, salespeople are not very nice people. I also used the term guys, meaning they are bad men (no women can be salespeople). Now imagine that someone suggested you become a salesperson or you are interviewing for a sales job with very little idea--beyond your own prejudices--about what salespeople are or do. You may engage in a little bit of self-sabotage because you believe you cannot be a salesperson, you're a nice person. That is, if you bother to apply for this job at all. So no job in sales for you.

This can work the other way, overly positive. Many people tie their career to their libido, or projected sexual output and blowback--all those short skirts in Boston Legal; wannabe doctors after an ER marathon; CSI is a gun paired with a microscope, so double the phallic object. However, to take one myth: men in uniform get chicks. People in uniform spend a great deal of time delivering customer service, sometimes with a firearm, with scrutiny and disrespect from the very people they serve. Not to mention the paperwork. It's tougher than it looks. And what happens if you don't dig chicks? I'm sure you can think of more careers with an over-estimation of reward and prestige. But that's occupationism: good and bad erroneous beliefs.

Occupationism is alive and well in libraries: there are lots of weird beliefs about librarians, and those have been thoroughly discussed elsewhere. There are also occupationism beliefs within our profession. While in library school, I remember feeling that if I was not an academic librarian, I hadn't made it. Anything else, unless it involved Lexis-Nexis or story time, was an alternative library career. I also have to struggle to keep occupationism out of my thoughts about library careers, mainly because I was so grumpy about the academic library rah-rahs. If a job is suitable for you, you should focus on it. Misguided or prejudiced thoughts--anti-office, anti-corporate, not prestigious enough--should not keep us from a day-to-day that would be very fulfilling.

Combating occupationism--especially the internal kind--comes with knowledge and discovery, like people changing their minds slightly about salesmen after reading the Pursuit of Happyness. You need to do what some librarians are very good at: research and explore. Allow no prejudice to lie unchallenged--especially your own.

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