Monday, March 16, 2009

So what are you going to do with that?

Well, if you're already a librarian--and know that you still want to be one--you will do library-stuff. But for masters and PhD students who are thinking about leaving an academic career--or one of the many librarians who left ABD for library school, and I know a few of you personally--you should spend an evening with this book.

So what are you going to do with that?: Finding careers outside of academia, revised in 2007, is the project of Susan Basalla and Maggie Debelius. You may have read Susan Basalla's columns in the Chronicle, or seen the authors posting on WRK4US. So what are you going to do with that? helps students and academics with what I think personally is one of their greatest problems: a lack of knowledge of careers outside of academia.

Let me give you an example. If you don't want to do what your parents do, who do you see next as a professional or worker? You guessed it: a teacher. Now, some of us also visited the school library, or spent time with the school nurse (maybe a truant officer) but most of us saw teaching as a noble--and powerful--profession, since they held the chalk.

Then you went to college and ta-dum, you met the professor who controlled the PowerPoint and drank beer in the off-hours like a normal person. At the same time, you either a) worked crap jobs that you didn't want to do for the rest of your life; b) gave into your parents and got a degree in something that was supposed to lead to a job; or c) asked around or read a book about some other options. Many of us did not do complete part c before going to graduate school, so now we know very little about jobs, occupations and professions. So what are you going to do with that? is part of option c, which all of us in college should do--yes, read a book about careers. Now is the time!

Anyway, back to the book. Basalla and Debelius provide profiles (including Todd Gilman, a librarian who has also written for Chronicle about library and librarian stuff) of what former academics have done since departing from academia. They provide advice on how to research careers, including one of the best recipes for information interviewing, and even some sample resumes. Quotes from former academics and their advice on how to leave academia are spread throughout the book, providing evidence for how career management can work for people with advanced degrees.

One of my favorites, which I'll quote here, is from Jennifer Stone Gonzalez, who explains why grad students don't like to network:

In the business world, the most important information flows through people, not texts. Most of what you learn in business comes from informal dialogue, whether in person, on the phone, or via e-mail. This is one reason why people in the business world work so hard to establish interpersonal alliances. People in the business world read so they can cull information for us in conversations that fuel this exchange of learning and solve practical problems (p.79).

The emphasis is not on solitary analysis but on information sharing--which librarians learn to do and begin to like to do. See, you can network.

So what are you going to do with that? provides basic career management advice and resources, both print and online, that you can use to begin to acquire more occupational knowledge. If you're a graduate student about to leave the papered nest, you should read this book.

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