The sixth installment of Introducing the Leadership Team

Betts Coup

(Member at Large)

67Where are you from or where did you grow up? Care to share a fun fact about your hometown?

I am originally from Wichita, Kansas, which is basically the city most geographically central in the United States… and where Pizza Hut was born.

Where did you attend school?

I went to Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota, for undergrad, and New York University for my first master’s. I’m completing my MLIS at Simmons currently.

What was the last book that you read or movie you watched that you’d recommend?

Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Tips for getting through job search and/or grad school?

Be open-minded, but at the same time, make sure you’re thinking about what you want out of a role. You need to want a position for more than just, say, having a job in order to enjoy it and not burn out. As for grad school, always remember the end result–a job in a field you enjoy–and let that be the focus.

How/why did you get into this field?

I finished my first master’s in 2009, and worked in a museum in grant-funded research positions for about 18 months–which was enough time for me to realize that wasn’t the atmosphere in which I would flourish. I came to the archives field because it appeals to my interest in the intersections of culture and history, and have enjoyed expanding my knowledge and understanding of different types of histories, especially while working at a medical archives.

Your last meal on earth?

Breakfast tacos from El Chilito in Austin or sushi from The Lobster Place in New York.

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The third installment of Introducing the Leadership Team.

Chris Tanguay

(Secretary)

Where are you from or where did you grow up? Care to share a fun fact about your hometown?

Courtesy of Rich Green

I’m from Lowell, MA, a fascinating place.  It’s the birthplace of Bettie Davis, Jack Kerouac, Moxie, CVS, and telephone numbers. Edgar Allen Poe also used to visit Lowell to drink.

What was the last book that you read or movie you watched that you’d recommend?

Vampires in the Lemon Grove and Other Stories by Karen Russell. A series of short creepy stories that I rather enjoyed.

Best advice to a new student or early professional?

Just put yourself out there – you never know what opportunities will arrive just through networking.

How/why did you get into this field?

It was a long journey. I started off as a photography student, and ended up in a series of clerical jobs. I worked at the IRS as a mail clerk, then New Balance as a file clerk. I liked working with records and geek out over history, so it was a natural progression.

Your last meal on earth?

Tiropita, Greek-style potatoes and stewed green beans, egg lemon soup, and a super vinegary salad. For desert – coffee ice cream.

Desert island discs/books

Wye Oak – Civilian, Siouxsie & the Banshees – Juju, the entire catalogue of The Smiths, The Clash – London Calling, Letters to Cleo – Wholesale Meats and Fish, Tegan & Sara – The Con, Radiohead – The Bends.

What do you like most/least about working in archives?

What I like most – the thrill of discovery. You never know what interesting treasure you might turn up. What I like least – the thrill of discovery. You never know what horrifying insects and debris might turn up.

What is the most interesting job you’ve ever had?

The weirdest job I had was working as a driving instructor – it certainly left me with a lot of stories and it raises eyebrows. The job I have found most interesting, personally, would probably be my current work for MIT’s Institute Archives and Special Collections as I get to see so many amazing things on a daily basis.

 

The second installment of Introducing the Leadership Team.

Blake Relle

(Website and Social Media Coordinator)

Where are you from or where did you grow up? Care to share a fun fact about your hometown?

I was born in Gretna, Louisiana. Mel Ott, who played right field for the New York Giants from 1926 to 1947, was born in Gretna.

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Where did you attend school?

I went to graduate school at LSU in Baton Rouge.

Best advice to a new student or early professional?

Get involved in archival organizations. Go to conferences in your region as well as outside of your region in order to meet people and hear their ideas. Volunteer at a local museum or an archive in order to gain experience.

Also, don’t be afraid to walk up to someone and say hello. I attended the Society of American Archivist Conference when it was in New Orleans in 2013. I decided to wear my yellow pants to the conference. I had a person stop me and say I like your yellow pants. In 2016, I gave a presentation at the Mid Atlantic Regional Archival Conference. When I was at the conference reception, the person who stopped me in 2013 was at the reception. So, I walked up to him in order to say hello and mentioned the SAA meeting and my yellow pants. He remembered the encounter. His name was Geof Huth. A good networking tip: wear yellow pants.

How/why did you get into this field?

I obtained my bachelor degree in accounting right before the economy clasped in 2007. I could not find an accounting job. My family kept telling me to go work in an archive or a museum since I liked history and have researched my family history. I kept saying no. Than one day in 2012, I saw the light and said I think I will go work in an archive. So here I am.

If you were offered a free plane ticket to anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

I would fly to Italy. I went to Italy in the summer of 2012 and 2014. Both times, I fell in love with the country the moment I got off the plane.

What was the last book that you read or movie you watched that you’d recommend?

The last book I read was Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation’s Treasures from the Nazis by Robert M Edsel.

Your last meal on earth?

For an appetizer, I would have freshly sliced tomatoes brushed slightly with olive oil, a touch of pepper and salt, and a bit of cheese. For the main course, I would have a bowl of homemade pasta with tomato gravy and meatballs served with hot bread and parmesan cheese.  For desert, I would eat a bowl of homemade gelato with two brownies as well as eat a homemade almond filled croissant. I would than wash it all down with a large cappuccino. Did you think the Italian loving American would give you a non-Italian meal?

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Introducing the Leadership Team 2016

Brittany Austin

(Roundtable Co-Chair)

brittanyWhere are you from or where did you grow up? Care to share a fun fact about your hometown?

I moved to the Berkshires last year from San Francisco, but I am originally from Muncie, Indiana – home of Garfield the cat and the creators of the Ball jar.

What was the last book that you read or movie you watched that you’d recommend?

Last great movie I saw was Embrace of the Serpent at one of my favorite New England theaters, Amherst Cinema. I’d love to hear your book recommendations – find me on Goodreads @gentlebean.

Best advice to a new student or early professional?

Stay connected with a network of people who are doing things you aspire to do or are interested in learning more about. Personal relationships are everything! Also it’s good to have a specialty, but be open-minded  to trying out new skills and jobs.

How/why did you get into this field?

I love seeing what people create or how they use the information they find in a library or archive. For me, it’s all about building community, sharing stories, providing equal access and promoting life-long learning.

Your last meal on earth?

A veggie burrito with avocado from Taqueria Cancun in San Francisco.

Desert island music/books

The Maddaddam trilogy by Margaret Atwood and everything by the Cocteau Twins.

What is the most interesting job you’ve ever had?

Non-archives: I once was a singer/dancer at an amusement park – makes for a good story, but not the best job I’ve ever had. Archives: My job right now – I work at a dance festival!

You can also find me on Twitter @deweydoofus

 

REPS Insights: How to Make the Most out of Your First Conference Experience

Image credit: Internet Archive
Image credit: Internet Archive

by Rose Oliveira

The MARAC/NEA Joint Spring Meeting is coming up next week, offering a unique opportunity to meet our colleagues from the Mid-Atlantic. In preparation, REPS hosted a pre-conference meet-up for new conference attendees to meet and discuss how to optimize the experience. Amid nachos and beer, we talked about getting comfortable with networking, and choosing between sessions. Here are some of the take away points we wanted to share.

Networking

The dreaded word. Everyone knows it is an important thing to do but it requires boldness to put yourself out there. Take a deep breath and remember it’s hard for everyone!

One thing we discussed is not to focus on quantity but quality. If you walk away having talked to one new person that is a success. If the conversation is good and you are able to develop that contact, it may even be better than many short, superficial conversations. If talking to people is nerve wracking for you, focusing on talking with only a few people may help ease the burden.

Also there is no shame in hanging out with people you know. We have all been in the situation where we only know one person in the room. As you get introduced to people, you will be able to expand your network and branch out from your circle but you gotta start somewhere!

Although the workshops, tours, and social events happening on Thursday are now closed, they are in general a great way to meet people. They are informal events and are a natural places to strike up conversations. If you have signed up for one of these events, make sure to introduce yourself!

Another opportunity to more naturally network are through roundtables. NEA has many roundtables which allow members with specific interest to discuss ideas, network and socialize. The roundtables (REPS included!) will be hosting their annual meetings on Friday, 3:30-4:30. It is a great opportunity to meet people and to hear about ways to get involved.

Many conferences have new member activities for first time attendees and NEA is no different. There is a Call to Action new member meeting Friday, 8am-9am—with breakfast in between! I’ll be there with some of my REPS colleagues. Come say hello!

Finally, remember conferences are iterative processes.  The more you attend and become involved the more faces will become familiar to you and the easier it will be to start conversations and talk to people.

Choosing Sessions

There is no right way to choose between sessions but here are some strategies we talked about when choosing between them.

This is the time to think about what your goals for the conference.  Is there an area that you are interested in learning more about? Is there a topic that you are passionate about?  Do you want to meet other people in your position? Is there a speaker you want to talk to?  Are you interested in hearing from particular institutions? Getting a sense for what you want out of the conference can help you prioritize your own personal list and sort out what the best sessions for you.

Divide and conquer!  If you are going with friends and colleagues you can split up and report back. It is nice to sit with friends but it’s more important to follow what your interests. Splitting up can also give you an opportunity to speak to someone new.  Remember, you can also NOT go to sessions.  If your brain is overwhelmed, it is important to listen to that and take a break. You’re bound to run into people doing the same thing. Finally, don’t be afraid to move around. You have paid to come to the conference; it’s about learning and some sessions resonate less. Feel free to float if you need to.

Here are other articles on the web about strategizing and optimizing your conference experience:

See you at the conference!

Rose Oliveira is a library student at Simmons College and currently works at Tufts Digital Collection and Archives. In her free time she likes to watch as many movies as possible.

The REPS Guide to the NEA Fall 2014 Meeting!

Image credit: The British Library
Image credit: The British Library

NEA’s Fall 2014 Meeting, “Archives in Action”, is this Saturday, November 1, at Salve Regine University in Newport, RI! If you haven’t registered and you’re thinking about attending, registration is still open! (As of this writing, there are 44 spots left.)

The fall meetings are a great introduction to NEA and to the New England archives community. They’re only a day long, so they’re low commitment, and they’re small and not intimidating. They’re also extremely affordable. All in all, a great way to get involved and meet fellow archivists. My first archives conference was last year’s fall meeting in Amherst, and now I’m on the REPS steering committee. (It could happen to you, too!)

Though the meeting is short, there’s still a great assortment of sessions to catch your interest. There will be sessions on moving images and sound, finding funding opportunities and planning projects, records management programs, WordPress, and online exhibits. There’s also a lightning session early in the afternoon — if you’ve never been to one of these, they are a lot of fun, very energetic, with presenters giving snappy short presentations with a well-focused message.

Newport, RI is a beautiful city, and there’s lots to do there before and after the meeting. REPS is organizing an informal group tour of Chateau-sur-Mer, one of Newport’s many mansions, before the meeting, and there will also be a meet up at Brick Alley Pub at 5:30 pm. NEA has a wonderful guide for things to do in Newport, including places to eat. Also, if you’re unfamiliar with the area, Newport shares the island with two other towns, Middletown and Portsmouth, and they both have a lot of interesting attractions too.

While you are at the meeting, you should try live-tweeting about it using the hashtag #NEAfall14. And if you can’t make it this weekend, you can vicariously experience it using NEA’s Tweets in Action live feed.

If you attend the meeting this weekend, consider writing about it for the REPS blog! Learn more about how to propose a blog post here.

Here’s some reading material to gear you up for this weekend:

Annalisa Moretti is an archives assistant at Burns Library, Boston College. She graduated from Simmons College with a MS in Library Science and Archives in 2013 and is the REPS Website and Social Media Coordinator.

REPS Insights: Interview with Meredith Lowe of Archives Gig

If you’ve never checked out Archives Gig, it is really the best place to find archives and archives-related job announcements from around the world. The blog’s curator, Meredith Lowe, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s SLIS program who works in Continuing Ed, sees hundreds of job postings every year, and so we thought we would tap into that knowledge and ask her for some advice for job seekers in our profession.

What inspired you to start Archives Gig?

The archives job market has fascinated me since my graduate career, and this is a way for me to give back to a profession that I love.  I started sharing job postings with students in my own program at SLIS, the iSchool at University of Wisconsin – Madison.  Then I decided to share more widely, and Archives Gig was created.

 

What are some common skills that employers are looking for in the job postings you list on your site? Do you think archives programs are adequately preparing students with these skills?

Obviously, employers are looking for people who have a range technology skills and a spirit of innovation.  I think that LIS programs are pretty cognizant of that, and students can often get those skills in the classroom, in student jobs, and through internships.  It’s really difficult to balance the need for a strong base in archival theory with deep technology training with a limited number of credits, so choose your classes carefully.  One thing that is sometimes overlooked by students and library schools is the need for administrative and management skills.  Schools need to steer information professionals of all stripes into management classes and students should seek out experiences that will help them here – managing a budget, gaining supervisory skills, working well in teams, and learning how to advocate for your department and yourself are a few key skill areas.  It’s not glamorous or fun stuff all the time, but management is something that you will have to do ever more of throughout your career, so learn what you can.

The last skill to mention is more something that comes with practice, and you’re not necessarily going to learn it in a classroom. Networking!  Volunteering for professional organizations (even your student groups count!), serving on committees, presenting at conferences, writing articles and blog posts… all of these are ideal ways to meet people and cultivate your great reputation.  This is a really small field, and people talk to each other.  I cannot emphasize the advantages of a good network enough.  Get out there, meet great people, and get involved!

 

In your opinion, how can students prepare to enter a job market when many “entry level” jobs require two years’ experience? What would you say constitutes a truly entry-level position?

Any hands-on archives work experience you can get as a student (including internships) can usually be counted toward your experience level.  (N.B.: some places do ask for “professional” experience, which some will argue cannot be fulfilled by student positions.)  Other than that, if you have work experience outside of archives, that can usually be leveraged when you’re looking at that “1-2 years of experience required” piece.  Letting your resume speak for you here is important, and it is key to address in your cover letter why you have the skills to do well in the position.

 

How do you think the proliferation of project gigs has affected the job market? What advice would you give recent graduates who consider applying for project jobs?

There are a lot of project positions out there, but the permanent postings outpace them greatly!  In the past 6 months or so, I have posted 426 permanent jobs, vs. 146 temporary jobs.  So, about 25% of the jobs I post are temporary, which is still quite a lot, and a good deal of those project positions are entry-level.  Therefore, there is a lot of frustration among new archivists and students who are looking at the job market, because the landscape looks like a big wash of temporary jobs.

Project positions tend to be good for people who already live in or have strong connections with a particular city, or for people who are fairly mobile and don’t mind moving around.  They may also be attractive to those who would like to grow a certain skill set.  These positions are a great way to get really valuable experience, but the downside is that they do lack longevity.  If stability is really important to you or if you hate the idea of having to move every few years, a project position is probably not the best option for you.

 

Many new professionals find themselves moving between library and archives because of the scarcity of archives positions. How do you think this impacts an aspiring archivist’s career trajectory? Will taking a job in a library hurt their future chances of later being employed by an archives?

Quick story time: I’m a trained archivist who took a job outside the archives field five years ago.  I needed to pay the bills, the economy had just bottomed out, and I expanded my job search.  I ended up with the job I have now, which is an Outreach Specialist in Continuing Education at SLIS, the iSchool at UW-Madison.  It turned out that this job is a good fit for me, and I’m not looking to return to archives.  At this point, I probably couldn’t do so anyway without significant work on my part to re-learn professional basics.

What does this tell you?  Well, it tells you that my particular situation worked out okay.  Depending on your passions, your life situation, your career goals, and other factors, taking a job outside the field for more than a year or two may not be a good option for you, as it may imply to some employers that your skills are not up-to-date.  However, you do need to balance that with your own life situation: if you need to bring in a salary, you might have to look outside the field whether you want to or not.  If you’re working in a library and doing lots of things that would help you as an archivist (reference, metadata, bibliographic instruction, digital libraries, etc.), transitioning back to archives might not be too challenging.  To transition back to archives, it helps to be plugged into the archives profession through staying current with the literature and staying active in professional associations (that networking thing again).  On the other hand, you may end up in a situation like I did, where compromising for another type of library job ends up being a good fit for you.

 

If I want to move to a different location in the US, how should I approach applying for jobs in that location?

I’m actually going to refer to one of my favorite career bloggers to answer this one: Alison Green of Ask A Manager.  She recently wrote aquick guide for applying to jobs that are not local to you.

If you have strong network contacts in the area where you’re looking to move, ask them whether they’d be willing to be a reference for you. See if you can get any information from them about jobs that you’re thinking of applying for – they may have some information that would be good for you to know.

 

What is your opinion on professional coaches? Would you suggest students and recent graduates invest in professional coaches and/or should archives educators provide opportunities for students to meet with professional coaches?

I have no experience with professional coaches, so I am not able to answer this question directly.  My library school has outstanding career services, and students may also avail themselves of the career services office that serves the campus.  I think that you need to listen carefully to academic career services that serve the general campus, and sometimes take what they say with a grain of salt.  Run their ideas past other librarians and archivists – preferably people who hire – and see if they make sense.  Some career service centers are geared more toward undergraduates, and sometimes are hampered by misunderstandings about how job applications work in this field (especially for academic archives jobs).  Hopefully you can reach out to contacts in your network to see if they would be willing to read your resume and/or cover letter and give you advice.  There is a career center at the SAA Annual Meeting that does provide this service.

One possible use for a professional coach may be to help polish up your interview skills, if you are rusty or particularly worried about how you present yourself in person.  If your library school does not have someone who can help with this, I do suggest trying the campus career center.  They are an objective party who can give good tips about how to improve your interview skills.

 

What’s a good way to handle having to state your salary requirement? How do you begin to identify what a reasonable estimate for an archival position is without undervaluing yourself?

Hopefully, the job you’re looking at has already stated the salary range.  If it hasn’t, look at the pay of archivists and librarians in that area who are public employees (for example, government archivists or state university librarians) – their pay is generally public record, and that’s a good starting point for a base salary.  If you’re starting off in the work force, you will probably be paid at the low end of that range unless you have really highly exceptional skills in some key element of the job.  If you are just entering the work force and looking at the range and don’t think you can live on that low end, it may not be the job for you unless you think you’d be able to negotiate a higher pay in the range.

Research what industry norms are in the area where you want to work.  That can mean looking at other job postings in the LIS world, feeling out what the cost of living is, and making sure that you account for the benefits package as part of the overall salary (for example, how much will you need to pay out of pocket for coverage?).  If the employer won’t budge on the salary offer, see if you can negotiate things like professional development money, coverage for professional memberships, or a relocation allowance.

Maureen Callahan recently wrote a really interesting and insightful blog piece about salary negotiation for archivists that I recommend reading.

 

What do you think employed archivists who are hiring or are trying to hire can do to advocate for entry-level positions at their institutions?

Keeping an open dialog with LIS and public history graduate programs is really important.  You have to know what these programs are teaching, and how the graduates from those programs will use their expertise to the benefit of your archive.  Some positions truly do need to have more experienced professionals on the job, but I do see lots of job ads that seem entry-level but require 2+ years of experience.  Try and work with your HR and director, and please advocate for supporting new professionals through postings that they can actually apply for and achieve.

 

What other advice would you give to new archivists who are job hunting?

Look at job postings before and during your graduate program.  Don’t be the person who finds out that most jobs require expertise in Subject X right before your last semester – track the skill requirements of the jobs that interest you most, and get experience and take classes to gain and hone those skills.

Above all: network!  I’ll say it forever.  A strong network will help you all your life.  Get started now.

Thank you very much to Meredith Lowe! You can learn more about Archives Gig and its methodology here.

The REPS Guide to SAA 2014!

Annalisa Moretti graduated from Simmons College in 2013. Currently, she works at MIT Libraries in Curation, Preservation, and Reformatting Services. She is the Website and Social Media Coordinator for REPS. You can read her blog here.

Image Credit: Smithsonian Institution
Image Credit: Smithsonian Institution

The Society of American Archivists Annual Meeting is just a week away, and though I won’t be attending, I thought I might round up some resources for the REPS members who will be heading to DC soon, and therefore live vicariously through you all.

To start things off, SAA has a First-Timer’s Guide to this year’s meeting. It includes lots of great advice about planning your schedule and what to bring along with you to the conference. Also take a look at this cool feature from Archival Outlook on How to Survive (and Thrive) your First Annual Meeting. If you have a smartphone, consider downloading SAA’s Conference App/Mobile Schedule to keep track of the session’s you’re attending. And if you’re on Twitter, the hashtag for this year’s conference is #saa14.

This year SAA has put into place a Code of Conduct. Be sure to familiarize yourself with it, and take note of how to deal with any problems that arise.

And by the way, there’s a THATCamp for SAA 2014 taking place on Sunday, August 17 in DC! Register if you’re interested! Unconferences are great ways to get involved, especially if you are a new professional!

SNAP (SAA’s roundtable for students and new archivists) has a great guide for attendees here. SNAP’s Annual Roundtable Meeting will be held on Wednesday August 13 at 5:15 pm. SNAP’s most recent Twitter chat, #snaprt, featured advice for conference attendees, which can be read in this Storify. And finally, beginning today, SNAP’s blog will be running a five-piece blog series on attending SAA which expands on some of the topics discussed in that Tweet Up. The first post is about attending special events.

And how about checking out some relevant REPS blog posts? Last year Dan Bullman wrote some reflections on his first time attending SAA and Sofia Becerra-Licha discussed her experiences attending for the third time. Aliza Leventhal wrote a great post for us about getting the most out of professional organizations which is also really relevant.

From our Resources page, you might also be interested in these ALA Conference Survival Tips. Or, stressing out about what to wear? (Hey, it’s a legitimate concern!) Maybe Librarian Wardrobe can help. Hack Library School has some great tips on maximizing your post-conference opportunities (like what to do with all those business cards!). If you’re nervous about networking, here’s a post from INALJ.com on making small talk at conferences.

So go out there and have lots of fun for me at this year’s meeting! Maybe next year, I can join you all.

REPS Insights: Twitter for Archivists

Image Credit: British Library
Image Credit: British Library

Annalisa Moretti graduated from Simmons College in 2013. Currently, she works at MIT Libraries in Curation, Preservation, and Reformatting Services. She is the Website and Social Media Coordinator for REPS. You can read her blog here.

There’s a great community of archivists and librarians on Twitter. But often when I ask colleagues if they are on Twitter, I get responses like “I signed up for an account, but I don’t really use it,” and “I don’t really understand it”. Or, “I use Twitter but not for professional purposes.” I decided to write a little primer on how you can use Twitter in your professional life to help people who have these issues.

Why should you bother? It’s a great way to get involved in the professional discourse on an every day basis. You can discuss current events, recent articles, new initiatives, and your own career in the profession, and in an informal, conversational way, with less pressure than if you were email on a listserv. Your Twitter account is your domain. You have control over what goes into it, who you engage with, whose Tweets you see. You can create or join a community of people with whom you share a common bond, who are dealing with the same difficulties as you. It’s a good support system, especially for new archivists. If you feel isolated — because of your employment situation, your location, or shyness — Twitter is a great way to get connected.

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How to Get the Most Out of Your Professional Network: Informational Interviews

Sofía Becerra-Licha is project archivist at Berklee College of Music. She is also a member of the REPS steering committee. She earned her MSLS from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2012.

Whether you’re a student or a new professional, chances are you’ve been advised to network and seek out mentors. In fact, you’re probably a member of REPS (or at least reading this post) because you’re seeking to connect with peers and resources that will aid you in preparing for the next steps in your career. But what does it mean to make the most of your professional network? How do you go about making professional connections?

Informational interviews are a great way to start, particularly if one-on-one conversations in a setting that encourages in-depth discussion are more your style than making the rounds at a professional mixer. It can take some courage to start setting up informational interviews, especially if you’re new to the field or the area, or if you’re not sure of your career goals.  Arguably, however, these are some of the best reasons to reach out and see what you can learn from others and informational professionals are some of the friendliest people out there.

So start small, but don’t be shy. Be as specific as possible when reaching out to people, both in terms of time and scope, but don’t be afraid to say you’re just exploring an area of interest. Look to people around you doing the kind of work you’re interested in doing, individuals working on projects or topics that interest you, or simply individuals whose career trajectory you would like to emulate. This can include supervisors, professors, colleagues, and friends. Some interactions may feel awkward, but all will be learning opportunities of some kind.

Honestly, I can’t recommend informational interviews enough: they helped inform my decision to go to library school in the first place, they steered me towards fantastic professional development opportunities as a MSLS student, and they’ve continued to be an invaluable source of support as a new professional. If nothing else, informational interviews made me realize the importance of being explicit about your long-term professional aspirations to as many people as possible.

For one, repeatedly introducing myself and articulating how my background and interests connected with the work I hoped to do meant that my career goals became increasingly nuanced and reflective with each subsequent meeting. Having developed a network of people who knew about my strengths and interests made for better references, another set of eyes and ears for internships and job opportunities, and at the very least a few more friendly faces at professional gatherings.

More concretely, it was an informational interview that opened my eyes to the fact that making the most of your internships, assistantships, and other working experience includes not just doing a fantastic job, but taking the time to take advantage of your supervisors as resources. Not every manager can or wants to be a mentor, but by being vocal about your long-term career interests (and backing that up in your work and professional activities), you can at least open the door for potential opportunities for increased responsibility or more interesting projects.

In short, informational interviews are a great first step in making the most of your professional network. They provide a platform for vocalizing your professional aspirations and passions, they can lead to mentoring relationships or other long-term collaborations or professional pay-offs, but they can also simply provide one-time opportunities to be exposed to something new. Rather than being overwhelmed at the thought of cultivating a professional network, start small, focus on areas you’re passionate about, and odds are, before you know it you’ll have a solid foundation of folks to carry you through the job search and beyond.