I’ve just completed my first year of grad school at the University of Tennessee School of Information Sciences. It has been an incredible experience. At various times and sometimes simultaneously, I’ve been overwhelmed, frustrated, excited, angry, amazed, and bored. Yet, through all these emotions, I have grown as a person and as a professional in more ways than I can count.
I recall early in this semester being so overwhelmed with new concepts and material that I felt utterly hopeless. I felt like my little concrete, objective, engineer mind simply couldn’t grasp the abstract concepts I was being introduced to. I also remember not being able to foresee how I would ever qualify to apply to any of the data curation jobs I saw coming across the job listings. I expressed this frustration to my adviser at a meeting in early February. Her response was one that I will never forget and was a paradigm shift. She said, “I know this may seem hard to grasp now, but you need to realize when you complete your first year of grad school, you will no longer be a beginner. You will have more knowledge than many people in this field. You have to start thinking of yourself as an expert instead of a beginner.” She was right. Now that I’m finished with one year and I’ve completed my first data curation course, I see that I have a knowledge base now that is leaps and bounds beyond what it was at the beginning of this semester. I’ve made contacts throughout the country that will help me moving forward in my career. This is actually a pretty big accomplishment for me, as introverted as I am. In fact, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed making these connections. I find that librarians are quite a helpful and friendly bunch, so that made it so much easier.
When my adviser said that to me earlier in the semester, she was talking about data curation in particular, but it applies to the wider field of library and information science, too. After the first year of grad school, you are no longer a beginner. Believe it or not, you probably already have enough foundational knowledge to work in most small libraries, save a few specialized skills, which you can learn on the job. It’s time to stop thinking of yourself as a lowly student. Granted, you still do have much to learn, but you are already most of the way there.
You are now an information science professional. Start thinking of yourself this way.