New year’s resolutions and last year’s mistakes are two sides of the same coin. So, as we jump into the new year, the new quarter/semester, and the new stumbles it will no doubt bring, I want to share some of the mistakes I committed as a first-quarter library school student.
- I overscheduled and over-reached. I tackled a job search on top of my first-quarter course load, and it quickly took on a life of its own. Networking tends to beget more networking—for every person I met with, I gained three contacts to reach out to or organizations to look up. Before I knew it, I was losing track of who I was talking to and why. Along the way, I got so comfortable and confident with interviews that I slipped into getting too comfortable. One new contact’s generous and patient response to an overly-casual email—in which I used “Hi” as a salutation, left crucial contact information off of my email signature, and ended with a breezy request to “chat”—reminded me to always err on the side of formality when asking strangers for help.
- I sweated grades like an undergrad. Having graduated from undergrad fairly recently, I am still tempted to think of school in those terms: I come in, I read, I listen, I write about and discuss what I have read and listened to, I get my grades, and I go home. But in my first quarter of library school, everything about the program—from the structure of courses to interaction with professors to relationships with my peers—reminded me that grades are not quite as important anymore. In addition to being a student, I am now growing into a professional, a scholar, and a colleague. As an undergrad, I read and I listened. Now, as a graduate student, it is time for me to also produce things worth reading and listening to.
- I got slapped in the face with timing, more than a few times. Personal commitments overlapped with course deadlines, holidays butted up against important meetings, and school-related travel got in the way of moving a new professional position forward. These conflicts were all largely out of my control. My mistake was in my reaction to them: I just kind of…ignored them. Instead of confessing such conflicts to friends, professors, or peers, I barreled ahead as if nothing were in my way. I am only just recently learning what a relief it can be to compromise, reschedule, and prioritize my way to that mythical work-life-school-friends-cats balance.
- I underestimated Imposter Syndrome. I didn’t feel this in the commonly-cited sense of imagining that my program must have been a mistake in admitting me, or fearing that my professors and peers would discover that I wasn’t supposed to be among them. Instead, Imposter Syndrome snuck up on me in the form of unread SSRN browser tabs, abandoned books that I borrowed from the library for “enrichment,” and a languishing list of people-in-my-field-I-should-really-get-in-touch-with-for-an-informational-interview-sometime. I harbored a sneaking suspicion that I was not passionate or energetic or committed enough to pursue a career in research—“because if you were,” Imposter Syndrome whispered in my ear, “you would be thrilled to read all of these PDFs and go to every research talk and immerse yourself in this field instead of being so lazy!” For me, the best way to banish this brand of Imposter Syndrome was to reach out to classmates and mentors. In the course of conversation, they never failed to remind me that this self-esteem-stealing, confidence-sapping Imposter Syndrome is just a common figment of our imaginations.
- I expected immediate results. You know, like those expandable water toys we had when we were little—“Master’s in Library and Information Science: Just add water and watch it grow!” I thought that something would change once I started my program. I imagined I would turn into a “real” graduate student, somehow more prepared to take on academic, professional, and ethical challenges. But, just as before, I am a work in progress. And after eight more quarters and a walk across a stage in academic regalia, I will just be a work in progress with a degree. Each day—and each discussion post, group project Skype meeting, reading, and new research idea that it brings—is another opportunity to express who I am and who I hope to become.
Alright—your turn, hackers. ‘Fess up. What tripped your up in your first quarter, or at any point during your library school journey? When have you failed? On the other hand, what do you think you have really gotten right? What are you working on now?