2020 has just started: a new month, a new year, and a new decade. The world is a crazy place right now; so I know that long-term planning might seem even scarier than it has been in the past. Right now, though, is usually the time when we’re making resolutions and plans for what we want to see happen this year, the things we want to do and experience. That can be good motivation for those of us considering starting library school, those of us right in the thick of library school, and those of us at the tail end. This was a topic we recently discussed in the Twitter chat I run with my librarian friend Leigh from Philly, #lisprochat (alternate Mondays at 8:30 pm ET). We talked specifically about professional development goals for the year.
There’s a lot of planning ahead and looking to the future in librarianship, you discover that very quickly when you get into the field, we’re very future-oriented.
If you’re thinking about heading to library school in the fall you’re probably right in the middle of your application period. Maybe you’ve already decided which school is your top pick and maybe you haven’t. Maybe you’re like I was and you only have one school that you want to go to. Either way you should already be thinking ahead to how you can make the most of your library school experience. Ideally by now you’ve looked at what each school you’re thinking of has to offer in terms of courses, and if you haven’t yet, you definitely need to. What I did to plan ahead at this stage was to create a spreadsheet that listed all the courses I had to take and then below that I entered the electives that I absolutely wanted to take followed by a series of back-up courses I’d be okay taking if my first choice wasn’t available. Going into your applications with a plan helps, this can help you write your application letters and it can help give you a vision for the future. It’s not a plan that’s set in stone, you can be flexible, but if you have a plan and a back-up plan you won’t be flustered or freaked out when your plan needs to change. Say you don’t get into your first choice school? If you’ve gone through a planning process for each school you’ll be disappointed of course but you’ll bounce back quicker than if you’d had no plan.
My second semester classes started last Monday, so I’m definitely in the thick of things myself. But, I’m someone who is always planning ahead and plotting a course of action and then at least three back-up plans. I think it’s an anxiety thing. Either way it’s worked out for me, I hate going into any situation totally blind I like to have at least a skeletal plan as you saw in the previous paragraph. So, before my Winter classes even started, I poked around in the registration system to see what was being offered for Spring. See, I have a vision for myself of finishing the program by either the Spring or Fall of 2021; so that means I need to be on the ball in terms of figuring out what classes to take when in order to meet the goal I have for graduation. I figured out last semester that, if I keep up my current pace of two courses a semester, I can finish in the Fall 2021 semester. So, that means if I want to finish a semester before that I needed to find two semesters where I could bump myself up to three courses at a time. I work a very busy day job so there was no way I was going to try that for the first time this semester, making Spring 2020 seem ideal. That’s why I was looking at the Spring courses. Thinking about these things ahead of time means you go into your semester knowing what is next, by planning ahead you’re building yourself a path to follow and hopefully identifying things you can take from one course into a future course that is already on your radar.
The other important thing to be planning while you’re in the middle of your program is your experience. You need to be thinking about ways to build certain skills and then identifying opportunities to showcase those skills in a concrete way to put on a CV. Because this is grad school you will get a lot of emails that can help with that. I am forever getting emails about conferences calling for presentations, journals that are accepting student submissions, student committees, co-ops, and job ads. The job ads can help you pinpoint what skills you want and need to build and the rest can help you find opportunities to build and showcase them. Wherever possible you should be trying to find a way to work these opportunities into your plans. Lastly, plan to take advantage of the discounts offered to library students by professional associations, this can be a great way to make an early start at getting involved with the industry and they can really help you build skills and provide opportunities!
If you’re nearing the end of your degree, then you’re thinking ahead to the future in a more concrete way – you’re planning for your job hunt. I know it’s hard to think about during classes, especially if you also work; but job hunting can take a long time, especially in the competitive library industry. You have to plan your hunt and then start it early. Identify places you think you want to work, roles that you want to have. Try and find networking opportunities that can help you learn about those institutions and those roles. Start a master CV and resume document that lists all of your accomplishments and jobs, that will make it easier to create customized application packages for each role that you’re applying to. If you’ve taken advantage of student discounts try and plan to get to a conference so you can check out the career workshops and resume critiques, some even offer the chance for mock interviews.
Yes, there is such a thing as planning too much, you need to still be flexible even when you’ve planned. Planning is important though. The last thing you want is to not have any plans at all.