Valerie Ryder, Philadelphia Chapter, Leadership & Management, Business & Finance Divisions
As someone who thinks of her car as a mode of transportation, or a way of getting from Point A to Point B, rather than as a part of my brand image, I still believe in regular maintenance as an investment for the future of my vehicle. While living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for many years, I was accustomed to having my car realigned every few years due to encounters with the many road bumps and dips that earned the city its reputation as the “Pothole Capitol of the United States”. Pittsburgh drivers may complain, but they accept realignments as necessary maintenance to avoid more serious problems with their vehicles in the long term.
While thinking about career sustainability recently, it occurred to me that the same analogy applies. If one does not regularly assess oneself for alignment with the organization’s goals and mission, a rude awakening may be encountered down the road. In my early years as a corporate librarian, I probably did not constantly think about alignment as it pertained to my job and career, at least not as frequently as I might have thought about my car’s alignment. After experiencing a few of those bumps and dips in my own career path, I did start seriously contemplating the connection of what I did in my job with where the corporation was heading and what it valued. Most importantly, I looked at how the strategic plan of the group in which I worked as well as my annual performance goals dovetailed with the corporate direction and objectives.
I started asking myself, my co-workers, and my managers, questions that challenged some of our own assumptions and beliefs about how our group directly or indirectly contributed to the commercial success of the corporation. When product lines or entire business segments were sold off or discontinued, I pondered how that loss might impact the services we provided, the scope of our collection, and our internal customer base. When other companies were acquired, new product lines were launched, or research projects were started in novel areas, I contemplated how those gains could provide new opportunities. As corporate directives were issued, I re-examined our internal operations to determine how we needed to adapt. When leaders and key personnel departed, retired or were replaced, I looked at what roles they played in the corporation and their support for our group in order to anticipate and mitigate impact. When new staff joined the corporation, I looked for opportunities to build relationships with key players and support their goals and objectives. Throughout these alignment checkpoints, I was evaluating my skills and interests to determine how well they matched the ever-changing institutional needs.
Just as good drivers stay aware of subtle changes in the way their cars handle the road, information professionals need to continually reassess the ways in which their job responsibilities, the tasks that they perform, and their own skills dovetail with the current needs and future requirements of their organization. Refocusing and retooling should be an ongoing activity rather than waiting for an annual maintenance inspection to find a problem, or more significantly, an unanticipated “bump in the road” to derail your career.
Valerie Ryder is Director of Information Strategy at Wolper Subscription Services, a one-stop information management resource whose High Tech, High Touch® approach delivers the perfect combination of next-generation technology and time-proven, personalized service. Valerie joined Wolper in 2009 after a career as a corporate librarian for Fortune 50 and Fortune 300 companies, a solo librarian, and an information consultant.
Valerie is active in the Philadelphia Chapter where she is currently a Board Member and the Employment Chair 2010 – 2011. She was the Vendor Relations Chair for 2008 – 2010 and a member of the Program Committee in 2008.
Valerie contributed two chapters on corporate librarianship to the recently published book ”Best Practices for Corporate Libraries”, published by Libraries Unlimited, in which she shared her experience in “Measuring Value in Corporate Libraries” and “Corporate Librarian’s Survival Kit for Organizational Realignment”. Valerie presented a Contributed Paper at the SLA 2011 Conference entitled “The Metamorphosis of the Information Professional” that is available on the SLA website.