Info-entrepreneurs, represented by the Association of Independent Information Professionals, stand out as innovative, forward thinking, and client focused information professionals. This series of posts delivers future ready solutions and strategies from current and past presidents of AIIP. As industry thought leaders they have much to share about staying ahead of the curve and delivering cost effective solutions to clients worldwide. In this insightful series of postings readers will learn how to create a job for life by listening for opportunity, watching for changes, stretching to acquire new skills, finding a balance, planning for the long term, and drawing on your strengths. — Cindy Shamel
by Susanne Bjorner
“Once you have been an independent information professional,” I like to tell those new to information entrepreneurship, “you will have a job for life.”
But only if you accept the fact that the job will change a thousand times, and that you must create and re-create the job yourself.
Since the Association of Independent Information Professionals (AIIP) was formed over a quarter century ago, I have seen many of its members establish businesses, market their services, achieve their professional and financial goals, and then revise and reinvent their businesses as change rolled in to hit society at large, the information industry, their market niche, or them personally.
I have also seen several smart, capable business owners make the decision to move on from their successful business and take higher-level jobs in corporations, academic institutions, and prestigious non-profits. Often these were institutions that were former clients or partners. The new employee had seen an opportunity and created their next job, this time choosing to be on the inside.
Eyes wide open
Independent information professionals learn to look at the open market around them and see what needs to be done. What encourages independents to keep their eyes wide open while facing the future? We have to. There is no paycheck coming in automatically next week or next month. We are constantly on the lookout for the next job, whether it is a new client or a new service to sell to an existing client. Success demands constant watchfulness.
AIIP members have a unique forum that keeps them continually aware that change is coming. In order to maximize profits by targeting their resources, most small information business owners work within just one or two industries or market sectors. As a group, however, AIIP members cover the gamut of industries and business sectors. All members have access to a lively private electronic discussion list that has been running since the second year of the association’s existence (way back in 1988). In this active members-only forum, AIIPers share their experiences, questions, and reflections as they discuss–while observing client confidentiality–projects, resources, tactics, strategies, technology, and possible trends.
I say “possible” trends because the word “trend” rarely comes up in the discussion. Discerning potential trends that may affect the information industry–and our businesses–is an individual responsibility and largely an individual activity. The beauty of the AIIP discussion group is that there are readers and contributors from multiple industries and geographic areas who provide very different services and perspectives. Discussion is not targeted toward specific disciplines, specialties, or market sectors as it is with many e-discussion lists. Often, a key insight comes when observing an activity, industry, or practice far removed from the area we are working in, carried out by someone we might never know if we did not share association in this very diverse forum. Not everyone figures out future trends from the wealth of data points that are offered in this global exchange, but the opportunity is there.
Even if you are not a member of AIIP (though you are welcome and do not have to own an information business to become an associate member) you can take a step toward being future-ready by participating in forums (electronic and otherwise) outside your area of immediate interest and practice. Yes, it requires a time commitment that may be hard to manage in the short term. But this is an easy way to look into the long term, and we need to do that frequently and reflectively. Because by definition, the future is outside of where we are today.
When Susanne Bjorner attended the organizational meeting of AIIP in 1987, she had no idea that today her business would be providing editorial services from a home in Spain. Along the way she has had hundreds of jobs, belonged to six SLA chapters, and observed countless information professionals move successfully into the future. Susanne served as AIIP president in 1989-1990.