Posted on March 23, 2011.
by Paul T. Jackson, Trescott Research
© March, 2011
“People are resilient because they have to be…although the scars never disappear totally.”
By the time Naisbitt came out with his book Megatrends 2000 wherein he said people would likely have 4 or 5 careers, I was already on my sixth career track. Here are some lessons about being flexible and adaptable and future ready from those six careers.
Lesson 1: Be open to new possibilities.
Over time I’ve experienced many successful endeavors simply by allowing them to happen and doing my best at the tasks given.
Without a job, and while attending a performance of the Royal Ballet of England in Detroit, I was standing next to an older gentleman. We found we had mutual friends and interests, and I was invited to a late night dinner with him. Our dinner conversation led me to my library career under Kurtz Myers, head of the Detroit Public Library Music Department.
Years later, after my university position ended, I went to the office supply store to get some copy paper for my old wet copier. The proprietor showed me the new 3M dry toner copier, and after looking at the copy sample, I exclaimed, “Wow, I could sell this!” The proprietor said, “You’re on. When can you start?” Thus started a career of selling office supply and machines; helping people organize their files and paper processes. This knowledge and work eventually brought me to learning and selling computers and a partnership with a computer firm helping build databases for companies and organizations.
In all of these positions I was using all of my knowledge and past experience in libraries, music publishing, research, writing, and office supply and able to do a superior performance because of it.
Lesson 2: Be Inquisitive and ask questions. It can lead to new ventures.
In undergraduate school, a philosophy professor had told me, “Solutions start with questions.”
At library school I felt there was a need for an organization whose archives of recorded sound could come together to share information. I wrote and asked the curator of the Ford Museum collection, Frank Davis, what it would take to get these and other archivists together. His response was, “First, we have to have a meeting.” This led to several meetings including an exploratory one with 22 librarians and archivists attending. They represented the largest collections of recordings in the United States. We met in June of 1965 at Greenfield Village/Ford Museum after the American Library Association conference in Detroit. We met again at Syracuse University, and there, in 1966, the Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC) was founded with over 40 people attending, representing not only U.S. collections and archives, but also Canadian broadcasting and the United Nations sound recording libraries. ARSC ( http://arsc-audio.org/ ) is now in its 45th year of existence. It only takes a question, and action, to start something significant.
Lesson 3: Give Responsibility; Take Responsibility
As a supervisor it is your job, your responsibility, to help those you supervise. This includes mentoring and developing your staff. You need to be able to teach them to take over your job, or at least keep the place operational if you are not there; no one should feel threatened by this. It is making things better, even people.
I gave inmates responsibility to operate their prison library and law library. They came back with ideas, they helped with grant writing, they improved services, and they took turns running the classes on writing business plans, legal research, and helping in the reading lab. I helped train them on computers. The Corrections Accreditation Commission reported twice, our library “second to none [in the nation]” over the 8 plus years I was Director. Great things happen to your staff and their self-esteem when they have responsibility.
Lesson 4: Focus on problems–It’s not about you or me.
Someone on staff takes credit for your idea—get over it!
You have to change to smaller space—get over it!
Someone damages your ego—get over it!
Your library closes—get over it!
None of these things are important to the business of solving problems for the employer or customers. I’ve survived all these things and in the end found solving problems was more important than who got credit. The programs I’ve helped build have survived, which to me is vastly more important.
At the music publishing group, TRO, Inc. representing over 32 publishers in 18 countries, the executives were often arguing, but once the problem was solved or the action agreed upon and discharged, they would be seen heading out the door for lunch together.
Remembering what you learned makes you so much more valuable for the next job. Get over the closing and go on. Solving problems for the company, the employees, the customers, is the mission of every employee. This is what is remembered.
Lesson 5: Think altruistically about leaving!
Leave something better than expected.
Growing up, my mother taught us we were to leave things better. I’m not rich financially. My career didn’t follow a well thought out plan. It wasn’t something I started out to do. Along the way I created new libraries, new businesses, and helped establish a national association. I count myself a success. When you get done, (do we ever get done?) by being resilient and practicing the lessons, you too can say, “I did good.”
Two of my favorite quotes:
“Remember, to get anything done, you first have to start.”
“The one who says it can’t be done should never interrupt the one who is doing it.”
Mr. Jackson is an Information Specialist. A retired Special Librarian in Academic, Public, Corporate, and Prison libraries, he has taught research to Ph.D. candidates, and published a wide variety of articles. He is currently Editor of Plateau Area Writers Association’s Quarterly and anthology series, Contrasts. He is a member of several musical ensembles and volunteers as church librarian. His career positions are recorded in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who International, and a profile at his web site: www.trescottresearch.com