By Montrese Hamilton, Washington, DC Chapter, B&F, CI and Solo Librarians Divisions
In 2010, I ran a 12-month experiment to figure out how I might evolve as an information professional. Combining the example of talented colleagues, lessons from SLA professional development opportunities, and a patient employer, I learned the following important lessons:
Admit to wanting security and certainty. Stop wanting security and certainty. Career experts encourage clients to visualize an ideal job, employer, etc., and I took that idea all the way to Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need. Honest assessment identified a yearning for THE career path with clear steps leading to guaranteed job and financial security. Letting go of the wishful thinking freed me to focus on making smart choices while being aware of challenges and opportunities in front of me.
Say goodbye to the career I assumed I would have. There was a moment of genuine sadness when I realized that some skills upon which I built my professional identity had no place in my evolving portfolio. Less original cataloging and more marketing, less database design and more SharePoint site building … I remind myself that clinging to fading status quo hurts more than trying to create something new.
Expand my identity beyond career. In his book “Living in More Than One World: How Peter Drucker’s Wisdom Can Inspire and Transform Your Life”, Bruce Rosenstein described Drucker’s “total life” philosophy: contentment through investing time and talents across a myriad of relationships and activities. Finding the right balance among my domains is difficult but invigorating; when life gets hard in one world, I find succor and restoration in another.
Don’t attribute my good fortune to my abilities. I like to believe I owe any success to high performance and savvy but luck was there at every turn. My employer values having a librarian on staff, my director appreciates my work, and my clients want to include me in their projects. I can influence these variables but they can change in an instant so I try to welcome each day with gratitude.
Become resilient. Taking chances invites the risk of failure but learning how to manage adversity returns some control to us. This article about the upside of adversity is worth noting:
“Adversity … can help people develop a ‘psychological immune system’ to help them cope with the slings and arrows that life throws, while those with no experience of adversity may have a hard time dealing with tough times.” (Landro, October 2010)
The study notes that too much adversity can overwhelm even the best coping mechanisms, so weaving a safety net of community and social bonds is crucial. This seems obvious yet it is easy to focus on the pressing issues of life and work and allow our human networks to fray.
Landro, L. October 2010. The Wall Street Journal. “Study finds adversity does make us stronger.”
Montrese Hamilton, MSLS, is librarian for the Society for Human Resource Management in Alexandria, VA. Contact her at montrese [dot] hamilton [at] gmail [dot] com.