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. — C.S.
by Cynthia Hetherington
When I started out in the information business, I was dubbed the Virtual Librarian (virtuallibrarian.com), mostly in part for my assistance to the law enforcement world and security sectors as the go-to source for research assistance and training. That was too many years ago to count, but I still hold the title and a now very stale Web site. As I write this 365 piece from an airport kiosk, I realize that EVERYTHING has changed and NOTHING has changed. I’m still on the road 200+ days a year training in the security industry, and I am a Private Investigator myself as well. However, the material and resources have changed significantly.
Now I am teaching social network investigations and reminding the audience of the oft-missed deep and invisible Web, which is valuable in most criminal and civil cases.
That said, how I teach hasn’t changed. Informing my clients and attendees is done the same way today that it was 15 years ago. I also have been publishing a newsletter for the past 10 years, which has been profitable for at least the last four!
Education and publishing are two things every librarian should embrace and consider as resources to not only spread their name, but to also validate their resourcefulness in their community. The reasoning comes down to diversity. If the only thing you do is sit behind a reference desk answering questions, you’ll never grow professionally. The same chair you sat in as a new librarian will be the same one you leave when you retire.
In our dreadful economy, it is absolutely paramount that the extra skills you can nurture, develop, and sell yourself on will be considered assets to your organization.
Granted, you do not need to be offering full-day seminars in front of thousands of people, but small classes, topic-specific presentations, and articles on the same subject are a great start.
Within AIIP, I am always drawing out of our membership, “what makes you special?” We can all do research, manage archives, and understand information, so what makes you stand out amongst the rest of us? Everyone I’ve asked this question of has since written articles for our Connections journal, has further focused their business marketing, and has seriously considered going more toward a niche and less toward the broad spectrum of information scientist. They are all budding successes who can speak intelligently on their unique skill set.
If you’re lost and aren’t sure what your focus needs to be, then it’s time to sit down and have a conversation to decide where you see yourself down the road. Draw out the map of how you plan on getting there. Don’t be afraid to look for a mentor, such as in AIIP’s mentoring program, or find a coach, as we have a few among our ranks. And, by all means, talk to those who have been out there for years and get the details of their war stories.
Once prepared, stick to your plan, follow your strategy, and always consider that there is a venue waiting to hear your voice and read your informational pearls of wisdom.
Cynthia Hetherington is the current president of the Association of Independent Information Professionals and has more than 17 years of experience in research, investigations and corporate intelligence. She is the founder of Hetherington Group, a consulting, publishing and training firm focusing on intelligence, security, and investigations. A widely-published author, Cynthia authored Business Background Investigations (2007) and the Manual to Online Public Records (2008). She is the publisher of Data2know.com: Internet & Online Intelligence Newsletter and has co-authored articles on steganography, computer forensics, Internet investigations, and other security-focused monographs. She is also recognized for providing corporate security officials, military intelligence units, and federal, state and local agencies with training on online intelligence practices.