A Little Enthusiasm Goes a Long Way
By Alexandra Janvey
In the two years since the onset of my career, I've learned that a little enthusiasm can go a long way. I owe my accomplishments largely to my immense enthusiasm for the librarian profession and my eagerness to be a part of its community. For as long as I can remember, I've known that an ordinary desk job would never be a good fit. Diagnosed as a child with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), school was a struggle, and my concentration wavered quickly. To succeed, I knew that I needed a profession that would impassion me, was challenging, and would keep me on my toes. It was not until my senior year of college that I discovered the growing field of librarianship. Immediately, I knew I had found the passion I had sought. Librarians' days were never the same, and I could see no limit to the new things that I could learn. Passion for my work was important to me, but I never realized how far it would take me in my career. In many ways, my enthusiasm drove me to gather the experience, skills, and confidence that I needed to find my place in the job market.
While I enjoyed my master's program, I wanted to learn more than I could through my classes and the limited electives available to me. I didn't want to be confined by my library school education and, after some research, discovered that there was a plethora of other learning opportunities available to me. Initially, it was my keen interest in the technological side of librarianship that led me to seek out these other avenues for learning. I was fascinated with all I had been hearing about social media, emerging technologies, and web design. I took the initiative by learning the most popular social media platforms, such as Twitter, by myself, mainly through experimentation and tips from others. Social media helped me connect with other librarians, become aware of the current trends in the field, and learn of events of interest being held. Books, webinars, and online classes were other ways that I expanded my knowledge base.
I thought that I was prepared to enter the difficult job market, but despite my excellent education and growing skill set, I soon discovered I was wrong. I had followed the advice of peers and gained experience from two internships and a graduate assistantship, but it still wasn't enough. Most of all, I was unprepared for the mental toll that months of unanswered cover letters and resumes had on me. It was a crippling blow to my confidence and, increasingly, I began to question my abilities as time passed. My enthusiasm helped me overcome this obstacle. I knew something had to change and pushed myself to shake things up. I decided to reach outside my comfort zone by applying to positions beyond my immediate area. A few weeks later, I finally started to get responses, and was ultimately offered an internship for three days a week.
There was another internship that I was extremely interested in, but believed was a long shot since I didn't have some of the qualifications that the organization had listed. They wanted an intern who could speak French and had experience with certain software. Even though I didn't meet these requirements, I applied anyway and, to my surprise, received a quick response asking for an interview. I was offered this position shortly after the interview. The interviewer, my new manager, later remarked that it was my eagerness to gain more experience in the field that impressed her. It was the fall after graduating from the Palmer School of Library and Information Science that I began two new internships in New York City. They demanded long commutes into the city, but I was ready to go where the jobs were.
These internships marked a turning point in my career. So many rewards, both professional and personal, came with the experience. I matured, learned more about the profession than I thought possible, and had fun all at the same time. Another benefit to working in the city: I could easily attend some of the local professional organizations' events and meetings, which had been difficult before. I took a big step by serving on my first committee and becoming active in the professional community. During this time, my confidence in my own abilities as a librarian and archivist grew. The confidence and additional experience I gained got me hired for three temporary, paying jobs, one right after another, until I was offered my current job as a librarian at Long Island University. My current position in the Digital Initiatives Department is fun and exciting, and it offers a unique mix of archival and academic librarian work. I find the job challenging and interesting, and I look forward to each new day working there.