ALA Annual 2006: I’m Dancing as Fast as I Can: Building a Career When Personal Responsibilities Demand More of You

by Olivia Reinauer

As a first time attendee at ALA, one can begin to feel a bit lost in the shuffle. Although all of the programs I attended were beneficial in one way or another, many were large and impersonal. "I’m Dancing as Fast as I Can: Building a Career When Personal Responsibilities Demand More of You," in which four brave panelists shared their individual stories and advice on balancing work, school, and family, was a refreshing change. Co-sponsored by NMRT and HRDR (Office of Human Resource Development and Recruitment), panelists included Beth Kramer (Oakland University), Catherine Collins (Bucks County Community College), Scott Lancaster (Texas A&M University-Commerce), and Carol Ritzen Kem (University of Florida).

Following an introduction from Kimberly Sanders, program officer for HRDR, the panelists took turns narrating their experiences with a variety of career challenges including raising children and caring for other family members, temporarily leaving the field, attempting to balance work and school, and moving for a spouse’s career. They offered both general advice, and specific suggestions. These invaluable and practical recommendations (you know, the kind that seem simple, but which we consistently fail to realize?) included the following: plan ahead, but be flexible when the inevitable curve ball comes your way. Don’t overextend – be willing to let some things go. And finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help! Each of the panelists has managed to attain a balance between career and personal life, primarily through a combination of determination and optimism. Carol Ritzen Kem depicted this attitude perfectly in describing her approach: "somehow this will work."

The best resource of all may be the panelists themselves, each of whom generously offered their assistance and support. Inevitably, we all face some work-life decisions and challenges. It’s nice to know that a balance is achievable, and equally important - that we’re not alone.