Retraining a career from an MLIS
July 11, 2012 2:05 PM   Subscribe

Picked up a MLIS on a whim and finding it to be hindering me more than helping. How can I retrain for a viable career in today's job market?

I went into my MLIS program in 2008 chasing a dream and finished in 2011. I taught abroad for the experience and couldn't manage to get an internship because lack of finances. I'm from a rural area of California and it's kept me from networking and finding new opportunities. I'm not attached to the librarian title but I'm finding it difficult to find another career with my qualifications and experiences.

I'm only 26 and haven't had much work experience. I would be willing to relocate but feel like i'm caught in a catch 22. I don't want to waste my last savings chasing jobs that don't exist. Some caveats are that I love using the internet but I don't have any interest in information architecture, user experience, website design, writing, or programming. I've tried hard at programming but really feel like I don't have the brain for it. I like talking about those topics but I don't possess and desire or skill in developing them.

I've tried local volunteering but my community library doesn't offer anything and I can't afford to drive 30 minutes away to volunteer. I'm pretty fed up and feel like the degree is hindering me from obtaining work at this point. I'm almost tempted to teach abroad again but it is not something I enjoy either. I enjoy working by myself and I am rather introverted. I do get along well with others and derive a little income by doing some basic tech support and document editing for a local business.

Any ideas would be welcome.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Did you take any taxonomy classes in library school? Indexing? There are often freelance taxonomist or indexer positions, sometimes work from home. Are you on all the job-search RSS feeds, email lists, etc?
posted by rabbitrabbit at 2:10 PM on July 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Did you take any of the civil service exams? Here on long island Most libraries higher people from the civil service lists.

Maybe you cant find a job because your not on the list for that job?
posted by majortom1981 at 2:11 PM on July 11, 2012

Have you considered moving to a city with more opportunities, volunteer or otherwise?
posted by downing street memo at 2:22 PM on July 11, 2012

Move to a larger community and get work organizing corporate & legal libraries. Not great fun, but it's work that needs doing and they sure as heck don't seem to know how to do it (but they definitely notice when it's not being done!)
posted by aramaic at 4:16 PM on July 11, 2012

Hi there, this is where I spin my hat and cane and do my records management song and dance. Records management, or information governance, is a wide spectrum of information practice areas that attracts library types such as myself. Privacy, taxonomies, content management, e-discovery, disaster planning/recovery and searchability are just some of the things in this spectrum. It's not about filing! There are some great ways to include technology as well.

As long as people need help finding and managing information, there will always be a place for records managers. Health care, government and industry all need people who understand information and keep them from getting sued :D Web agencies/companies need people who can help create usable websites (think information architect).

But don't take my word for it. Check out ARMA and AIIM. Both tend to have local chapters where you can meet and greet other members, maybe even find a mentor. Hope that helps!
posted by Calzephyr at 6:19 PM on July 11, 2012

Oh, I know you mention that you don't have an interest in programming, but there are lots of opportunities to work with programmers. I used to be a Web developer and I'm wondering if a lack of experience with real world programmers makes you feel that way. Even taxonomists need to work with the techie types as many digital taxonomies rely on backend relationships.

There may be things that you don't have an interest in now, but it's surprising how engrossing they can be, especially when results start rolling in. I know my interest in usability wasn't piqued until I discovered how many people couldn't find something on a website. Thus began a love for unsuccessful search results.

My old boss worked from home for a large company; certainly there are ways to get around the rural aspect. One ARMA chapter I know of regularly holds webinars because the membership is so spread out. I know you are fed up, but there really is a lot of opportunity out there, even for introverts like ourselves :)
posted by Calzephyr at 6:32 PM on July 11, 2012

Also, please don't ever regret or feel the MLIS is a hindrance. I wish I had one instead of a library tech diploma. YMMV, but there's nothing worse than being considered a para professional and being shut out of jobs because one only has a two year diploma.
posted by Calzephyr at 7:46 PM on July 11, 2012

If I understand you correctly, you wanted to be a public librarian, but it hasn't worked out. You make no mention of other specialties in librarianship, so i will assume you arent interested in those. You are explicit about not being interested in many of the other things that people with MLIS degrees find they are qualified for and interested in.

I may be jumping to conclusions here, but I think that the issue is less that you aren't interested in those things, and more that you are discouraged and your confidence is low, and telling yourself you aren't interested protects you from more discouraging experiences.

Whether I'm right or not though, I have the same general advice. Your current situation hasn't worked out for you, and, as I think you've concluded, that's not likely to change until you do something different. My advice:
  • what you try matters a lot less than that you try something
  • when you try, you put as much into it as you can manage
  • when/if you can't manage any more, skip the self-recrimination, give yourself a short break, , then try something else
  • repeat the cycle until something starts going well, and then do more of that

This advice may sound trivial and stupid, but it's pretty much how I managed to get unstuck over the last year, after spending much of the prior 3-5 years reasonably well paid, but feeling stuck, punctuated by regular occurrences of feeling crappy about myself for not being able to get unstuck.

As for what to try, I don't think it would hurt for you to have a go at some of the things your degree helped prepare you for that you've already ruled out. I suggest this for a few reasons. First, you'll have a bit of a head start, since you already know what the options and know something about them. Second, if things start to click in one of them, you'll get some satisfaction that the time, money and effort you put into your degree was worth something after all. Third, my understand is that while the market for entry level public librarianship is poor pretty much everywhere in the US, opportunities for many of the other disciplines mentioned can actually be pretty good in at least a few regions.

I'd also suggest that, if you weren't using a self-contained, well documented framework like Django when you tried programming before, you could have better results a second time around. Having good tutorials and documentation along with a lot of useful "components," means that you can get something that feels real and satisfying early, and make progress quickly. Early, regular positive reinforcement can really help build confidence and understanding and get you to the point whee you feel you can stand on your own.

Finally, whatever you do, I think you are going to have to go someplace more urban. Rural areas just don't have that many opportunities for pretty much any work. About the only exception Imcan think of is work as a laborer on an oil or gas field in TX, Alberta, etc. Actually, some of those areas might have other jobs serving/supporting the roughnecks, and engineers, but I'm not sure the boomtowns there will get to the point of adding or expanding libraries and schools before almost everyone moves on to the next big find.
posted by Good Brain at 10:31 PM on July 11, 2012 [7 favorites]

I don't get how the degree is hindering you. Can you explain? I have an MLIS and have worked both in and outside the library world. When interviewing for jobs where an MLIS was not required or considered unusual, I always found some way to use it as a selling point (even to those who were totally unaware that librarians have their own professional degree; yes, these people exist). You don't have to present yourself (or think of yourself) as a failed librarian. Apply for interesting jobs that you can do right now and position yourself as the ideal candidate. Obviously this won't work for a job as a nuclear physicist, but you are positioned nicely to apply for tech support, tech sales, lots of customer service/navigator positions, editorial positions, etc. Don't adhere to strictly to the requirements that are listed in job ads, either. They're usually not set in stone.
posted by Wordwoman at 8:55 AM on July 12, 2012

(In using your MLIS as a selling point, the most obvious skill you can tout is your expertise in organizing, classifying, and presenting information. I cannot think of any jobs that do not utilize these skills.)
posted by Wordwoman at 8:59 AM on July 12, 2012

(One more thing and then I'll shut up -- for others reading this thread, I absolutely do not recommend an MLIS as a way of getting into non-librarian jobs. If you already have the degree, yes, it can be an asset, but it should not be considered an entryway.)
posted by Wordwoman at 9:04 AM on July 12, 2012

Good Brain... Lovely response. Oil towns such as Houston and Calgary get a real lift in wages. Oil companies are the largest employers of records managers. It is not uncommon to see RIM positions here that start at $40-50K (some even near $100K depending on role and experience).
posted by Calzephyr at 6:15 PM on July 12, 2012

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