When you are first starting out in librarianship (and any career, really), it seems like everybody has the perfect piece of advice for you, that’s going to unlock the interview process, ensure your future career success, and possibly even solve your existential crisis. The trouble is, there is so much good advice floating around, it can be challenging to determine when you need to take something to heart, and where you need to just nod, say thank you, and leave that gem of wisdom behind. See, there’s a difference between good advice and good advice for you. The trick is determining which is which.
Here’s what I mean: Before I gave my first job talk, my colleagues very kindly watched me practice and gave me feedback. Most of the comments were really valuable, and the comment I heard the loudest and most often was: “You have to demonstrate a database in your mock instruction session. It’s expected.” I had specifically chosen to leave out a database demo because I don’t necessarily think that’s the point of library instruction (tune in soon for a post on that). But the number and earnestness of these comments really made me examine my choices and justifications. And I thought very seriously about changing my presentation. Like, until the morning of the job talk.
Let’s stop for a moment. This is legit good advice: Meet expectations, don’t go too crazy on the interview, get the job. Good Advice.
That said, gut instinct and strong values have to be weighed too. To me, the point of library education is deeply tied to teaching deep structure–I don’t know what we’re trying to accomplish as educators if not that. And teaching the nuances of a specific database doesn’t really say anything meaningful about how information and research works. So this really good advice didn’t really align with what I’m trying to do when teaching information literacy sessions. And at the end of the day, I wanted the institution to hire me with all of my attendant values for the job, not the person I might think they want. (1)
On interview day, the lack of a database demo was cited as one of the highlights of my job talk. If I had taken this good advice, maybe I wouldn’t have gotten the job—or then again, maybe not. We’ll never know, and I still feel kind of sick when I think about it.
Here’s the value of good advice: It causes serious self-reflection because it’s well thought-out and meaningful. It makes total sense. And even though it might not be the right thing for you to do, it drives you to finding what that right thing might be. It provides you with opportunity to embrace what is important to you.
Which is all just to say, do you.
(1) The process was made easier by having an amazing fiance continually urging me to go with my gut and having a colleague (Kevin Klipfel) who took the same stand about job talk content.