Published: August 20, 2021 by Jillian Collins
When you’re a student, it’s natural to focus your efforts on your courses, your GPA, and for a few highly organized types, your e-Portfolio items. But since the goal of getting a master’s degree is to land a job that can help launch a career you love, now is also a great time to be paying attention to an equally important asset: your professional visibility.
What is Professional Visibility?
Professional visibility helps to open opportunities for you to make active contributions to the field, ones that will have a positive impact on others. Otherwise known as who knows what about you and how many people know it (i.e., your professional reputation or brand).
Elevating your visibility as a professional doesn’t happen overnight. Rather, it is the result of consistently engaging with and contributing to the profession. Yes, even as a student!
What Do You Want to be Known For?
Everyone has a different perspective on what they most like to be known for professionally, but one of the most valued contributions you can make is simply to be excited. Share what – and why – a particular area in information excites you (including librarianship). When you’re excited about something, it feels like nothing can stop you, and that optimism and passion becomes part of what you’re known for. Think about why you are drawn to any area of the library and information science field, zoom in closer and ask what it is specifically you are drawn to.
It’s likely that over the course of your career your specific information interests will grow as circumstances change and new opportunities/technologies emerge, but if passionate curiosity and openness to new ideas are part of what people associate with you, you’ve already established the basis for a strong and visible professional reputation.
How Can You Become More Visible?
- Take actions that others will notice. What gets your attention gets the attention of others. In our digital life, even as a student you can build an audience with tools like a blog or an Instagram presence, or by participating in conversations in a relevant LinkedIn group. (Don’t hesitate to let everyone know you’re a student – most LIS professionals are highly supportive of MLIS students.) Join, and participate in, professional associations, or informal groups that share the same interests.
- Seek out collaboration. If you can fit it into your schedule, reach out to practitioners or faculty members who’ve announced an interesting internship, assistantship, or project idea that interests you. Look for collaborative opportunities. Working alone shows only one side of you; collaboration with peers shows those peers – and others in your field – not only what you bring to the LIS table, but how you support others doing so, as well.
- Focus on active participation. Take advantage of opportunities to share your passion with others. Become known for that passion. What if you contact the author of a newsletter article that caught your eye? What about submitting a piece you wrote to a publication? What about giving a conference presentation? Look for ways to engage with the community. Your “student perspective” is valuable. If you become a contributor to anything, it demonstrates willingness to share and to learn.
Explore and Share
Information, funnily enough, is everywhere. And that also happens to be the type of thing that attracts information professionals…like us! As you grow your LIS knowledge base in your areas of interest throughout grad school, think about how you can turn your findings into useful information for others. Share your insights, whether writing a submission for a professional publication, or starting a conversation with your own skills to demonstrate trends you see. Share advice, suggest improvements, and use your excellent communication skills!
Your goal: to let the LIS world know that even as a grad school student, you’re already at a professional level when it comes to engaging, contributing, and pursuing your LIS passions. The more “visible” you can be with that message, the better.
Quick Jot from Jillian
Building up your professional presence is not an overnight thing. Thinking of it that way will create the ‘one more thing I have to do…’ mentality. But you can be visible and not realize it. I felt one opportunity came out of the blue. But it turns out that it came from a previous interaction that had made a serious impact.
As Scott Brown said to me in our interview, we are all cultivating our curiosity, building up that interest constantly, especially as students. Transfer that mentality to what you want to do in the post-school world. That shouldn’t feel like a chore you need to complete now that you have been putting off. When you actively and regularly put your own ideas, opinions, questions, and interactions out there, you can’t help but experience growth in your professional visibility. You impact the community as much as the community impacts you.
- Manager, Library Research Services. RAND Corporation. Full-time. Santa Monica CA; other locations. Apply via RAND Corporation employment opportunities
- Archivist. United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service. Full-time. Everglades National Park, Homestead, FL. Apply on USAJobs
Mark Your Calendar!
ALA Virtual Volunteer Fair hosted by the American Library Association
- Date: Tuesday, September 14, 2021
- Time: 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. (Central Time)
- Location: Register here to attend this Zoom event; see the ALA event page for details
Aligning Career Options With Who You Are hosted by Kim Dority
- Date: Wednesday, September 15, 2021
- Time: 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. (Pacific Time)
- Location: Register here to attend this Zoom event