We get comfortable in life.
It starts out that everything is awesome. Work is wonderful, home life is wonderful, house/apartment is wonderful, everything is awesome.
Then a few years pass, and everything is great. Work is great, but wonderful but great. Or home life is great. Could be wonderful, but it’s great.
Then, everything is OK. Work is OK, could be better, but it’s OK. Home is OK, personal life is OK, everything is OK. Fine. Normal. Same.
And one day you wake up, and think, wait- it’s not. Work is ok. Or something’s not OK at home, or something needs to be changed. You think, “how did it get that way? Why did I let it get that way?” And things can spiral out of control.
Forbes writer Jacqueline Smith writes that you should always be looking for a job, at least keeping an eye on what’s out there, even when you already have a job. I think it’s a great idea. It helps to keep abreast of what other libraries are doing: Are they hiring youth services librarians or paraprofessionals? Are they hiring part time positions? If they’re hiring for a lot of positions, that could be a sign of either growth or that something really went wrong somewhere. Are they starting to call youth services something else? Moreover, it helps to keep track of what you’re doing and where you want to be.
I know a lot of youth services librarians who are quite happy being at the entry level, doing storytimes and programming for the duration of their career; they have no desire to move up, or move to a different location, and it’s just perfect for them. I know some who want to translate their youth services positions into coordinator positions: being in charge of all of the youth or teen services librarians and staff in a system, and planning everything out within that area. I know some who want to go higher than that, and be assistant manager or manager of a branch, or assistant director, or higher. I know some who have gotten out of libraries entirely, and have used their experience in youth services to show how they can handle multiple projects and deadlines and translate that into blogging, writing, marketing and technical support.
The way they made those choices toward the goals that make them happy was to evaluate where they were and what they wanted. Sometimes we just get in a rut and take the easy way, just keep doing the job we’ve always been doing. It’s like thinking, “What do I want for dinner? Oh, I’ll just get take out again,” instead of evaluating what you have at home, going to the store, cooking something, and really enjoying something fresh. It takes energy, and a real hard look at yourself, but it’s so important to your mental and physical well-being. If you don’t take a look around and see what you need and where you want to be, you can be stuck with where you are- and that might not be the best for you.
So how to you get closer to where you want to be? Close your eyes and imagine (in reality, no unicorns or dragons or chocolate that doesn’t have consequences) what your perfect job and life would be. If you could do anything day in and day out, taking into account your personal life and your health, what would it be? Once you have it, write it down. It doesn’t matter how impossible it may seem- you may be a teen programming services librarian now and your dream job may be library director of a huge system in another state. WRITE IT DOWN.
Then figure out what that dream takes. If it’s a library directorship, find the job requirements for that directorship. If it’s quitting your job and blogging full-time, figure out how much you would have to make as a blogger full-time and what equipment you would need to make that happen. If it’s what you’re doing now but it is not wonderful/great, take a good long look at what is making it just fine or just OK.
Once you know what your dream takes, examine where you are and what you have, then break down the steps to get from here (where you are) to there (the dream). For management, it may be taking more courses and leadership roles in your current system, and putting yourself up for promotion. It may be putting yourself up for interviews in different systems. If it’s your current job but something’s off, figure out what that “off” factor is, and what you can do to fix it. Is there someone in your workplace that’s causing friction? Can you move to a different location? What about applying for the same position in a different system? Are you looking for a teen-only position in an area where they only hire youth-services?
Every once in a while we have to ask if what we’re doing is getting us closer to where we want to be. If we don’t, we’re never going to get there, and always wish we had.