Q: I’m currently a library branch manager and want to make the jump into administration. What’s the best way to make my resume stand out and to cultivate the skills I need for this type of position? Do you know any career coaches or advisers that specialize in library management?
TA: Well, you are certainly in good company. When we conducted a national survey to gather data for our book, 45% of respondents were in a management position and wanted to be, and an additional 26% of respondents were not currently in a management position but hoped to be someday. (For what it’s worth, there were also 5% of our survey respondents who were in management positions and didn’t want to be. Yikes!)
While nothing substitutes for real, practical, hands-on experience in administration, there are several steps we recommend for preparing for the challenge:
1. Draw on transferable skills.
As a branch manager, you’re likely to have direct experience with managing people, budgets, resources, and facilities. This experience will transfer nicely to a position in administration, where you will probably deal with many of the same issues, just perhaps at a different level.
2. Read—a lot.
Read management texts, articles, blogs, everything you can get your hands on to learn from the experience of others. (You can also check out our book, Career Q&A: A Librarian’s Real-Life, Practical Guide to Managing a Successful Career…It has several chapters that relate to your question, including profiles of professionals who offer their personal experience and pathways into management and administration.)
3. And speaking of learning from the experience of others…Talk with lots of people.
If you have a mentor, draw on this relationship for guidance, suggestions, and advice. Also, work your professional network, reach out to conduct informational interviews, and learn a little more about how folks got into their position that may be similar to the position you’re seeking. Be sure to ask them about the challenges and opportunities they see in their position and how they best prepared (and stay prepared) for the work they do.
4. Explore what your professional association offers to you.
Some associations offer leadership development programs, mentor partnerships, and other benefits of membership. Be sure to explore what’s offered and take advantage of what fits for you.
5. Build a successful track record of leadership and management.
Even in your current position, you have the opportunity to take on new projects, lead a new assignment, and manage people and resources. Be sure to position yourself to take on new things and expand your repertoire of skills and experience.
6. Lastly, be sure you know what you’re getting into and be prepared for it.
Look at vacancy announcements and position descriptions: read the description of work (Do you find it interesting? Exciting? Terrifying?); review the required and preferred qualifications (Do you have the educational credentials? Do you meet the required qualifications? Is there work you can do now to prepare yourself for this position in the future?). Also check out online resources like the materials available from ALA that describe, from an outside perspective, the work of libraries and library employees (see, http://www.ala.org/educationcareers/careers/librarycareerssite/whatyouneeddirector and http://www.ala.org/educationcareers/careers/librarycareerssite/whatyouneedlibrarymgr).