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First, an anecdote. On a Sierra Club hike last weekend I started talking to a guy who used to own a business somewhere on the east coast. As he described their hiring demographic, they were looking for graduates of bachelor’s degree programs in a wide array of disciplines – EXCEPT art history. I casually asked him why, and he responded “Anyone stupid enough to waste money on an art history degree is too stupid to work for my company.” Though taken a bit aback at the implication that my chosen academic path is a weedy, intellectual wasteland (and amazed by how far this obnoxious guy had managed to shove his foot into his mouth in the matter of a short conversation), I’m aware that this is a common perception of many of the liberal arts, as well as library science.

I don’t regret the decisions I’ve made in my education and my career, but do recognize that a good deal of what I’ve chosen to pursue in life and in my career is based upon romanticized ideas about intellectual pursuit and aesthetics – working towards my idealized self. In contrast, I could have made decisions based upon statistical growth trends, marketability, earnings potential. Even as I consider myself to be a careful planner by nature, much of my life has to be chalked up to instinct.

So what compels librarians to forego the MBA, the CPA, and take this plunge? It’s certainly not an easy route, and there were hundreds of other experiences and decisions that led to this point.

It struck me how much we (that’s a huge collective we) tend to take for granted the hundreds of instinctual decisions we make in the course of a week, in the course of a day. It seems that instincts compell us in every step of our lives and our careers.  How do we prioritize the ever-expanding amounts of information and tools at our disposal? Among the multitude of opportunities out there for professional and personal development, how do we narrow down the choices? When is it time to move on (from a job or from a place)? How did we decide to go down our individual paths towards these particular degrees and careers in the first place?

In terms of our careers and professional decisions, there are always tangible and intangible considerations. A salary is one, but does not take into account the atmosphere and working conditions, the benefits package, the geographical location. It’s a constant process of weighing pros and cons, most of which goes on behind the scenes in the hamster wheels of our brains. How much do we “think”, and how much do we act on instinct? And which method leads to better results?

Timing accompanies instinct and creates the perception of luck. I felt lucky to find this job upon moving to Santa Fe, but I could have gone many other directions instead. While I have unique opportunities here to grow in knowledge and experience, I need to be able to recognize the limitations and the timing that is right for me. I hope my instincts don’t let me down.


February 2008
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