The April 2014 annual conference of the Association of Independent Information Professionals (aiip.org) was – entirely as anticipated by those of us who have attended for many years – energizing, inspirational, and educational. Creating special interest as we were sharing our professional experience was the fact that – as I have seen at other information professional conferences – career transitions are becoming more common. Prompted by changes in the marketplace or by personal interest or both, the career refocusing reflected a range of situations all sharing the common thread of adaptation to evolving conditions and interests.
Especially noteworthy was the common pattern that past knowledge and expertise are indeed transferable to new endeavors: Skills in business and competitive intelligence are applicable to any new service offering; a business focusing on one type of services can add new ones; and a personal interest can become a professional focus. No matter what our original education, our past experience can be repurposed. Our customer focus stands us in good stead no matter what, and our familiarity with information management puts us in a position to undertake new projects we never could have imagined.
It stood out for me how a concept that, to me, is a given – those holding information centric credentials are valuable in any organizational setting – was so concretely illustrated. For many years now, we have discussed among ourselves how information professionals bring value to bear on a multitude of business challenges; the sticking point in the conversations was often “just how do we sell our skills into a business segment not customarily familiar with our offerings?” Now, a related question is “how do we sell newly acquired skills – to existing or new clients?” I came away with several takeaways that may ring true for readers pondering a change midway through the career:
- Information professionals are skilled at seeking out new knowledge
- We know how to identify the best sources of new knowledge and skills we want to add to our repertoires
- We are adept at assessing trends and potential market receptivity
- We have honed our skills in creating business cases and benefits-based proposals
- We understand the motivations of clients in devoting time or money to acquiring a product or service
- Our client service and communication skills are well developed
Whether a mid-career change occurs as a result of a sudden confluence of events or as a series of smaller gradual adjustments, we all benefit from applying to our own situations the principle that the past may inform, but need not determine, our professional future.
Many comments were heard in the hallways at the AIIP conference as to how encouraging it was to know many others were contemplating or executing career changes. As always, membership in a professional association has its privileges; this time around, the support from colleagues taking similar career change steps was prominent among the benefits discussed.