Reflections on My New Career One Semester In

This post is part of the “New Writing Habit” series in which I attempt to write about something for one hour every work day.

It is the end of the first full semester on my new job at the University of Tennessee Libraries. I started July 1, 2013, and it is now December 16, 2013. Finals for the students ended last Thursday, and the graduation ceremony occurred last Saturday. It’s pretty quiet around here today, and will likely be that way until the students get back for Spring semester in early January.

It has been a great first semester. I’ve enjoyed my job very much. It suits me very well. When I applied for graduate school back in early 2011, I started by graduate school essay with the statement, “I am a Renaissance Soul.” This was based on the book “The Renaissance Soul” by Margaret Lobenstine. The idea of what Renaissance Souls are people like Leonardo Da Vinci or Benjamin Franklin who pursued multiple interests over the course of their lives, many of them simultaneously. This is in contrast to someone like Mozart or Pavaratti who were dedicated to pursuing one interest their entire lives. (Why is it the musicians who are given as the example of non-Renaissance Souls? I think it’s because to become as accomplished as a Mozart or a Pavarotti, you must be dedicated to it your entire life.) We’re talking about people who are interested in so many things that they can’t — rather, don’t want to — choose between them. If I were required to choose one interest to pursue my entire life, I couldn’t do it. I wouldn’t want to do it because it would make me crazy. But this career path, being a librarian at a research university library, lets me pursue different paths. Over the course of my career, I will be able to pursue interests as those interests will undoubtedly change. Even over the course of a work week or work day, I can pursue what I’m interested in and change course. I work on Project A for while, then I shift to Project B. Then I go back to Project A and then on to Project H, leaving C through G for another week. My boss lets me set my own agenda, for the most part. She provides general direction and goals she wants to see me meet, but within that wide open framework, I am free to choose how it gets done. It’s like when I was an engineer and I would design a pump station and force main. I would draw up the designs, then when we bid it out, the contractor would determine how it would get built. It was the contractor’s responsibility to meet the requirement I set forth in the design plans, but the means and methods by which the contractor got there his responsibility.

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, I am incredibly fulfilled and satisfied with my new career. I can see this career taking me places I never would have been as an engineer. I’ve already traveled more — even as a student — that I ever did before that, and I will continue to travel all over the world.

One last bit of reflection to solidify that this is the right career path for me. As an engineer, I never cared to excel. I never learned on my own. I never read in that field. I never reached out to other engineers to form relationships. I just wasn’t interested in being great. Contrast that with how I am now in this career. I have reached out and built relationships with people all over the world in this field, from the UK to Australia and all over the USA. I have traveled all over — USA, Canada, the UK, The Netherlands — attending conferences to continue my education and stay abreast of what’s happening in the field. I have volunteered to serve on committees and to write articles for periodicals. I have read books on my own time to learn more. This career and my last are like night and day.

Wow, I never sat down to think through how much I enjoy this new career so much. This post has done me good.

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