How do you know when you are ready to take the next step in your library career?
My advice is to think first about how you can stretch yourself in your current position–what’s going on in your library that you want to get involved with, what gaps do you see that you can use your expertise and skills to fill? Let your boss know that you are interested in stretching yourself and discuss your interests. I love it when my employees are proactive. Even if your boss can’t get something together for you immediately, you’ve at least planted a seed with her so she’ll be on the lookout for opportunities for you. (I know that some people have horrible bosses who are not encouraging and may even punish you for daring to raise your hand, and if that’s your situation, you really need to file a complaint and/or get out of there).
As a manager, my goal is not to trap my employees at the library forever; I want them to be successful and fulfilled and happy with their work, and sometimes that means they get jobs somewhere else. If you are ready to move on or move up, I still encourage you to talk to your boss, who can help develop you for your next position and keep an eye out for opportunities. I will forward job postings from other libraries to the people I know are looking for that next step. I have also given people projects and put them on committees that will help them round out their resume, as well as mentored them more formally. I have reviewed resumes, cover letters, and given feedback on buzzwords to use and how to highlight experiences and accomplishments. I may also be able to informally use my network of contacts to plant seeds with my director colleagues about how wonderful someone is (I only do this if someone really is wonderful). While it is sad to have staff leave us, if my library is known for developing good people who go on to other opportunities, I see that as a feather in our cap.
If you are asking yourself if you should take that next step in your library career, chances are you already know the answer. Whether you develop-in-place or work towards a promotion, communicating your goals to your boss should be one of your first steps.