To avoid being held captive by work lives which hold little satisfaction for them, professionals - particularly those in the burgeoning area of information technology and management - need to occasionally and purposefully reassess not only the work they do, but how they feel about it. Most professionals have more choice about what they do and when than, in the frantic course of events, they remember. In their professional lives, many "field what is hit their way" instead of "going to bat" on things that are both productive and satisfying. When stressed by the increasing demands of their jobs, they need to ask if these demands are simply add-ons to an already full agenda, if they are gratifying, and if they are necessary for the successful execution of their work If so, are they best done by them and in the assumed fashion?
Assumptions can be the enemies of responsible professionals. Often they create self-imposed expectations about their work. It is possible that they have not been explicitly charged with many of the duties they perform. It is also possible that they have not looked closely at what their job really entails. Ralph Waldo Emerson was right when he questioned the value of the unexamined life. Furthermore, he would have been especially disapproving of the unexamined work life.
Focusing specifically on special librarians, this article looks first at the general, national employment environment, offers a self-assessment tool to help special librarians identify their preferences, and makes suggestions of ways to assess and adapt their professional lives.
Briefly, the employment environment is very friendly for information managers and the information-fluent in this Information Age. If, for example, after examining their jobs, these professionals determine they are insupportable, they do have the option of changing employment. An aging population and the lowest unemployment in twenty years point to an employees' market. In addition, with new electronic communication on the web, a job search has become easier, faster, and broader. For instance, the Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration at www.doleta.gov provides vast quantities of information in its America's job bank, talent bank and labor market information system. Particularly considering the special skills of special librarians, predictive data on which fields are open and inviting are readily accessed as well as encouraging. Occupational Outlook Quarterly, for example, predicts that data base administrators, computer support specialists, and all other computer scientists are occupations that have fast growth, high earnings, and low unemployment. The projected employment growth between now and 2006 will be 249 thousand plus for these occupational categories. (There was no specific category for librarians.) These clues point to the fact that special librarians need not feel imprisoned by their current work affiliation. They are in better positions than most to leave a working situation which leaves them not wanting to go to work on Monday mornings.
Companies are changing in response to this scenario as well. According to Hall's and Mirvis' incisive article in the Journal of Vocational Behavior, "The New Career Contract: Developing the Whole Person at Midlife and Beyond," (1995, Volume 47) companies must be responsive to both the market and to their own organizational behaviors. While they are reengineering and responding to their universe, they will also invest in developing seasoned employees who with their clear sense of personal direction, are aware of the system as a whole. Robert Kegan, author of In Over Our Heads: The Mental Demands of Modern Life, asserts that corporate America backs the concept of "helping people be more effective at work," but lacks an understanding of the "hidden curriculum of working." what he calls for is a new "threshold of consciousness" (164).
These employees who "uncubby" and cross that "threshold of consciousness" are the ones who do not wear blinders to what's happening in all segments of their organizations. …