Lauren Dodd recently posted The Dos and Don'ts of Library School on her blog, and it got me to thinking what advice I would give to people entering a Master's program. I would definitely recommend reading her post: it has some great suggestions, all of which I agree with! I thought of a couple other things that I would suggest as well, and so I am adding them here.
#1: Social networking is your friend
I shied away from becoming an active user of social networks and Twitter because I didn't see any benefit to spending my time tweeting/updating my status/etc. The last year has taught me that social networks as a professional development tool take very little time and can give you big returns. Here are the things I've found to be most helpful:
-Twitter: actively seek out other people in the field and follow them. It doesn't matter if they work in the same kind of library or have the exact same interests as you (they can even be in a different field altogether)--following a broad range of people lets you keep your finger on the pulse of the field in a much more holistic sense, and can help you refine (or redefine) what your interests are.
I've also found that it's a great way to generate a response to my own work: I always tweet when I post on this blog, or publish an article for B Sides, or speak at a conference. When you look at your 'mentions' (in my case it's @BookishJulia) you'll find that people who are reading your posts are likely to respond with helpful information about what you're working on, or even with encouragement before a conference talk.
Did someone post a link to an interesting article, or some tidbit that you find timely/useful/whatever? Re-tweet it so your followers can see it too! I learn so much from what others are reading, and can stay on top of goings-on without having to spend the whole day trying to track down articles, etc.
Use hashtags (#subject) and use them often. Same goes for mentioning people (@username). Hashtags are a way of grouping your messages with others by subject: for example, all people tweeting from ALA's annual conference this year used the hashtag #ala10 so that other conference-goers could find their tweets. This keeps your tweets from getting lost in cyberspace! If you aren't sure if a subject has a hashtag, then be the first to use it! Mentioning folks is not only a great way to have a conversation via tweets, but also allows your followers to become aware of that other person (and potentially start following them). The most useful way to do this: #FF (which is 'Follow Friday'). For example, if I want people to follow my fellow editor at B Sides, I would tweet "#FF @hypatlikeya" tomorrow (which is Friday) and my followers could follow her if they so desired.
-Academia.edu: I hadn't even heard of this site 12 months ago, but if you have an e-mail with a .edu extension (which, as a student, hopefully you do!) this really is the most wonderful networking tool, especially for researchers. What's great about it is that it tracks when Google searches are done on your name, and tells you the time, date, and country in which the search was conducted--I've learned that there are more folks in the U.K. that are looking up my research than I thought. It also lets you upload papers/links to papers, abstracts, conference presentations, your CV, etc. so people can learn more about who you are and what you do, and then hopefully can follow your work! Another great option is Linkedin.com, which has many of the same features (except the Google search thing. Also, you have to add people to your network--like adding a friend on Facebook--rather than following, which does not have to be reciprocal).
#2 Publish, Present, Participate
Great cheesy heading, isn't it? I posted a comment about publishing on Lauren's blog, but I wanted to expand it a bit here. The more 'resume boosters' you can rack up during your time in school, the more of an edge you have in the job market (and more importantly, the more you know what you love to do!) There are some relatively easy ways to do this:
-Publish: I'm a journal editor, so I automatically zero in on all the wonders of publishing. To save you my long rant about why it's such a good idea, suffice it to say that you can share your work with the world and show employers/PhD programs/whoever that you produce scholarship of the caliber that peer reviewed journals want to publish it. We all write papers for our classes, and this is where a lot of my publications have come from: in some cases, you can polish up a paper and submit it, and in other cases (such as for, say, Research Methods) you might already have a study you put together. In any case, even if you submit something and it needs a lot of work or is outside the journal's scope, the worst they can say is 'no!' See if your department or school has a student-run journal, other options include The Library Student Journal and Libri. Libri has a student paper competition each May--one year I entered and, even though I didn't get the prize, I still got a publication under my belt. Search for open access or print journals in your sub-field, and be open to submitting to journals outside of LIS if your work fits within their scope.
-Present: Conference presentations can be nerve-wracking, yes, but you will learn a ton about the process of preparing, presenting, and fielding questions, and you can take these skills with you no matter what you do. There are a mind-boggling number of conferences out there: the best way to find them is to locate your relevant ALA subdivisions, pay attention to postings in your department, and sign up for listservs. ALA, and its various subdivisions, provide conferences and opportunities to present (or, at ALA annual, you can sign up to do a poster for ongoing research). I am on a number of listservs on everything ranging from food studies to Midwestern culture to book arts, and calls for papers often are posted on these. Academia.edu lists a lot of these, also ask your faculty what lists they're on (although sometimes, a Google search will yield results too).
-Participate: This echoes what Laura said in her post, but try to get involved in your department and in the LIS field as a whole in any way you can. If there is a student journal at your school, sign up to be a peer reviewer: it's a resume builder that doesn't involve a huge time commitment. Volunteer at libraries or organizations that speak to what you hope to do when you're done. And remember to spend a lot of time getting to know your classmates: they're a great resource as well as a support network.
So, what else am I missing here? I would love to get feedback from current and former LIS students about what helped (or didn't) in your time as a student. And for PhD students, I definitely want to your input too: since I hope to be pursuing a PhD next year, I am curious how my time in LIS will change as I pursue a different degree.