Job Satisfaction: Five Controllable Elements

Increase the likelihood you’ll enjoy going in to work each day.

Sean MacEntee - Work

I’ve spent a bunch of time thinking about job satisfaction, given to a degree, it is something each of us can control. It’s important to know how to create a working environment where you’re happy, because your contentment or lack thereof, spills over into other areas of your life. Of course, if you’re underpaid, underemployed, or for any reason have an intolerable job, there’s only so much you can do.

Thinking back to my business school days, one specific employee motivation theory sticks in my mind, over a decade later:

  • Effort leads to performance: You are capable of doing the work, and applying yourself leads to successful completion of a work unit.
  • Performance leads to outcomes: Successfully doing your job leads to outcomes that you value, such as to recognition, pay bonuses, successfully solving a challenging problem and so forth.
  • Outcomes are valued: The outcomes you receive are important to you, in that they meet some need. This will be specific to you, and what you need out of your job.

If each of the three bits is true, you’re far more likely to be motivated by and enjoy the work that you do. If even one of these elements is false, you’re unlikely to enjoy your job.

There’s a ton of interesting management material on the subject, from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs onward. In my experience, there are generally five elements you can take control of, to increase the likelihood that you’ll be happy at work.

Here goes:

Have challenging work: if you’re always flying on autopilot and not solving new problems your job will become boring. If you’re bored, chances are you aren’t going to be happy with the work you’re doing. If you’re bored, do something about it!

Have work that keeps you engaged: be involved in your work, and work environment, solve problems, take on new challenges. If you aren’t actively engaged in your work life, you won’t get much out of it. Sometimes, your job can be what you make of it. At my happiest, at work, I was juggling a couple of projects. This added work variety and kept me involved in the work that I was doing.

Like or at least get along with the people you work with: you will spend way more time with the people you work with than with your own friends and family. Make an effort to get to know, and get along with your coworkers. It makes even the most stressful of jobs way more tolerable. Do not skip social events – even if you’re an introvert, these are really important in getting to know your co-workers.

Have purpose: making a buck is not enough to keep you focused on your work. If you’re living pay period to pay period, sure, that’s absolutely your focus. However, if that’s not the case, money alone isn’t going keep you happy. In my case, I focus on what my work gives to other people. By focusing on creating solutions that make peoples’ jobs easier, and will hopefully remain in use for years, I get something out of the work that I do. Yes, this is totally possible, even in information management.

Manage your commute: If you’re spending huge portions of your day, say an hour or more in either direction, getting to and from work, consider that this may be having negative impacts on your enjoyment of your job. Your time commuting is worth something. Switching to bike commuting, back in my Ottawa days, dramatically increased my job satisfaction, without increasing my commute time by very much. If that’s not possible, consider whether you can move closer to your job. There are a bunch of studies that indicate that your commute has a powerful impact on job satisfaction.

In case you’d like to read more on the the impact your daily commute can have, I’ve included a few links:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/amymorin/2014/12/07/want-to-be-happier-change-your-commute-or-change-your-attitude/#5b6970225a73

https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2014/feb/12/how-does-commuting-affect-wellbeing

http://time.com/9912/10-things-your-commute-does-to-your-body/

Header image by Sean MacEntee: Work // CC by 2.0

Computer Won’t Boot Post Blackout? Try this.

Things to try, if following a power failure, your computer will no longer start normally.

aAdy Satria Herzegovina - Lego Computer

With the frigid temperatures in Canada’s prairies, and increased power grid demands, we’ve been experiencing power outages which last between five to fifteen minutes. One such blackout knocked my computer offline, and subsequently prevented it from booting up. It would power on, the fans would whir, but the computer would hang at the BIOS screen, without the customary beep. Effectively, the light was on, but nobody was home.

At first I celebrated, somewhat strangely I suppose, given I’ve been looking for an excuse to replace my eight year old machine (an Intel Q6600 from prehistoric times). However, frugality soon took over and I decided to try and fix it. I did build the thing after all, so I figured, why the heck not? It took about two rather frustrating hours to get running again, that I’ll never get back. C’est la vie. However, if I consider that I saved 600 – 800 bucks, by not having to buy a whole new machine, I suppose that was time well spent. My hourly pay is definitely not that high.

I managed to fix the issues through a combination of investigation and voodoo. Well, it felt like voodoo to me. Here’s what I did:

1) Unplug the computer from the wall, and turn the power supply to the off position. My goal was effectively to discharge the motherboard capacitors, incase there was any weird buildup. How’s that for  a scientific explanation?

2) Reset the CMOS (BIOS data). In my case, the power outage had actually corrupted the BIOS data, which loads prior to your computer booting into an operating system. I did this by opening the case and removing the CMOS battery (it looks like a large watch battery). I waited a couple of seconds, then replaced it.

How did I know to try this? My computer has a fancy motherboard LED indicator which shows you boot and error codes. I cross referenced the code it was throwing against the manual, which mentioned CMOS/BIOS issues. A shame ABIT no longer makes motherboards.

After doing all this, I put the computer back together and tried powering it on. This introduced another issue, where the computer was no longer outputting video. I was able to fix this issue doing the following:

1) The ram dance: Basically, unsocket your ram, remove any dust in the sockets, and replace your ram. Usually this involves actually moving ram to other sockets, but in this case, given I had a known working ram configuration, I skipped that bit.

2) Disconnect and reconnect connections from the power supply to the motherboard. Clear out the dust in the sockets and replace the cables. I can’t explain why this would make a difference, but this was the last step I took before things magically started working again. More voodoo.

3) If the above fails, try booting with less devices connected to the power supply. Try booting with only your C drive connected to a power source, for instance. This can help rule out specific hardware failure, interfering with the boot process.

Finally, you will need to reset your BIOS settings to whatever you had configured before the outage. Taking out the CMOS battery will effectively lose all your boot settings. So much for replacing my eight year old machine!

To avoid this scenario in the future, I’m going to spend the big money and buy an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS). It seems worth the piece of mind, when using your computer on a somewhat unpredictable power system. With a UPS, I can safely power down the machine, instead of letting it forcefully turn off. No more worrying that a power outage may fry my computer hardware. It’s a much cheaper solution then replacing bits that are damaged due to power surges or voltage drops.

Header image by Ady Satria Herzegovina // CC0

Canadian Personal Finance Blogs, Books, Videos and Podcasts

Great resources to start learning about Canadian Personal Finance. Blogs, books, podcasts and videos.

Sean MacEntee - Education

There are a ton of resources available to help you learn about investing in Canada. It can be tricky to separate the good from the bad with limited time, so I’ve put together a list that should be a great starting point.

Blogs

Canadian Couch Potato: a site authored by Dan Bortolotti, a financial planner and writer for MoneySense magazine. He’s an outspoken proponent of index investing in Canada. The idea behind the couch potato portfolio is, set-up index investments, adjust periodically, sit back and watch your investments appreciate over time. Dan also has a great podcast which I highly recommend.

CanadianCapitalist: this site isn’t quite updated as much as it once was, but is still a great resource for Canadian investors interested in personal finance and index investing.

Books

I could suggest books that are hundreds of pages long and densely packed with material and personal finance philosophy. There are some really good, really deep reads. However, I’m not going to do that. Most people have neither the attention nor the interest. Instead, just read these two short books on finance:

Bogle - Common Sense InvestingJohn Bogle – The Little Book of Common Sense Investing: The Only Way to Guarantee Your Fair Share of Stock Market Returns 

John Bogle, founder of Vanguard, created the world’s first index fund. If you want to understand index investing, and why it can work, in simple language that you don’t need a business degree to decode, make this your first stop. It’s 240 pages with fairly large print.

Hallam - Millionaire TeacherAndrew Hallam – Millionaire Teacher

Andrew Hallam set out with the goal of writing a personal finance book targeted towards teachers. The book is written in extremely understandable language, structured rather well and provides a ton of useful, straightforward personal finance information. The book ranges from constructing an index portfolio, to behavioural pitfalls in investing. He also has specific information for Canadians, which is a nice touch. The second edition is 256 pages, with graphs.

Podcasts

CanadianCouchPotato: this is by far, the most informative Canadian personal finance podcast to date. Yeah, I’m a bit of a fan. I’ve been following the blog for years, and the podcast hits all the points. If you have time to check out just one podcast, make it this. The podcast is split into a few sections: general Canadian personal finance issues, reader questions and bad investment advice. This last segment, in specific, is amusing and informative in equal parts. They just released their third episode, so it shouldn’t take all that long to catch up.

Mostly Money Mostly Canadian with Preet Banerjee: Preet is a Canadian personal finance consultant and writes for publications including The Globe and Mail as well as MoneySense. His podcast is less succinct than CanadianCouchPotato, and less focused on index investing. However, he has interesting expert interviews and segments which are worth a listen, if you have the time.

YouTube/Videos

Lars Kroijer – Investing Demystified: Lars Kroijer, a former hedge fund manager, put out a series of five short videos discussing how to invest, if you can’t hope to beat the market. They’re well produced, well written and easy to understand. Lars talks about a two fund solution, a world index fund and a bond fund, which simplifies index investing.

Do-it-Yourself Investing with Justin Bender: If you’re interested in ETF investing in Canada, Justin will show you how to get started, with major discount brokerage platforms in Canada (including: TD Direct Investing, BMO Investorline, CIBC Investor’s Edge, RBC Direct Investing, Scotia iTrade and National Bank Direct Brokerage).

Bonus: Reddit

Reddit also has a great community under the PersonalFinanceCanada subreddit. I follow it pretty regularly and haven’t been disappointed.

Summary

There are a wide variety of ways you can get informed on managing your Canadian personal finances. With the internet, it’s easier than ever before, even if you aren’t a book reader (though I would suggest checking out those two titles – they’re a solid investment in your future).

Header image by Sean MacEntee – Education // CC by 2.0

Managing Your Investments: Self-Surgery?

Can you really manage your own investments, or should you just leave it to the experts?

Andreas Poike - Stock Market Quotes

In a comment to my recent post, one interesting response I got, was that with a larger portfolio, you might not want to take the risk of managing your own money. Leave it to the experts, the argument went, who are better qualified and have your best interests at heart. I would partly agree: there are absolutely qualified people who help (SteadyHand comes to mind), the problem is, how do you distinguish them from salespeople who are just out to make money off your hard earned cash?

This is effectively an argument, at its heart, that you should trust experts, because well, they’re experts. I’ve spent enough time around experts of various sorts to in general say, that they’re just people like you and I who are completely fallible, subject to biases and yes, conflicts of interest.

So what’s a guy (or gal) to do?

Educate Yourself

Even if, in the end, you don’t want to manage your own money, by understanding how things work in the general, you’ll know whether the expert’s advice actually makes sense. I had an investment plan created by our lovely Canadian green bank a couple of years ago, after having managed my own investments for quite a while. The plan looked good on paper, including tons of information which actually made it confusing, but the plan increased my fund holding from four low cost index funds to fifteen high cost mutual funds. It all sounded very impressive, and were I not self-educating on personal finance, I might have gone along with it. The problem? The fees were upwards of two percent. Meaning, to keep up with the market, their fancy portfolio would have to outperform by on average, 2 percent. Highly unlikely. One of the key elements to successful long term investing is keeping costs down.

Find a Fee Based Advisor

If you don’t understand how an advisor is being paid, ask. Some of the best advisors charge a flat fee for their advice. Yes, we are talking hundreds of dollars here. However, by paying them for advice in this way, they aren’t necessarily compensated by commission on the funds they suggest, avoiding that specific conflict of interest.

Don’t Buy the Argument from Fear

Oh you can’t conceivably figure all this out. There are really smart people who spend years learning the market! Why bother? The answer to this is simple: you can get the average market return. The really smart people who manage things like hedge funds? They’re trying to *beat* the market. You absolutely should not be doing that.

About ten years ago, I met with a snazzy sounding insurance/investment firm. They put together client portfolios, bundling investments and insurance. The crux of their argument went as follows:

“Sydney, what part of your body could you not do without?”

At first, I thought, what the hell? What that specific insurance broker was doing, was making an argument to emotion, or fear, in the hopes of selling insurance. Sure, I might one day lose a hand. How high was that probability though, really? Needless to say, following that, as a rule, I tend not to trust insurance brokers where investments are concerned. In making commission on selling insurance, they were driven to sell specific insurance products, which in my early 20’s, I definitely didn’t need.

Summary

By educating yourself, finding an advisor who has your best interests at heart, and not falling to fear based arguments, can you be more likely to be a successful investor. To me, success means retiring comfortably. Avoiding that old age cat food meal is what it’s about. I once thought I wasn’t capable of repairing my own bike. Who knew, that once you spent the time to figure it out, it wasn’t really all that daunting?

You don’t need to manage your own investments to follow a logical investment strategy. Sure the do-it-yourself approach of buying and selling mutual index funds, or index ETFs may not be for everyone. I would argue however, that buying mutual funds, based on a set plan, is pretty simple. ETF’s less so. There are absolutely other options, like robo-advisors (see WealthSimple) that will do it for you, once you create a risk profile. The costs will be higher, when compared with a do-it-yourself approach, but that’s the price you pay for convenience. There’s also Tangerine, although with a market expense ratio of 1.07%, they are definitely not cheap. They’re probably at the higher end of what I’d pay.

Header image by Andreas Poike  // CC by 2.0

Eight Lessons Learned: Canadian Personal Finance

Eight things I’ve learned managing my own investments in Canada.

Finance by Tax Credits

I’ve been managing my own investments in Canada for well over fifteen years. Over time, I’ve learned a few things which I figured I’d share. I’m an investor making average market returns, who has spent a ton of time self-educating on personal finance. Caring about personal finance allows you to retire in comfort, and I’m still confused as to why it isn’t a mandatory part of the public education system. I have no intention of relying on cat food for nutrition when I stop working.

1) Banks are not your friend

They have a huuuugge conflict of interest, steering you towards investments that will make bank shareholders more money, instead of just pointing you towards financial success. That usually translates into higher cost, hidden fee mutual funds, which dramatically eat into your investment returns over time. They may hire friendly and helpful staff, but the fact is that they are hired to sell bank products, and not necessarily the best products for you.

A 2009 Morningstar Fund Research Report (Swartzentruber, Sin-Yi Tsai, 2009) puts it best:

“Canadian investors do not pay much attention to fees. Canadian investors are comfortable with the fees because they don’t know how low these fees should actually be. Assets tend to flow into average- or higher-fee funds because Canadian investors use financial advisors to help them make decisions. Advisors direct client assets to funds that pay better trailers. And since the trailer is included in the MER, the result is that assets flow into higher-fee funds.”

Canada also has some of the highest mutual fund fees in the world. Are you really getting what you pay for?

2) Fees matter

Mutual funds are not inherently bad; however, they can be fairly costly. Know what you own and what you’re paying for it. If your fund charges you a 1% Management Expense Ration fee (MER), and returns 5%, you’re really only making about 4%. Further, just like compound interest, over time, fees compound to eat into how much you have left for retirement. Both Warren Buffet and John Bogle, venerated investors both, suggest that the average person is best served with a broad range of low cost index funds.

3) It’s the index, dummy

So what is an index fund? Index funds can be bought and sold as either mutual funds or Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs). They represent a certain market, such as the U.S. Standard & Poor’s 500, representing a stake in ownership in each of the companies in the index. You don’t have to buy all 500 companies for them to be represented in your portfolio, where you can just buy a fund covering that market position. It simplifies things, keeps costs low, and means you’ll get the market’s rate of return, less fees and a small tracking error.

No randomly picking stocks!

4) Have a plan and stick with it

Before you put a single dollar into the market, understand what you’re trying to get out of it. Are you investing for retirement, planning a trip or saving for a down payment on a mortgage? The answer to this question impacts where you put your money. For money that you need within 5-7 years, you probably want something secure, given the market can fluctuate rather impressively in both directions in that period of time. This would indicate something like a high interest savings account or GIC, which have pitiful returns. However, when you need the money, it’s there, with almost no likelihood of losing value (beyond to inflation).

If you’re in it for the long game, you need to understand your risk tolerance and come up with an asset allocation. If you were fairly conservative, you’d invest in a higher proportion of fixed assets to equity (stocks), in contrast to someone who is younger and doesn’t necessarily need the money in the near future. You want an allocation, where if the market tanks 20 – 30%, you won’t be freaked out and make any rash decisions. Weekly and monthly fluctuation should be tuned out, as noise.

With an asset allocation plan, say you invest 33% in Canada, 33% in the rest of the world and 33% in fixed assets, at the end of the year you’d look at how market values have shifted and adjust to return your target  allocation to the 33/33/33 point. This prevents you from making emotional investing decisions. Your plan dictates where you allocate your money. You would buy into lower performing assets, to get back to your target allocation. This fits in with the buy low, sell high notion.

5) Know what you’re buying

I will never purchase a security I don’t understand, nor invest in a product class I can’t explain. If you don’t understand the specific underlying company, how they make money, what their liabilities are, why in god’s name are you investing in them? There are analysts who spend years figuring out how to pick stocks, and in general as a group, they still can’t beat the market return consistently in the long run.

6) You’re not smarter than the stock market

At best, you can hope to achieve average market returns. If you think about it, 50% of investors may do better than market return, 50% may do worse. Why not fall somewhere in between, achieving the average stock market’s return? In my business commerce school days, my personal finance teacher specifically said that you might as well throw darts at a board, rather than trying to pick a winner. If people who spend their lives studying this stuff can’t beat the market, what makes you think you can? Use index funds and get the average market return.

7) Tune out the noise

It may be a friend giving you financial advice, it may be the news, and it may be the Trump presidency: have an investing plan and stick with it. Don’t let fear or greed drive your investment decisions. In my younger days, I did do very well with a suggestion from a friend by buying a Real-Estate Income Trust, though this could very easily have gone the other way. Don’t invest randomly, stick with a plan.

8) Save more than you spend

It seems simple, but the less you spend, the more you can put towards covering your retirement. If you think of it mathematically, if savings = income – expenditures, you increase your financial position either by increasing your income by getting a raise or getting a second job, or by cutting your average expenses. Better yet, do both if you can!

Summary

Investing should be boring and fairly mechanical. It isn’t remotely exciting, and if done right will increase your chances of retiring comfortably. The stock market should never be treated as a weekend in Vegas. What happens in Vegas does not necessarily stay in Vegas. Have a plan, buy low cost index funds, and increase the likelihood you can retire comfortably.

In my next post on this subject, I’ll provide some really useful links to books, blogs and podcasts which will help give you the information you need to take charge of your investments, and retire successfully. This post is likely long enough as it is!

Header image by Tax Credits // CC by 2.0

Taking Charge: Online Security and Privacy

Securing your web browsing, managing your online passwords, securing your data and using two-factor authentication are key to a secure online experience.

Krysten Newby - Secrity

Why Should I Care?

Advertisers constantly gather information about the sites you browse, services you use and even places you visit while you’re walking around with your phone. They do this for a number of reasons including providing a more personalized experience, say, showing you advertisements that are relevant to your interests. We unconsciously trade our personal information for more comfortable service experiences.Some of this may be fairly benign, but on some level, having anonymous companies gathering large volumes of data about you to create a consumer profile can be concerning. Further, this information is bought and sold, without you giving explicit approval or control over what is included. For this reason, taking an interest in your online security and privacy is important.

Aside from advertisers, you also have to be aware that there are people who will try to steal or take advantage of your personal information. For instance, if you use the same password for both your Gmail account and your Amazon account, which you really shouldn’t, and someone gets hold of your Gmail password, they can suddenly start placing Amazon orders under your identity. If you post that you’re going for vacation, publicly to Facebook, what’s to stop someone from unlawfully entering your residence while you’re out of town?

There are a number of things you can do to start taking control of your online identity. Securing your web browser is a great first step. Proper password practices and controlling what you store and share online, through internet services should be the next place to look.

Securing Your Web Browsing

1) Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN): This will mask your Internet (IP) address and encrypt traffic between you and your VPN host. To the outside world, it will look like any traffic requests are coming from your VPN host, instead of your computer. Why do this? Number one for me: online privacy. Companies like Google and Facebook connect all sorts of information about what you do online and can in many cases link it back to your IP address and browser fingerprint. Why let them gather all this information on you? TorrentFreak is a good place to research the right VPN for you. As an aside, you can also use VPNs to get around geographical blocks for certain services, though sites like Netflix went on a tear, blocking VPNs a while back for this very reason. A caveat with all this is that VPNs will add overhead to your internet connection, likely slowing things down, so you won’t necessarily want to leave them running all the time.

2) Secure your web browser: Update Chrome/Firefox/Microsoft Edge. After that, install plug-ins such as Ghostery, uBlock Origin (for Chrome, for Firefox) and HTTPS Everywhere to limit how easily advertising companies can collect information n on your browsing habits and secure your browsing. Also, by keeping your browser up-to-date, you mitigate known vulnerabilities, keeping you and your information safer.

3) Use data silos: Sites like Facebook will not only track what you do on their site, but track activity in all other tabs in the browser running Facebook. Why let them gather information on you? By using a browser, say FireFox exclusively for Facebook, and another browser like Chrome for your other browsing, you limit what Facebook can collect. Way back when, I used to use a program called Sandboxie that would effectively limit applications from modifying / interfering with my host operating system. If you’re concerned about malware, in e-mail attachments for instance, running your e-mail client in a sandbox can help mitigate damage.

Maintain Your Passwords

1) Site specific passwords: Use site / service unique passwords, and further, if you can, use a different log-in name than your e-mail address for any sites you use. The benefit of this is that, should one of your sites be compromised, the rest of your online identity won’t fall like a house of cards. Having site specific passwords can be a pain if you’re managing this bit manually, which I wouldn’t. Check out services like LastPass, which will not only manage your passwords, but back them up securely, make them available across all your devices and even generate extremely complex passwords for the sites you use. This will dramatically decrease the probability of having all your accounts compromised, should one of your sites get hacked.

2) Update your more sensitive site passwords regularly. Sites like your e-mail account and banking site should have their passwords changed periodically. Should your password become compromised at some point, by updating your password, the potential harm caused can be minimized.

Floating Through the Cloud

Ah jargon. I’ll not rant about the term, but basically, if you’re storing content online, make sure it doesn’t have sensitive personal information. If you wouldn’t leave tax documents sitting out in the open at the office, I wouldn’t leave tax documents unencrypted on someone else’s server. As such, be aware of what information you’re placing online. I use a no longer supported application called TrueCrypt (7.1a), which encrypts my more sensitive information, prior to uploading it. This application is no longer supported, however. VeraCrypt might be worth checking out, as an alternative.

Social Media Management

Share the minimum amount of personal information possible. If I’m going on vacation, I’ll only post about it afterwards. No reason to send thieves to my door. Be cognizant of what you’re sharing and always ask yourself, should this be online? Things like your Social Insurance Number, home address, and yes even your telephone number should not be easily publicly accessible. It’s much easier to mindlessly overshare than it is to permanently remove this information after the fact.

Advanced: Two-Factor Authentication

Passwords can be compromised and to combat this, some services allow an added level of security through what’s called two-factor or multi-factor authentication. The idea behind this is simple: to login to an account, you will need two bits of information. You need something you know, such as your account password, and something you have, which can be your cell phone to either generate a second secure code for log-in, or receive a securely generated code to log-in. This helps prevent unwanted access to your account, given the “something you have” piece, is presumably something only you have access to. Many services like Google’s gmail, Steam and Dropbox all support this level of security. It does add a bit of overhead, but adds additional confidence that only you can access your account.

Summary

By taking some of these steps, you can limit some of the information that is gathered about you and increase security of your information. The most onerous of these moves would be switching to a password manager and switching all your passwords, though in the long run it’s absolutely worth the hassle. Always be aware of what you’re sharing online and really consider whether you should be posting it online.

Header image by Krysten Newby // CC BY 2.0

Thoughts on Library School, Five Years Out

Library school: yay or nay? A retrospective.

Library Cont... by Annalynchia

In my late 20’s, I decided that employment as a System’s Administrator might not be how I wanted to spend the rest of my working life. I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do, which was, as of then, still cloudy, and decided a career in Knowledge Management (KM) would be a logical move. The field overlapped with many of the technical and business skills I already possessed. Five years out, here are some reflections on the experience:

1) The job market: the big lie as I still refer to it. From orientation, to graduation, we were told that many librarians in the field were retiring and that there was high demand for people with our skillset and credentials. This is not, and has not been true for a long time. Beyond the anecdotal, where I know people who took up to two years to find professional employment, the supply of card carrying librarians outstrips job market demand, with retirement rates far lower than touted. Further, people in the field aren’t clamoring to retire. With job security, and that 2008 market downturn, people have held on to their jobs.

Going into *any* graduate program, I would strongly suggest researching job market data. Unfortunately, the school you go to may not make this as transparent as one would prefer. I respect the school I went to, but there is absolutely a conflict of interest. Library school is not alone in this. I would argue most graduate schools likely are. This is the cost of running a school as a business.

2) Getting a job in a library (or an archive, or in KM): if you’re in library school, and can get some time actually working in the sort of library you’d like to work in professionally, do it. Having actual experience will make you far more competitive than others in your cohort who have no experience in the context. This can be extended to Knowledge Management or Archival streams. My relevant experience, which I continued building while I was in library school, definitely situated me to be more attractive to potential employers.

3) If you’re not looking for a library job, understand what elements of your education and previous working experience can be leveraged in the job market. In the language of HR coaches everywhere, think of your transferable skills. The line is a bit of a cop out, but if you can create a story for yourself, matching your skills, education, experience and areas of interest, you will be a far more interesting candidate. I liked the taxonomy development part of Knowledge Management, which is related to what I ended up finding a job doing.

4) Be mobile: just because your library school is in a particular city, does not imply that city has a job market that can support your entire cohort. You may be extremely lucky, and find a job there, but many do not. Your chances of gainful employment go way up when you expand your search geographically.

5) Connections matter: I’ve met some really great people in library school, who I keep in touch with, irregularly, years later. The best people, the greatest people.. I kid, enough Trumpism. Maintaining a professional network, following library school, can prove helpful in unexpected ways. In the language of KM, social capital matters.

So with all this in mind, do I regret library school? Not at all. It was useful in launching my career in an entirely new direction. I made some great connections, learned quite a few diverse skills that I use at work regularly and was able to improve my on the job happiness. I do however wish that grad school in general was a little more honest about career prospects.

Header image by Annalynchia // CC BY 2.0