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Student Shadow Kristen Thornton-De Stafeno on Spring Conference: Take the Opportunity to Attend Regional Conferences!

Kristen Thornton-De Stafeno attended UNYSLA’s Spring Conference as a student shadow and authored the following post commenting on her experience. Kristen received her Bachelor’s Degree in History and English from Binghamton University. She worked in the Pleasant Valley Free Library for two years before starting coursework for her M.S.I.S. at the University at Albany, State University of New York, where she is currently employed as a student assistant at the Dewey Graduate Library. After graduating in May 2017, she hopes to go into public libraries.

I had the pleasure of attending UNYSLA’s April 22nd conference, “Career Development, Plan Your Future” as a student shadow. Such a topic seemed perfect for my first professional conference as I knew the variety of guest speakers would address various issues relevant to my interests such as perfecting your resume and CV, managing projects early in your career, and interview advice. As a first-year Graduate student, I knew such input and an opportunity to network with various information professionals would be highly beneficial.

Our first guest speaker of the day, Lisa Norberg, Principal at K | N Consultants and co-founder of the Open Access Network discussed her career journey and she touched upon how career planning very rarely goes according to plan. As someone who has already experienced a shift in my original career plan, hearing someone such as Norberg – with a compelling wealth of experience – speak to this issue was reassuring. Norberg spoke more on the skills you can put to use to ensure your success, such as “copping a positive attitude,” playing well with others, giving change a chance and occasionally leading that change.

Following Norberg’s presentation, Susan Kendrick, of Cornell University, reviewed some common mistakes to avoid, and areas to highlight when creating and submitting a resume. This portion of the conference was both comforting and informative as I realized that I had managed to avoid mistakes such as “boilerplate” cover letters and the “hard sell” while I succeeded at focusing on experience relevant to the specific positions I applied to.

After a short break I got to introduce the next guest speaker, Tyler Dzuba, Head of the Physics-Optics-Astronomy Library and Interim Program Coordinator for the Carlson Student Research Space at the University of Rochester, River Campus Libraries. Dzuba’s positivity even when addressing issues such as ‘Saying No” to tasks was both uplifting and inspiring as he explained that some projects aren’t worth the effort you will put in and that the mindset that we can’t afford to say “no,” to new assignments and tasks isn’t always true. Dzuba’s tips on achieving your goals through gradual steps were the perfect advice for anyone who has difficulty visualizing and putting a plan into action.

Continuing with the theme of job applications and interviews, Susan Kendrick returned with advice on what questions interview teams will likely ask, and how to respond. As someone who in the past didn’t have questions of my own prepared for interviews, Kendrick’s suggestion for questions the interviewee could ask the interview team is advice I know I will apply to my next interview.

Following a lunch where we split into groups of corporate, public, and academic libraries, I had the pleasure of introducing Jenna Mayotte, the Associate Director of the Portland Public Library in Portland, Maine. Mayotte gave a presentation titled “I Do What I Want!” in which she discussed how you can change careers as long as you plan well. Some of her planning tips included keeping track of your roles in various topics to assist you in telling and selling your “story” in future interviews. Mayotte noted that you don’t have to stay in a bad job forever, but that you should learn skills and lessons from every job you have.

Our last topic was a panel on “The Art of Negotiation” with Linda Galloway, Allison Perry, Jenna Mayotte, Zari Kamarei, and Elaine Lasda-Bergman. The consensus among the panelists was to always push for a pay increase prior to accepting a position as that is the time to get your largest pay increase. As fellow student shadow Laurie Dreyer pointed out, we often think about these negotiations in terms of salary, but there should also be attention paid to what the benefits will be. A great tip Kamarei and Mayotte gave was to ask for different types of increases if your salary can’t be raised: two examples were a one-time payment for re-location or a laptop. Finally, Allison Perry’s suggestion that applicants who decline health insurance coverage from a tentative employer – due to being covered under a spouse’s policy – negotiate for a pay increase was a thought that never crossed my mind previously.

Aside from the variety of guest speakers and topics covered at the conference, getting to sit down and have one-on-one conversations with public library directors and other students interested in the same field was extremely eye-opening. As someone who only has experience with working in New York State libraries, I had little knowledge of how unique our Civil Service requirements were in comparison with other states such as Connecticut and Maine. Jenna Mayotte was quite helpful in explaining how the job application process differs when library boards are not restricted by test scores.

Even if the day’s presentations hadn’t touched upon topics relevant to my career, getting the opportunity to network with information specialists from a variety of backgrounds would have been motivation enough to attend such a conference and I would highly recommend others take the opportunity even if they are unsure about their interest in the conference’s topic.

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Mark your calendars for the Spring 2018 UNYSLA Conference: Lead From Where You Are


When: April 13th, 2018

Where: Rochester, NY


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