Very few of us keep the same position for our entire careers. Often the best time to think about the next thing is when you still enjoy many aspects of your current work–and, ideally, before you become too frustrated or jaded.

For those of us who work with teens, it can be hard to think about a promotion, because often that promotion means we won’t work directly with young people anymore. Even when we move into new roles, however, we can continue to advocate for teen services – and in many ways may be more effective in our new role than we were in our previous role. Advocacy is telling the story about how our library serves teens — and how we can do it better, and asking for the resources, partnerships and support young people need from libraries and the community. The ways we do that are different depending on our role in the library, but we need teen services supporters at every level.

YALSA’s Advocacy Toolkit, is a resource for both managers and front line staff and The Future of Library Services For and with Teens report also highlights many next steps for supervisors and leaders as well as teen services librarians, underscoring the important role we all have in supporting the future of library service to teens.

When starting to think about “what’s next?” it can be challenging to identify exactly what we’re not satisfied about in our current work and to identify the next best step. When thinking about a possible promotion, some of the questions to ask ourselves include:

• Am I still challenged by aspects of my work or have I mastered many parts of it?
• What kind of decisions are being made at levels above me? What interest do I have in being involved in those decisions? • What would I add?
• What kind of skills are needed to succeed at that level? Do I have them already? If not, how could I get them?
• What dilemmas or challenges do I want to tackle in the next few years? From where can I best tackle them?
• How do I feel about supervising or directing the work of other staff? While it’s possible to promote without supervising staff, it’s hard to get more influence and authority without supervising.
• Where do I find joy and energy in my current role? How might I find different sources of joy and energy in a new role?

If deciding to promote, or even if just considering it, a few ideas:

• Look for a mentor you can trust. Ask him or her about your promotion potential — do I have the right experience? If not, how can I get it?
• If I have the right experience, how can I make sure others see it? Ask supervisors you trust if they’d be willing to do a mock interview. Have them provide feedback about your interview and ask, “What do I need to strengthen?” and “How can I show yourself in the best possible light?”
• Network and stay visible. Promotions are based on merit, but also on who you know. Does management or leadership in your library know who I am? Does my supervisor or others know I’m interested in new opportunities?
• Don’t give up. A colleague of mine has gotten every job she ever interviewed for. Most of us aren’t that lucky. Keep trying.

After you get your promotion, continue your YALSA membership — in order to change library services to teens for the better, we need teen advocates in all positions. While we may not be working directly with teens anymore, we can continue our support for them in different ways. And consider mentoring and advising someone in a similar position to where you began your career.

Leaving our current work behind is scary; but we’ll never know about all the exciting new work that awaits us until we try!

About Maureen Hartman

I am the Division Manager for Strategic Services at the Hennepin County Library in Minnesota and a former Board member for YALSA.

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