The power of pivoting

The Association of Independent Information Professionals 2017 conference focused on the theme of Resilience, Reinvention, Renewal: Pivoting for Success.

The AIIP (Association of Independent Information Professionals; held its annual conference in New Orleans, Louisiana 18-21 May 2017 with the theme of 'Resilience, Reinvention, Renewal: Pivoting for Success'. It was the pivoting part of the theme that got the most attention. 

Jenny Blake, the keynote speaker and author of Pivot: The Only Move That Matters Is Your Next One (Penguin Random House, 2016), reassured her audience that pivot is not a dirty word, but necessary to career growth. Job hopping shouldn't be viewed as failing: It makes you a "pivot pro." Pivoting ensures that you keep learning and growing, thus avoiding burnout. 

To map your next move, start by asking yourself about your strengths and values, where you want to end up in the next year, and what you currently enjoy most. She termed this as Stage One: Plant. The second stage is Scan. Here you ask yourself who you admire, who you can talk to and learn from, and what new skills are of interest. Stage Three: Pilot is where you test things by running small experiments to see if you enjoy a new area and can become an expert. Step Four is when you Launch your pivot. Blake doesn't see launching as a leap of faith since the methodology building up to launch reduces risk. 

The Roger Summit Lecture was given by one of Dialog's earliest employees, Anne Caputo who was hired in 1976. Her career pivots include working for an online company before anyone, including her, knew what online was, then moving to Factiva to support and celebrate information professionals, running a family business, serving as SLA president, opening a consulting business, and becoming a hospital volunteer chaplain. Through her various career changes, she learned to take calculated risks, have an exit plan, focus on what is controllable, and not to get too attached. "Assess what is really important to you", she said. "Be kind to yourself". 

AIIP members shared their own experiences in pivoting during the conference, both in formal presentations and informal conversations. For most, the first pivot was moving from salaried employment to business ownership. But once in a non-salaried position, flexibility is key to gaining and keeping clients. Challenges such as staying out of corporate politics, becoming part of a team even though you don't work for that company or department, researching a totally unknown topic, gaining the trust of clients, and finding the value in your products and services are not unique to AIIP members. All information professionals face similar challenges. Reference librarians move to scholarly publishing positions. Catalogers become taxonomy builders. News librarians take positions with medical institutions. Researchers discover they like writing. Some leave traditional library and information settings for new careers. 

Resilience, reinvention and renewal should resonate with all information professionals, regardless of their titles and their job descriptions. Labels, particularly when applied to what you do for a living, came in for some scrutiny at the AIIP conference. Saying that you "do research" doesn't have the same power as "perform due diligence" or "conduct strategic analysis". Or perhaps you engage in "research-driven writing" or "content management"? Would renaming your job or your activities create an intriguing pivot point for you? If not that, then what would you choose to keep learning and growing? Using the power of pivoting will lead to career growth and job satisfaction.

Note: AIIP is a supporter of Internet Librarian International and Taxonomy Boot Camp London.

Marydee Ojala ( is the editor-in-chief of Online Searcher and co-chair of the Internet Librarian International conference.