how do I weigh the risks of staying where I am vs. changing fields?

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:

I am an elder millennial who graduated college on the verge of the 2008 Great Recession. I entered grad school on the promise that everyone in my industry (libraries) was going to retire soon and there were going to be so many jobs … unfortunately that became not the case. I then spent the better part of a decade fighting tooth and nail to get a full-time job in my industry. I finally got what I thought was my dream job (now I am learning, no such thing, right?) … yay!

Then along came a baby. Then Covid. Then another baby. It was a really really rough winter with daycare sickness policies, like many of your readers with young kids experienced, and I received no support and some hostility from my boss and some colleagues. Now I’m looking at my “dream job” with fresh eyes, and the relatively low pay, long commute, inflexible work environment and lack of growth potential are making me want to look elsewhere. My industry has permanently shrunk and there are not many (full-time, well-paid) library jobs in my area (and very few remote), let alone in my specific niche (corporate/medical, with a focus on procurement).

I am interested in exploring other fields (especially ones that are hopefully more stable and relatively recession-proof, as I constantly fear losing my job after so many years in an industry which constantly needs to defend itself). However, I’m so afraid that I’ll make an industry change and regret it. That I’ll leave libraries, realize what a good thing I had, and won’t be able to get another job like the one I have now. That there are negatives to every job and I’m being a semi-bored millennial job-hopper and I need to just be okay with settling down in a good-enough job.

Because the thing is, there are some things I do love about my current job, including specific tasks that I do, good benefits, very low stress, and the ability to leave my work at work (very important with two young kids and a spouse with a more demanding job). I’m also afraid of getting a new job with a potential recession looming and possibly being the first to be laid off (more Great Recession trauma rearing its head?).

I’m sorry for the ramble, I guess my question is … how do I know when it’s time to move on, when you’ve invested so much to get where you are now? How do you weigh the risks and the fear of the unknown against concrete positives and negatives?

Readers, what’s your advice?

Read an update to this letter

{ 336 comments… read them below }

  1. Viki*

    Money, honestly. Museums and academia have my heart.

    But the life I wanted to lead, buy a house, stable hours, not grant based caused me to really evaluate my job and where I wanted to be.

    Do I still feel sad that I’m not the academic I worked so hard to be? Sometimes, but when my colleagues are talking about trying to write a grant to get funding for their contract to be extended–and I think of my stable paycheque and that their highest salary is lower than entry level in my field. I feel happy with the decision that I made to ensure my best life.

    1. Cmdrshpard*

      Just to add a job(s) in case you have not thought of it already, mid to large law firms and other for profit corporations often have then own internal libraries. The hours and pay are likely better. The number of positions may not be a ton either, but something worth considering.

      1. Phil*

        I had a girlfriend who was a law librarian. The books are going away and the job now is really a research assistant with legal knowledge.

      2. Frinkfrink*

        You have to have specialized knowledge to work in legal, business and medical libraries, alas.

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              None of our law librarians have a JD. The research services (Westlaw and LexisNexis, primarily) have armies of staff attorneys to provide support on those resources, and we pay through the nose for access so we might as well use the support. The MLIS is going to be required on strongly preferred.

              Our librarians are masters of curating and procuring content for attorneys – knowing what to get where, how to deliver it timely but not invasively, and where to find the bizarre things that are sometimes needed. They work on client projects, business development efforts/proposals, competitive intelligence for us and clients, specialized subscription management, and legislative/corporate entity tracking. The law librarians in DC – firm, government, and academic – have an incredible network and can find you pretty much anything.

              We also no longer have a physical library – their jobs are 100% digital.

            2. acl*

              I’ve been working in law firms since 1997, and as far as I know, none of the law librarians had a JD. I confess I have no idea what they’re paid.

              It seems worthwhile to me for the OP to at least explore if working as a legal librarian makes sense for them.

          1. Librarian of SHIELD*

            The specialized knowledge of a librarian is different from specialized knowledge in fields like law or medicine. I know several librarians trying to make similar shifts right now and it’s rough going because they aren’t as familiar with legal or medical terminology and the research functions associated with it.

            1. Relentlessly Socratic*

              This is so true. In the interest of full disclosure, I am the daughter of a woman who earned her MLS in her late 40s, started out as a branch librarian driving the bookmobile and ultimately made her way to the head of a small medical library. I know that people can learn and grow into a position if they have a good MLS or MLIS background. When I looked for medical librarians to hire at OldJob, I did look carefully at applicants with reference librarian backgrounds and a few others who were coming from different areas outside health science. If the pace at OldJob hadn’t been punishingly fast, I would have been happy to take a risk on someone with less medical knowledge if I had the time to work with them. But I didn’t and it wouldn’t have been fair to drop someone in an environment knowing that.

        1. Megs*

          As a current law librarian working for a law firm you do not need to have specialized knowledge. I’ve also worked in a medical library previously at a hospital. The only law librarian job postings that usually require specialized knowledge are academic ones in my experience.

        2. Kittengirly73*

          Not necessarily. When I worked for a large health system, one of the hospitals hired a librarian whose focus was archives, not medical libraries, to be their librarian. It’s all about how you present yourself.

      3. L.H. Puttgrass*

        What Phil and Frinkfrink said. There aren’t as many law firm librarians as you may think anymore, partly because there aren’t as many physical law libraries. My experience is that a lot of places just rely on their local Westlaw or Lexis reps. The few in-house law librarians who remain are specialists (who usually have both a JD and MLIS) in how to do legal research, which is mostly online. It’s not a viable career move for most non-lawyer librarians.

      4. NotHappening*

        this is definitely a vanishing area. They’re putting all the resources online and assuming that people are competent to use them without assistance. (they aren’t, but nobody thinks librarians are important.)

        1. Relentlessly Socratic*

          I sure think they’re important! I can do some of the things that I need a librarian for, but certainly not all of them. And, it wasn’t a good use of my time to try to hamfist my way around someone else’s highly specialize area. And I could not find a qualified medical librarian who wanted to work for my company for…a long time. We did find someone eventually, but it was a challenge.

          It’s true that specialized training in an area is needed for these types of jobs, but they’re out there.

      5. EmmaPoet*

        I know a librarian who worked for several big law firms over a number of years. In her time, the firms in question all decided at one point to eliminate their law library and her job because “it’s all online!” Spoiler alert: it wasn’t all online and each firm had to rebuild their collection and hire a new librarian. She got worn out with musical buildings and shifted to a new job outside of library work.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          When I worked firm-side, there would have been a riot at the thought of getting rid of the law librarians. The problem with “it’s all online!” is that no one knows which online resource they need, if we have a subscription to it, who’s responsible for that, or how to get the niche stuff from the 1970s that is not online. Ours also did a very good job marketing themselves and collaborating on projects with decision-makers to stay visible.

          I do know a number of law librarians who transitioned into knowledge management roles, too.

          1. Kittengirly73*

            I worked in a hospital that closed it’s library bcs “it’s all online” but what they failed to realize was even if it was online, it wasn’t free. I had borrowing and lending agreements set up that didn’t charge the departments, or if it did, it was $10 or $11, not $45-75 the publishers charge for an article.

      6. Anon for this one*

        Thirding, fourthing, fifthing, etc., the suggestion of law firm libraries. I know many firms including my old firm are or were recently hiring for remote positions. Job postings ask for JDs, but these are absolutely not a requirement. Every database to which the firm subscribes will have tutorials, webinars, and close to 24/7 helpdesk support; learning on the job is normal and expected as new legal issues and databases are popping up all the time.

        Law firm libraries *can* be pressure cookers, but I think there is a lot of regional variation. I worked for a Midwest office of a big firm and it was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had with reasonable hours and extremely supportive managers, but I know my colleagues on the coasts were overworked and surrounded by bees.

        (Caveat: I no longer work at that firm, but I’m still in corporate libraries and would happily go back to law librarian-ing if the need arose.)

    2. Constance Lloyd*

      I am also not working in my passion field, and I made that decision largely on what I wanted my life to look like outside of work. I knew that even my “dream” job would have its fair share of frustrations, and that work stress would be easier for me to handle if my real life was financially stable and had clear boundaries.

    3. Enough*

      Constant grant writing to insure funds is why my dentist quit academia and went to dental school.

    4. Rain's Small Hands*

      Thirty years ago I scrapped the idea of a dream in media production and entered IT. And it was great. I had a good career with people I liked. I had regular hours. And it PAID WELL. Well enough that frugality (and an employed husband in IT) enabled me to semi retire in my 40s and put two kids through college. Now I travel the world and run a small business part time.

      At the time, a lot of my friends criticized me and other friends who took the same corporate path as “sellouts.” And now, it seems they have completely forgotten the compromises we made while they wonder how we can afford to travel and pay for college.

    5. Curmudgeon in California*

      My former environmental company had its own small library and librarian. She was the person who kept track of all the federal RFCs, RFQs, CFR updates, etc. As things went online she was the one to track them down and make sure we had up to date copies available.

      Any company that has regulatory compliance issues or bids on federally regulated work needs people in this area, whether they know it or not. Digital libraries are still libraries.

      Law and medicine are two such areas. But also food packaging (FDA), pharmaceuticals (FDA, again), environmental (EPA, State EPA), and even big construction or large equipment designers/manufacturers may have the need for information management.

      Any field that requires references that end up changing frequently probably needs a person to stay on top of the information sources. They may not call it a librarian, but those are the skills needed.

    6. Ozzac*

      I have studied in the same field and I never worked a (paid) day there.
      Awful contracts, awful pay. I was looking to work a full time job for less money than a part time cashier, with basically non chance of better money till retirement.
      If I was from a rich family that wouldn’t be a problem, but since I need money to pay the bills…

  2. Two Chairs, One to Go*

    First you need to figure out what fields you are interested in. Once you’re going TO something vs. away from something, there are a lot more positives.

    I’ll also add: exploring other fields does not mean you’ll leave your job. You can look around, take classes, talk to people, etc and decide you want to stay.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      This. Seriously looking at other fields can make the things that are good about your own situation pop into sharp clarity. (Or the opposite, of course.)

    2. The Real Fran Fine*

      This, especially the first paragraph. Without knowing exactly what about library work the OP loved, we can’t determine what transferable skills she may have or what industries or job functions would be a match for said skills.

      OP should also sit and write down the list of things she absolutely does NOT want to do, ever, and the tasks she’d ideally like to do. That will help clarify which direction she should go next.

      1. ICodeForFood*

        Also, it would be good to put together a list of the tasks that you DO love, OP, and see if there is a common thread in them that would lead you in the direction of other fields to explore.
        The other thing is that you may NEVER know what you’d really love doing. I’m remembering a work acquaintance who was in his early 70s (and still working full time) when I met him, and he was VERY good at his job… and he told me he still didn’t know what he wanted to to do when he ‘grew up’. Many of us fumble through life like that, and get our satisfaction from what we do outside the job…

      2. Not playing your game anymore*

        A mentor once told me that all the jobs she’d held as a young person were valuable in that they helped her know what she didn’t want to do…

        LW has my sympathy. I’m also a librarian, but I’ve been in the field for much longer. I’ve loved most of the work and it’s really all I’ve ever done. Well that and child care, but sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference, even in our academic library. I worked in my grade school library as an 11-year-old and just kept working in libraries. I have no idea what else I might want to do. This is worrisome as I’ve reached the point where every morning I wake up and wonder if today is the day I start arranging books in an I quit sign (ala the fish case “I quit”) I’ve got the time in, I could just retire, but I still enjoy many aspects of my work, and there are a lot of things I meant to get done but the field has changed and everything is just …

        1. The Real Fran Fine*

          Oh no! I hope you, like the OP, can find something else you love to do (and that pays you well).

      3. Librarian OP*

        Thanks Fran and others who commented similarly. I do think some introspection is needed in terms of where I could go with my current skill set, strengths, and interests, and it is interesting to make sure to think of what I DON’T want to do.

        1. Career Coach Dawn*

          I am a career coach, and I tell my clients to make a decision matrix. “No matter what the job title is, these are the things I want in my next job” Include skills you enjoy using, environment you want to be in, salary, things you don’t want, etc. Then compare job descriptions to your list. This helps shift the focus from “do I have what they are looking for” to “does this position have what I am looking for”. You will start to see trends of job titles/industries that are a good match.
          No job will have everything you want, so you need to somewhat rank order your list, to see your definite ‘must haves’.
          Then if you land on something that interests you, you can see if there are gaps in your skills/qualifications you can work on, if needed

    3. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      This is what I was going say. Don’t leave just to leave and then figure it out. I’m an elder millennial too who left accounting type work and transitioned to a BA role. It took a few jobs to get there, but once I figured out what kind of jobs I’d like, it was easier to start working towards that.

      1. Moo*

        Yeah – you can even look at your current job and try and figure out the bits that you love – like is it helping people, information synthesis etc etc – what is it that you like, and what things of a similar nature might you find in other roles.

        Honestly “giving up” on your passion profession can be very freeing – and who knows it also might lead you back to your passion profession

        Weirdly I gave up on a route because the options narrowed to zero and my mountain of debt and financial instability were untenable…. I found another route, at first by necessity, and then a little bit of luck, and then by design… and somehow ended up (for a time) back in my passion profession from a different route I never knew was possible, but I certainly wouldn’t have found if I had stayed. I’m off again on my career travels, because I want to be and I am not afraid of it.

        Don’t stay in a job you love that doesn’t “love” you back… and by “love” I mean “appropriate pay and conditions”. Open up your options and take back your power! And while all workplaces have their quirks there is definitely better and worse ones!

        1. Librarian OP*

          Thank you Moo, I love this :) It helps to hear that paths can be winding, but just having options can be important.

        2. The Real Fran Fine*

          Moo, your path sounds similar to mine (giving up the “dream,” pivoting to multiple something else’s, only to end up back in the “dream,” lol) and it’s something I tell people all the time. Life isn’t linear and you never know where you’ll end up so it’s important to stay flexible and always stay open to learning new things.

        3. Quinalla*

          I agree that choosing to not work on something you love can be very freeing. I love literature/reading and was asked many times by literature professors in college why I was majoring in engineering when I clearly had a passion for literature. I told them 1. I was pursuing a career I had a good chance of getting a job and making decent $$ that I had passion for (I love math & physics) and 2. I knew I would not be able to deal with the particular brand of annoyances that I would likely have in a job resulting from literature/reading and it would make me hate something I loved. I don’t know for sure that it is true since I did not pursue a career that way. I do know that I still LOVE reading and have channeled that love not just in my personal life but also in my engineering career as most engineers don’t like reading that much and hate writing and since I enjoy both and am decent at them, I look like a rockstar compared to most other engineers :)

          For the OP, I highly encourage you to look at what you love, like, dislike and hate about your current job and figure out how you can get more at your current job of what you love/like, less of what you dislike/hate and also what jobs might be a better fit in general. Sometimes a little restructuring at your current job may be all that you need, sometimes looking for a new job same field and yeah sometimes you might look to a new field. I haven’t done the last one yet, but I’ve seriously considered it. My perspective on it is any change does not have to be permanent. If you move away and it sucks, you can move back or move in a different direction.

          Good luck, my first job I worked at for 13 years, I had 3 different times I considered leaving, life got in the way the first 2, but I did do it the 3rd time. It can take a bit sometimes for sure!

          1. Adultiest Adult*

            Oh, this is bringing back memories, although your answer sounds more on-point than mine was. I applied to graduate school in counseling, and one of my mentors and references apparently wrote what he told me often: “You should be an English major!” While I appreciated his enthusiasm, and I do in fact love English and literature, I chose to make my career in something I knew I could do every day that I also had solid strengths in. Fifteen years later, I’m quite happy, and it turns out that being good with words has brought me many opportunities to make a good impression on the higher-ups at the same time. I co-sign that part of your advice in particular–think about what you like to do enough that you could imagine doing in some form for many years, and that helps you know where to focus your job-search.

    4. old curmudgeon*

      And to spin off that concept, you may find that it’s a really worthwhile investment to go through a full battery of aptitude testing. That’s what my spouse did when he wanted to get out of teaching but had no idea what else to do, and it gave him some really great insights.

      The company that he used has been doing aptitude testing for close to a century at this point, meaning that they have data about literally millions of test subjects. What they focus on is what aptitudes seem to align with which careers, resulting in someone who finds their work satisfying and productive.

      For example, my spouse learned that he was in the bottom 5% for graphoria of all the test subjects they had ever worked with. Graphoria is clerical speed and accuracy. This explains why he absolutely HATED doing grading and keeping the grade book updated, and why he was really awful at it. The guy he was working with looked at that score and said “you’ve survived as a teacher for TEN YEARS?? Wow, you are persistent!”

      It’s not a cheap process, and certainly it’s not for everyone, but if you are looking to completely leave your current profession and you’re just not sure where to look next, that can be a worthwhile investment. Good luck to you!

      1. osmoglossum*

        I heartily second aptitude testing — the Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation has centers in large metropolitan areas around the country. Good luck, OP!

        1. old curmudgeon*

          That’s the one my spouse went to – they’re excellent.

          The part he found most helpful was the meeting with the J-O’C representative at the very end of the process, where they went over the types of professions that his aptitudes suggested, and most importantly, WHY those professions aligned with his aptitudes. His testing was several decades ago, and there are absolutely common current professions that literally did not exist at that point, so he found it really useful to have that guidance in connecting the dots between his aptitudes and career types that play well to them.

          1. Derivative Poster*

            You can schedule follow-ups also. About five years after I was tested, I decided to go back to school. I made an appointment with JOCRF to discuss a few potential courses of study in light of my test results.

      2. Saw a career shrink*

        You can also find a career psychologist who specializes in this. Unfortunately, these tests aren’t covered by insurance or HSA so you’ll be shelling out a few hundred out of pocket.
        When I did it I got a print out with various tables of skill sets and where I rated plus a list of potential careers, plus some more info on ones that would most likely fit based on my larger life and career goals. However, and this is a big caveat, the list I got covered jobs that required little to no education besides a high school diploma all the way up to doctoral level careers. It did feel a bit like a big grab bag. I might be a good evolutionary biologist or a good medical secretary. If you’re very open that might be great but I left kind of feeling like it wasn’t super helpful. Granted, I was making a painful decision about my future and wasn’t exactly in the ideal mindset about other opportunities (I also don’t think the psychologist I saw was the best match for me so that’s probably a factor in my case).

    5. Sparkles McFadden*

      Looking around doesn’t mean committing to a change. It’s just research to find out what’s out there. Sometimes you decide to stay put but you feel better about it. If you choose to change, you won’t be banned from your prior field for having the audacity to explore something else.

      You probably won’t be able to return to your former position but that’s no different than if you were laid off or you wanted a new job in the same field. Experience elsewhere might even make you a stronger candidate in your original field.

    6. Another former librarian*

      I agree – reflection usually helps inform action. The first step is to find out what aspects of library work you like (and dislike) the most (beyond what you mentioned — good benefits, low stress, ability to leave work at work, which you can get elsewhere — specific functions like research, organizing/cataloging, data, customer service, storytelling, marketing, events, etc.), and then identify some fields that would allow you to do the ‘like’ things more. For example, if you like the research aspects and are more business-oriented, a field like competitive intelligence might be a good fit — so then you could look at a place like Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals (SCIP) for the types of jobs that are out there, training opportunities, etc. Good luck!

      1. Another former librarian*

        And one more thought, if you like the purchasing aspect of your job, you could lean more into that too — an association like the American Purchasing Society (if you’re in the US) has resources like job boards, training/certification, etc.

    7. FormerHSTeacher*

      There are so many great comments on where and how to take the next step if you choose to transition out of your current job. I can really only answer the “how do I know” part. I invested 6 years and thousands in loans to get my teaching degree, 13 years in teaching, getting tenure, no Social Security due to the State Teacher Retirement Plan. But when I started dreading going into work, getting physically sick, hating my job…that I really loved, that was my “how do I know” moment. I had so much that said staying was the logical thing to do, but my mental health said nope you gotta go. So I started looking at what my skills could transfer to. I’m not a public school teacher, but I’m still working as an educator for a medical software company. I’m loving every minute of it because I can still do what I love, have amazing coworkers and a manager that treats me with respect, and I get to work from home. The risk was high, but the reward was that much sweeter.

  3. Melanie Cavill*

    That I’ll leave libraries, realize what a good thing I had, and won’t be able to get another job like the one I have now.

    Do you… even like the job you have now? Maybe a pro/con list for staying in your current position. Having the data laid in front of you in easily readable bullet points may help you answer that question once and for all.

      1. Hannah Lee*

        Yes, and when coming up for the criteria you’re scoring, consider what you’d want to keep, what you’re missing, what you’re trying to get away from. Plus consider both inside the boundaries of your work-life AND your non-work life … but keep those criteria separate, at least at first. The reason for that last bit is that if you can hone in on the qualities you WANT in the work you do, and your work environment you might be able to ID opportunities to work towards that while setting boundaries, changing things up so that it fits in with what you need/want the rest of your life to look like.
        Commute time/location are examples, but it may be different work schedules, in person/WFH balance, degree of client driven vs project driven, specialization vs generalization or doing your preferred tasks but in a novel industry.

      1. Claire W*

        I get what you mean and I agree in general, but I think in the OP’s case that that is part of the issue – it really really is THAT hard to get permanent stable jobs in libraries at the minute in a lot of places, so giving that up really might mean you don’t get a chance to get back in…

        1. Not playing your game anymore*

          Agreed. A friend of mine left a director’s job because she hated the admin side of things and has never really gotten back to librarian status. She’s working in a support role for really poor money…

        2. Also left academics*

          Right. This is the same in academics, and is (understandably) not intuitive to those outside the field. Trust us: the door slams behind you. Even a year of doing anything else, and typically you cannot go back.

          1. Esmeralda*

            Right. Everyone says to me: why don’t you go back to being a professor in X? Well, X is not one of those fields where colleges and universities are desperate to hire. It hasn’t been a growth field since the 1960s. I haven’t been researching or publishing or teaching in the field in a couple of decades. Hell, I haven’t even been READING in the field in years.

            Could I still be an excellent classroom teacher in X? Yes indeed. Do I want to be an adjunct, get paid crap wages (not a salary), lose my very nice benefits? I most certainly do not.

            It’s a real regret that I was not able to pursue a faculty career, and I will not ever be able to move over. I suppose when I retire I can afford to teach some classes at that crap wage. But of course at that point I’ll want to be *retired*.

          2. AGD*

            Academic here, and yes. I know one person who came back after a year in industry, and one person who came back after a year of unemployment – but they are very much the exceptions! It’s so competitive that these are usually liabilities, unfortunately, even though I think the reasons are illusory (and discriminatory).

        3. Pop*

          This is the same case in my SIL’s field – she is a pediatrician with a speciality, and within that speciality works with a certain caseload/kind of work. There are literally only a few positions at one hospital in our medium-sized city that are tailored to this. She COULD work outside of her niche, as she has the skills to be a pediatrician more broadly, or even just within her specialty and not the certain caseload/work, but she wouldn’t be able to get “back in” if she took a break, just because there are so few positions available.

        4. Anon for this*

          Yes, this.
          I work in archives, not libraries, but some of the same things apply. I have had this same thought process when stuck in a non-promoted role with little growth potential three years ago – but I enjoyed the actual work, which was low stress, though it was poorly paid and the commute was terrible. I too had stalled somewhat while having babies. It’s a real problem. I am also pretty sure I experienced discrimination from employers during potential childbearing years, but that’s not what this question was about.

          Just at the start of the pandemic, I managed to get a more senior role as a lone archivist in a larger org, and had the same thoughts about regretting leaving a familiar milieu. But I’m glad I did. It’s been a tough couple of years learning to run the whole archives and RM functions on my own, but what I do is appreciated and I’ve just been promoted.

          This is both an argument for applying for things that are a stretch and for deciding that you love a field enough to stick with it, I guess! I don’t regret hanging on now. But it’s not easy to dig up jobs to apply for in these fields, and I think you have to come to terms with that or decide that you do want to move to something with more availability, alas.

  4. Justin*

    You might as well explore/apply places where your skills can be applied. Frankly the only real way to know how it is to work at something else is to actually do it, but the interview process might give you enough valuable insight. Good luck.

    1. ferrina*

      Yes! You never know until you make the switch, and there is no way to 100% guarantee a certain outcome. But trust yourself during the interview process. You have a lot more power than you realize. You can walk away from any interview for any reason. Something feels off but you can’t quite put your finger on it? Walk away.

      You deserve somewhere you enjoy, are respected and get the pay you deserve (and hopefully a shorter commute!). Those places are out there. They can take a while to find, but they are worth it!

        1. Esmeralda*

          I work in an academic-adjacent field at a large R1 public university. I have lots of librarian friends and spouses of friends.

          Anecdotally, our very good library is suffering from the loss of many professionals. They have skills that translate well, and they have been able to move into the private sector, where they are certainly better paid.

          I can’t comment intelligently on what kinds of jobs would be a good fit for you, just on the trend. Can you find librarian friends or colleagues who’ve moved out of libraries and talk with them about transferable skills, pertinent experience, industries and/or types of jobs to consider?

      1. JR*

        This. Just because you explore and apply for other jobs doesn’t mean you have to take them. It’s so hard to compare the real pros and cons of your current job to the abstract wonders and horrors of an imaginary job. So much easier to compare them once you have a real-life alternative.

    2. Luna Lovegood*

      I completely agree! I left my job as an academic librarian last year and I absolutely love my new job (which happens to pay much better as well). I was really nervous to take a job outside the field for the same reasons. I ended up keeping an eye out for jobs that could be a good fit, and I applied for my current job with the knowledge that I didn’t have to take it if it didn’t feel right. The interview process reassured me that I would enjoy doing this kind of work and helped me gather the confidence to take the leap. It’s much easier to choose between two concrete jobs than to commit to the hypothetical risk of leaving your field. Good luck!

  5. WallyLobster*

    I had a very similar situation, and the thing for me ended up being that you know how you feel now about your field, and how you’re likely to feel about it moving forward, and is that level of feeling a deal-breaker? What do you need from your job, and can you get it in the field where you are? (for me, that turned out to be no, I couldn’t.)

    The other big thing I’d say is that looking for a job in a different field isn’t cheating on your current one. Look around, send out applications, interview. Maybe something will light your fire, and maybe what’s out there will tell you that you actually have it comparatively pretty good right now, but you can’t decide that by imagining. Get out there and see what it’s like.

    1. Ama*

      I find a question Captain Awkward uses in assessing personal relationships to be a good one for figuring out if it’s time for me to move on from a job — basically “if nothing changes in one year/five years/ten years, will I still be okay with that?”

      I’ve been pretty happy in my current career track for a decade but I’m realizing I no longer see it as the field where I want to work until I retire, in large part because I realized the things that aggravate me the most at this job aren’t “dysfunctional employer” type of issues, they are inherent to the structure of this job/sector — I either have to live with it or get out of the sector entirely.

      I’m currently taking some training classes in a type of work I’ve been interested in for a long time and I’m going to see if I can dip my toe in that work as a freelancer while still employed full-time (the new work is primarily one done by freelancers, some of whom keep it as a side gig and some of whom eventually move to full time freelancing). Maybe just having a more creative side gig will relieve my itch to move on, maybe I’ll realize I can take it full time, maybe I’ll realize I don’t actually like the work when it’s a job and not a hobby. But testing the waters is making me feel less stuck in my current job.

      1. Leilah*

        Personally, I would always answer “no” to that question no matter what I was doing! I hate staying in one place or doing one thing for very long.

      2. Hannah Lee*

        I was thinking of that Captain Awkward line of questioning too!

        It also helps shine a spotlight on the “after xyz, things will settle down, so I just have to make it ’til then” mindset that can leave people stuck in an unsustainable rut way longer than they planned to.

        If you establish a yardstick of “I’m willing to deal with things staying the same for 6 months because of reasons, but if nothing changes, I’m moving Plan B” then when you get through the current waves of – workload, stress, deadlines, change, chaos, organizational dysfunction, raise/promotion delays, whatever- if 6 months later new waves are coming in, you’ll have an awareness that that’s ‘normal’ for that situation and if you don’t want to live through another 6 months and then another, it’s time to make a change.

        Or, as you said, you realize that what’s working right now won’t fit the next phase of life you’re hoping for, so you can start to plan what comes next and take steps to make that happen.

      3. Relentlessly Socratic*

        Yes! The Sheelzibub Principle (spelling??)
        I use this all the time with myself and with people questioning where they are. It makes things very clear on the decision path and what timeline you need to put yourself on.

      4. Librarian OP*

        I really like this question – my gut is saying no, I will not be okay with it, which feels telling, but like you say I want to think more about the organization vs the industry when it comes to holding on.

  6. ThatGirl*

    Me, I love a good list. If I were you, I’d take that list of things you love/like/appreciate about your current job and field, and start there. Look around — there is no harm in looking at job ads, looking at other fields, seeing what you might be qualified and interested in.

    And if you do apply or interview, look at that list again — does it offer all of those things? If not, is there anything that makes up for it? How big of a raise would you need to improve your quality of life or standard of living?

    Also – as someone roughly the same age as you, though no kids – the time you’ve invested, the skills you’ve learned? Those aren’t for nothing. You take those with you to a new job and a new field, they’re part of your life and experience and the things you offer to a new company and position.

    1. Eater of Hotdish (fka jitm)*

      Good stuff, and your last point is totally spot on! Ever since I left academia almost 10 years ago, I’ve had this motto for myself: nothing learned is ever wasted. You may not use specific information you acquired (can’t tell you the last time I had to work out the meter of a Pindaric ode…), but the ways you’ve stretched your mind and learned to process stuff? Those will go with you.

  7. DrSalty*

    I mean, no one can predict the future, but my read of your letter is that you haven’t even started doing any concrete research yet on other fields or positions. Is that right? It can never hurt to start investigating your options from a place of safety (ie, already employed in a good enough job). Just start doing research and see what’s out there. You can always decide you’re happy with what you have now. You can decide to stay where you are even up to interviewing and receiving an offer. You’re just gathering information now, not setting yourself down a path you can never come back from. You always have a choice at any point.

    Good luck!!

  8. brandine*

    Fellow librarian here, and you do not need to feel stuck. I may be biased but I think library skills are some of the most transferable ones out there. I work in media, never wanted to work in a traditional library unlike most of the people I went through the master’s program with. Now I am constantly being asked to participate in panels talking about alternative positions and fields for librarians. I’m trying to find someone for my team right now, and media experience is so much less important to me than the critical thinking that I know a trained librarian will bring to the table.

    1. Lch*

      It’s really hard to figure what jobs these are and then try to sell yourself to them. I have tried. I’ve tried identifying positions that I think would work as crossover. Total crickets.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        This will vary a ton by where you live and what industries you’re looking at. I’d encourage OP to not only look for open positions but network as much as possible – get informational interviews if you can, see what the real world looks like in your area.

      2. brandine*

        That’s fair! A good place to look is at library-centric job posting sites, since someone posting there is looking for librarians specifically. An example is – that’s specific to the NYC metro area but there may be similar ones in other regions. There’s also INALJ, or library associations like the SLA.

      3. Recent Library Leaver*

        It takes a lot of perseverance and patience, took me over a year and a lot of crickets along the way. Networking is huge, and I also had someone outside of libraries review and practically rewrite my resume (SO much of what was on there meant nothing to people outside of libraries). There are a lot of blogs and articles out there suggesting what types of job titles to search for. Also, I started doing some work toward a certification once I identified the field I was targeting, so I could say that I was already working toward the transition.

        1. Lch*

          Can you suggest any? I swear I’ve looked and as a research professional, it’s sort of odd I can’t track them down. I have looked into taxonomy jobs but they are require prior taxonomy work which I don’t know if I can really claim as a processing archivist. I also saw someone talk about how they transitioned to UX but without any hard explanation on how.

          1. Yet Another Unemployed Librarian*

            I’ve also had trouble with finding those training resources. I took a short online class, which was well done and interesting, but anything more in-depth is… where?

          2. Elizabeth*

            I easily transferred from being a processing archivist to be a prospect research analyst. It helped that the head of the department had his mls

        2. Librarian OP*

          I love this idea of having someone outside libraries review my resume. So much library-specific jargon I’m probably not aware of.

          1. Dr. Anonymous*

            Also be aware that the amount of committee work many librarians do screams “LEADER! THIS IS A LEADER!” to people outside of libraries and academia.

      4. brandine*

        I would suggest looking at job boards for library organizations like SLA or library job boards like or INALJ. There may not be so many non-library postings overall, but you are guaranteed to be looking at posts from organizations or managers who particularly value librarians.

      5. Hlao-roo*

        Where to go after leaving the library field has come up a few times on recent Friday open threads. I was able to track down a few examples people shared of jobs that former librarians moved into and jobs/fields that they (current librarians) were applying to:

        – high level administrative person for the State Troopers
        – sales rep for Ebscoe
        – very complicated data entry type role for a company that makes medical devices like gloves
        – data governance
        – quality control
        – document management

        I’ll put links in a follow-up comment so you can go to the relevant threads for more information/context.

    2. irritable vowel*

      They are definitely transferrable, but so many people look at a resume full of library work and only see “library,” not the skills. I learned that the hard way. Being able to present these skills in your cover letter and interview is crucial! I burned out on library work a few years ago and after many many applications and interviews, ended up landing a job I love in university IT procurement and project management because my knowledge of higher ed, customer service skills, and information organization finally came through in my application as transferrable skills.

      1. Librarian OP*

        Fascinating! I’m looking at IT procurement, as one of the duties I love it my acquisitions work.

        1. No Longer Looking*

          If you do decide to try to change careers, consider rebuilding your resume into a Skills-Based resume. Not everyone is a fan of them, but I feel like they provide a leg up to help hiring managers understand what you bring to the table, so they don’t glance and say “librarian, librarian, why is this person applying to my QC position?” Anyone who is opposed to a bit of resume flexibility is probably going to be predisposed against career-jumpers anyway, so in my opinion you risk little by going that direction.

  9. urguncle*

    Data science is a growing field that loves librarians. You typically know how to organize large amounts of data. Another great field to get into as a librarian is technical documentation and writing.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Actually you reminded me: our firm was looking for someone to come in and handle the move of a load of archives. Not the data import stuff – we have to keep the original drawings etc – but the management of the project and the archives.

      The person we hired has an extensive library background. Far better at dealing with engineering drawing management than us IT bods who don’t know what to do with it if it’s not on a disk somewhere.

      And yeah, It’s a very good paying role. So your suggestion is excellent!

    2. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      The Society for Technical Communication offers frequent webinars on various aspects of the industry that would let you get a quick idea about a field and decide whether it appeals enough to invest more time. Check out – they’re doing a career planning seminar Oct. 3-4 that might be worth taking a little time off to look into.

    3. Calyx*

      Agreed! Librarians can make fantastic data scientists. Other areas/roles to look at could include:
      Digital asset librarian, aka content curator
      Information architect
      Content operations (multiple roles)
      Content engineer (if you’re techy and can code)

      1. Lch*

        I guess I’m curious how you would get around the prior experience requirements of these positions? Like, five years in UX?

        1. FashionablyEvil*

          My experience is that those positions are so in-demand that even some basic training in the UX space will often get you in the door.

          1. aubrey*

            This is also my experience. Basic UX knowledge (and more importantly, not being afraid of learning it) is fine – you can learn more in the role. Being good at the conceptual side of managing information is much harder to teach.

            1. urguncle*

              There are short (12 week) courses that you can do through places like General Assembly that will give you the basics and help get your foot in the door. Typically those roles in a tech company, you’d get hired in as a Jr UX/UI designer, and promoted within a few years if you’re good at it.

              1. LCH*

                thanks! it’s really hard to tell online which places are legit and which will just take money and give nothing useful.

    4. FashionablyEvil*

      I was coming here to make this same point—my organization does a ton of data science work for the federal government and we are constantly hiring librarians. This is even more true now that there are additional requirements for sharing data from research conducted with federal dollars.

      We’re a federal contractor, and on the whole it’s stable, 40 hours a week, and with good benefits.

      1. Librarian OP*

        This is another direction I’m looking at! I also like that there are so many boot camps/short courses that can be taken so more easily fill in knowledge gaps. I think this path would open up the most opportunities.

        1. Relentlessly Socratic*

          Librarian OP–FashionablyEvil and I are business adjacent! I am now (and was at OldJob) at a small biz that does federal contracting. We love librarians! Just GlassDoor any place you’re interested in–I wouldn’t recommend OldJob as a great place to go as an example, but there are lots of small biz doing fed contracts. Look for companies that are designated as:
          Small woman-owned
          Small veteran-owned
          Small service-disabled veteran-owned
          Small minority-owned
          I’m sure I’m missing some.

          1. Librarian OP*

            That sounds great! What are some of the job titles I might be looking at? I’ve also never worked for a federal contractor – how do you tell which are stable/recession-proof (my other big fear!)

    5. EdgarAllanCat*

      Agree 100%; data analysis is a huge trend within library science. My tiny public library is jumping aboard; I also serve on a state wide library initiative that’s doing the same. Imho, networking is a key component.

      If you haven’t already, perhaps consider working for a library consortium or state wide organization. Libraries, rather than patrons, would be your customers.

    6. aubrey*

      Seconding as someone with an MLS who works in tech doing both data and technical documentation kind of stuff. And the pay is MUCH MUCH better.

      1. aubrey*

        Also note, there are data science adjacent roles that don’t require math and coding, or really basic level stuff that’s more to do with being able to communicate with developers than doing it yourself. The ability to conceptualize and organize huge amounts of data into something useful is extremely valuable.

        1. Librarian OP*

          I’d love to look in this direction. I’m relatively tech-y but I’m afraid that too much math and coding might make my eyes cross. I might like to try a course though to find out. What might the titles of those adjacent roles be? Like taxonomy-related?

          1. aubrey*

            The titles can vary a lot, and different companies can use the same title to mean totally different things, which unfortunately makes it hard to research. Yes, taxonomy is a good word. Metadata, maybe. Information management or information architecture. Data curation or data management or data architect. Something like product management might be good to look into. Or business analyst maybe. I’ve found “analyst” or “architect” can mean less math than “scientist” but definitely not always. Being able to communicate well with different stakeholders from business and sales to the really techy people can be a great skillset – I personally am good at translating business needs to tech requirements and tech considerations/problems back to business ones and it’s served me very well.

            I would start by looking into companies in fields that seem interesting to you that deal with a lot of data and information in general and see what kind of titles they use and what language they use to describe the roles. You can then investigate what Indeed etc says are similar jobs, and just kind of follow the thread until you find something that really seems interesting to you.

            Note that you will need to do some translating from library-speak to tech-speak! Many people in tech will have no idea what a librarian does or what we learn in our masters degrees. I leaned on the words “information” and “data” a lot haha.

            1. Librarian OP*

              This is a great plan of action, thank you so much! You’ve given me some things to think about as well, in terms of how I present my transferable skills in ways that will make sense outside of libraries.

              1. aubrey*

                Happy you found it useful :) You can also think about transferable skills in terms of transferable problems – what kind of problems could exist in tech companies that you’re good at solving in a different form? Some common possibilities – way too much data and can’t find what’s relevant, not enough data and not sure how to gather more of it, incoherent presentation of information in general, data that’s in a kind of language/format that people who need it don’t understand, underutilized data because people aren’t sure how to get real insights out of it or even what insights they should look for, siloed data that isn’t being used efficiently, data organization and processes that are too convoluted or not serving users, etc.

                Obviously job descriptions aren’t going to come out and say “we have this data problem and want someone to solve it” but you can sometimes read that between the lines and be able to position your skillset well. Data science is still a new and evolving field, and so many companies are still in the “so we have data, what now” stage.

        2. LCH*

          trying to find these as well. so many adjacent posistions want SQL or Python which i guess some tech services librarians have, but we don’t all have those skills. i got about 6 sessions into the Unix Shell course and started to just not get it.

          1. aubrey*

            Sometimes this means be really good at SQL or Python, and sometimes it means be able to understand what the person writing the code is doing well enough to communicate technical requirements and understand what’s possible and not. There are free intro courses that could take you to that level of familiarity. I replied to OP above with some ideas for job titles and such. But you definitely have to dig around because of how non-standardized the job titles are in this field, unfortunately!

    7. Azure Jane Lunatic*

      When I was working as an office manager in a tech company satellite office, the entire floor below mine was data science librarians.

    8. :3~*

      +1 to these, and I’ll add taxonomy to the list. With all the user-generated content out there, someone has to organize it all. A good e-commerce or data-driven company will have a well-paid taxonomist, and library work sets you up well for that :3

  10. The Archivist*

    Seconding the money aspect. I’m an archivist who has worked in museums (very poorly paid) and universities (better, but not great). The money will always be a challenge, but–in archives, at least–the career trajectory is also an issue that may be worth evaluating. Are you OK potentially never getting a substantial promotion? Our departments are small, and our hierarchies are opaque, when they exist at all.

    I’m finally moving into archives management, but even then I know that I may be looking to exit the field in the next 10 years if I don’t see significant career progression. I know my wages are likely to stagnate, and the already low pay will feel even lower.

    It really sucks. I don’t have a ton of advice, but a whole lot of commiseration. I will say that–like the letter writer–I found that my “dream job” is…not. It’s no better or worse than a decent office job, and it absolutely has a lot of drawbacks that those wouldn’t. I don’t love the work like I hoped I would, and the environment/benefits absolutely don’t compensate for that. I have a lot of library school friends who’ve left the field, and they’re miles happier than when they were scraping by trying to eke out a living in libraries. It’s hard not to be envious, and I feel like I’m constantly eyeing other opportunities, waiting for something better to come along.

  11. Glomarization, Esq.*

    The calculus is different and more (or less) complicated for everyone, but make sure that you consider these things that occur to me just off the top of my head:

    – The loss of any deferred compensation from this job that you will lose in retirement if you quit;
    – The hit to the Social Security payments that you’ll have in retirement after quitting this and then having to start over at an entry-level salary;
    – The opportunity cost of being unable to earn income at all for some period of time if you go back to school;
    – What your personal financial scenario looks like if you and your spouse split (or they suddenly can’t work, or they pass away), right now, 5 years down the line, 20 years from now — you have to look out for Number One; and
    – Health and disability insurance, if they’re provided through your current job.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      To push back lightly on the second point – you may not need to take an entry level job! Or you might go into a field where an entry or postentry level job pays similar or more to what you’re making now. I agree with the commenter above that librarians have a ton of transferable skills, and there are plenty of jobs that don’t need to you have field experience so much as any kind of professional experience or skill level, and they’ll teach you the specifics.

      1. Glomarization, Esq.*

        Sure thing — perhaps not completely entry-level, but think it’s still more likely that it won’t be a 100% lateral move. However I do take the point that librarians may have more flexibility than many other professionals would have to move into a different work setting, and they can probably think a little more outside the box when it comes to leaving their current digs.

        One reason I made my comment is that I’ve often seen “mid-career” and “mid-level” used in the comments here as synonyms for “middle-aged.” Just because a person is a little advanced in their years, or in their particular career, it doesn’t mean they’re advanced in the field they are trying to enter.

        1. Anon for this one ;)*

          Yes, but very good chance in leaving librarianship pay will be higher. Even entry-level if any sort of technical skill is needed.

      2. Beth*

        Seconding or thirding this. At the age of 40, I left my horribly underpaid field, went back to school, studied business and computers, and ended up in a new field. My “entry-level” job paid more than my old highest wage had been, and I went up from there.

        I will actually be able to retire! And when I do, I’ll have a 401k, a house that’s paid for, and my Social Security will be WAY more than if I had not made the jump.

        Pretty much the only skills that had been transferable from my first career were the ability to do good work on a fast schedule, cope with terrible people and giant egos, roll with the unexpected, and value myself through it all. You know what? Those are great skills to have. I bet you already have them, as well as the extra quiver of skills from being a librarian.

      3. mskyle*

        Agreed, changing careers/industries can really reset the salary ladder. When I switched from a professional-level academic librarian job to an entry-level software developer job my salary went up 25%. That was almost 10 years ago; now my salary is 3x what I was making as a librarian. I’m a pretty good software developer but I was probably a better librarian, although I was getting really burnt out.

        If you’re in an underpaid field, a lateral or even downward move can still result in a significant income bump.

        For the OP more specifically, I’d suggest doing some more research – ID’ing the fields you’re interested and getting a good sense of the longterm career trajectory, the number of job opportunities, how in-demand your skill set (or potential skill set) is.

        1. The Real Fran Fine*

          If you’re in an underpaid field, a lateral or even downward move can still result in a significant income bump.

          That’s been my experience. I got a 46% salary increase when I moved from the transit industry to tech in a lateral move.

    2. ThatGirl*

      I would not recommend the LW take a pay cut! There are plenty of transferrable fields where they would not be “entry level”. And health insurance should always be part of the financial calculus, yes.

    3. my experience*

      My personal bet is that if the LW has skills in corporate/medical and procurement that they will be snapped up by a biotech firm at a higher salary than their current. It might be a lateral move (or even step down) in terms of hierarchy but moving into the private sector often means that’s a payraise.

      Personal example: I worked in a corporate role for 2 years, then switched to a non-profit (step up title-wise, for a 40% paycut). I am now looking to switch back to corporate at the same level I left at (so technically a step down from where I am now) and it will double my current salary (and be 50% higher than the salary i left corporate at, since my additional 4 years of experience are valuable). This is all the same general field/skill but switches topic areas.

    4. AnonPi*

      Definitely take the time to look at job availability and pay range for any field you are thinking of making a move to. I have been working toward switching to project management for several years, spent time getting some experience and certified, only to find that now the market is flooded with people in the entry-early career stage and the pay scale has tanked. I’ve been trying for the last 4 years to get a PM job and haven’t had one that will pay more than I currently make, and many offer 10-20K less. In my situation I didn’t feel I could afford the paycut so I’ve stayed where I’m at and am looking at trying something else.

      This may not happen to you and will definitely depend on the job fields you consider moving into, but do be sure to research ahead of time and consider what you are willing to do pay wise to switch fields.

      1. Librarian OP*

        I’m sorry to hear you’re going through this, this is definitely important to look into. Also good to know about project management… that it one path I am considering.

        1. The Real Fran Fine*

          You would definitely have the skills for it as a librarian. It’s just not always a job you can leave at work depending on what industry you’re in, so that’s why I didn’t suggest that or proposal management (something you’d probably also be good at given your experience in procurement) upthread.

  12. Keymaster of Gozer*

    For me, moving career fields entirely was due to a lot of reasons but the fundamental thing was knowing that my mental and physical health would be worse if I stayed.

    There were a lot of ‘but I’ll have to work my way up the ranks again’ worries, and concern that I’d mess up but the health thing couldn’t be fixed whereas the other worries at least had a ‘it can be sorted later’ option.

    And thing is: I did mess up, badly, in my new career – but learning from that and keeping going, mending my faults, helped me get further in my current career than I could logically have gotten in my original one.

    (Moved from Virologist to IT analyst)

    Basically my advice usually comes down to: protect your mental health.

  13. CatCat*

    You say you constantly fear losing your job now, and you fear losing some future different job. Living in constant fear at your current job is unsustainable. I understand feeling paralyzed by this place of fear about the unknown in the future though.

    My fear is finance-based. So I’ve been working on building up a year’s worth of savings to cover only essential expenses so that I can take a leap someday and have that cushion in case it doesn’t work out. Is there some level of financial cushion that would help ameliorate your fears about moving to something new?

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      Totally agree – my mother’s fear of losing her last job paralyzed her until the employer outsourced her position and made the decision for her. It was so much more stressful to be out of a job (and paycheck) and looking than it would have been to look when she was so miserable already and saw the writing on the wall.

      It can be incredibly difficult to look while also working full time and parenting (trust me, I know!), but it may be worth it to lose the stress of constantly being in fear of being laid off or fired.

      1. Anon for this*

        This happened to both my dad and my FIL in their fifties – they had promoted posts, so were relatively expensive, and their companies both underwent mergers. They were anxious for years that they’d be laid off, but they were from the “company man, don’t jump ship without a good reason” generation. And the were both laid off. I thought now and I think then that this level of anxiety IS a good reason to be looking.

        Both did find new roles which held them till retirement – and both were much happier in the new jobs. But there was a lot of stress along the way.

    2. Fieldpoppy*

      This is where, as a coach, I would start — what is happening that is creating all of this anxiety about a possible unstable future. There is actually no certainty — the real work is to find a way to be more comfortable with that uncertainty. THEN you can be more creative about exploring what you actually like about this job, how/where a different job would foster growth, ease, even — dare I say it — occasional joy. Or at least a sense of satisfaction that is from more than the paycheque. (Which counts, I’m not downplaying that). But shifting fields requires some sense of energetic curiosity about where you might go TO, and it can’t just be “stability” — because that’s an illusion. For this OP, I would spend some time exploring my relationship with uncertainty, what happens when I feel that fear, and what you might notice if you look at your work today from the lens of “huh, this part I like, this part I don’t like, this intrigues me, this deadens me,” etc. I have my clients do sort of mini-journals of this for a few weeks sometimes, and it’s very illuminating.

      So: TLDR: find a way to explore what you like about your work life that isn’t just based on anxiety about not having it ;-).

      1. Retired to Morning Room to Write My Letters*

        I like this wisdom, I’m thinking about it in terms of my own situation(s). Thank you!

  14. Recent Library Leaver*

    Your letter resonates so much! I recently left libraries after more than 10 years in the field, and it was a hard decision; there’s the degree, and the student debt, and the competitive job market, and the years and years of building your reputation through scholarship and engagement – it’s a lot to walk away from when you’ve finally gotten through it all and into a solid position. It’s true that every industry has its issues, but for me at least, the pandemic really laid bare how much of the library job market depends on vocational awe and self-sacrifice and the knowledge that new MLS graduates are being churned out like crazy and someone else will do the job if you don’t. I didn’t feel valued or professionally fulfilled anymore.

    SO MANY of the skills honed in librarianship are transferable, so it is a really great time to explore other fields and opportunities especially if you’re interested in remote work. I’ve moved into project management and have found better salary and benefits, better work life balance, and more satisfaction in my daily work. And of course you can go back later if you decide to, plenty of people go into librarianship as a second career – there are opportunities once you have experience, even if you’ve spent some time doing something else.

    As for fear of a recession, libraries aren’t recession-proof either! And in many fields even if you did get laid off, you’d have a much easier and quicker time finding another position than you would in libraries.

    All this is to say, follow your gut and explore the opportunities. Best of luck to you!

    1. cardigarden*

      Oooooooooh I have a whole big rant about vocational awe in libraries/archives and how bullshit it is and how it’s the reason our wages are so low.

      1. EdgarAllanCat*

        Oooh, do rant, please. :) I agree with you; been in field the for 20 yrs and hate the “wife salary” aspect.

        1. Anon for this*

          Argh, so do I. It’s taken me over fifteen years to be paid the minimum salary that our professional association recommends for a newly qualified archivist. But it’s hard to hold out for what you’re worth when there are so many applicants for every job!

      2. same for museums*

        Vocational awe is such a good term for it! It’s also true in most museum and zoo/aquarium careers too – whether curatorial, registrar, education, whatever. They count on that awe, and — unless you’re in a big metro — there aren’t that many employers in town. So, you’ll take what pay they give you, because where else are you going to go? And you want to progress? Better be willing to move all over the country or wait it out.

    2. Librarian of SHIELD*

      Libraries are for sure not recession proof. A big part of the reason for that permanent shrink the OP mentioned in their letter was the 2008 recession! So many library jobs just evaporated and have never been brought back. I don’t know that a recession proof job really exists. And while that’s a pretty frightening thought, I think it can also be somewhat freeing. Everything in life carries some element of risk, but if you let fear block you from taking chances, you might miss out on something truly wonderful.

    3. Librarian OP*

      I resonate with so much of what you said. Project management is a path I am considering – how did you make the transition? Did you take any courses?

  15. Jess*

    This doesn’t answer the reader’s question about knowing when to move on, but maybe they can try similar roles in different industries? Larger law offices tend to have librarians, and it’s a pretty recession-proof industry with competitive pay and benefits, and global firms would likely have remote positions available that would help with finding reference materials and conducting research.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          This is not universally the case. I worked in DC legal for decades, and only one of our law librarians had a JD. A quick perusal of 5 or 6 job posting for law librarians seems to indicate the MLIS is required but the JD is either preferred (by one) or not mentioned (the other four).

          The best law librarian I worked with had degrees in architecture and library sciences.

      1. Eko*

        Yeah, this is something that my MLIS program didn’t tell me about when they were selling the program to prospective students (and I’m super salty about it).

        “MLIS holders can get jobs in lots of different areas, not just traditional libraries! For example, law offices often hire librarians!”

        Later when I’m looking at the job postings: “Candidates must hold both an MLIS degree AND a law degree.”

        Lots of these “not traditional library” fields require a secondary degree. Some don’t but lots do, and I encourage people to research the area if they think they might be interested. There are lots of areas that I could have gone into or saved a lot of money if I’d gotten a different BA, but I didn’t have any idea what I was doing when I got my BA. If you know you want to be a teacher, or go into science, history, medicine, etc with your MLIS, your BA can probably help.

    1. ErinB*

      Yes! I work in Big Law and our firm requires either a JD or MLIS, but not both. Most of our library & research roles are now fully remote, too, which is pretty great.

  16. GigglyPuff*

    As soon as I saw “libraries”, I went yep. In archives/libraries and literally everyone I know is burned out, looking to leave, left, or never even got a job and had to switch professions before ever landing a full time job. My pay is awful, but at least my workplace offers decent benefits, flexibility, and okay coworkers. If it didn’t offer that I would’ve left so long ago. Still looking to leave but holding out for better because I can.

    If it makes you feel better, definitely not alone. SAA Archivist Survey Census:

    “The MLS/MLIS degree has risen in importance in the archives profession while also being more likely to result in student loan debt. The proportion of MLS/MLIS degree holders increased 52 percent since 2004, representing the highest increase of any degree-type. Simultaneously, respondents with an MLS/MLIS degree are more likely to graduate with student loan debt compared with respondents graduating with other degrees, including those with a comparable degree such as an MA/MS/MFA.”

    “One in five respondents are considering leaving the archives profession within the next five years. An additional one in four respondents are not sure if they will stay or leave. Of the 20 percent of respondents planning to leave, the top three reasons are retirement, burnout, and limited compensation/salary or better compensation/salary elsewhere.”

    1. cardigarden*

      I read the new A*Census like “ah yes water is wet”. I just wish it had the capacity to be a wakeup call to employers, but I don’t think SAA has the heft to do anything about it, even if they do now require a salary range for job postings they host (in order to let the market do its thing). Institutions will just list their positions elsewhere.

  17. I-Away 8*

    Start applying and get an offer. The decision to leave your industry (or not) will be easier when the alternative is an actual job rather than a theoretical “something better.”

    1. Hlao-roo*

      Yes to this! To expand a little bit:

      What are the fields you are/have been interested in working in? What other jobs/fields did you think about back when you were in school, before you decided on libraries? What jobs do your friends have that sounds interesting to you? Use these questions to make a small list of job titles, industries, and companies/agencies to apply to.

      Once you have a list (just a starting point! you can add/subtract from it at any time), start browsing Indeed/other job search boards/company websites. Apply to any and all jobs that meet the criteria you have for duties, work location, etc.

      Then, hopefully, you’ll have interviews and offers and it will be much easier to evaluate “do I want to stay in my current job or accept this offer to be a [job title] at [company]?”

  18. Dr. Anonymous*

    Oh, man, the myth of the retiring librarian! They told me that one in the late 1980s, as well!

    I left libraries for medicine and never looked back. That being said, I picked a career that allows the stress to follow me home every day. I’m fortunate to be in a job that allows me to work “part-time”, which in my field means 45-50 hours a week, with some control over my hours, but this is a relative term. I did have to flex my hours to do med school pre-reqs and had to quit altogether for med school. At least medicine is a field that allows you to recover from your training costs, so that is fortunate, and I didn’t have family dependent on me, but I worried about finances all the time when I was in training because that’s how I roll.

    I think the key (and the hard part) is to look for something you’d love to do, because the transition will likely be hard. You have to resolve to enjoy the journey if there’s a long transition to the new career. I know there are some librarians and ex-librarians around here and I hope they can give you ideas and inspiration for adjacent careers with similar tasks so you can keep the parts of your work life that you love.

    I’m rooting for you!

    1. Cataloging Librarian*

      I’ve been in the academic library profession for 40 years. While the “retiring librarian” may seem like a myth, I’m finally seeing it start to happen. On the cataloging lists the majority of posts for the past 6 months have been job ads. I’m kind of sad about it, though, because some of these jobs look like my “dream job,” and I wish I was at the beginning of my career rather than the end.

      1. Chirpy*

        I was told that all the people who got natural resources/ environmental jobs when those jobs were created in the 60s/70s would be retiring about the time I graduated…they either didn’t, or those jobs were eliminated when they did retire due to the Republicans in charge at the time not valuing the environment….

      2. Loulou*

        Same here, we really have been seeing a lot of retirement. Of course it’s not even close to matching the number of new MLS graduates, but there are jobs now!

        1. Dr. Anonymous*

          And I guess that’s what I should have said, sure, librarians are retiring, but there is not a shortage of graduates to replace them.

          1. Anon for this one ;)*

            A few years ago it was about 7000 MLS’s a year for about 1500 jobs. San Jose State is responsible for about 700 a year alone, but a lot of those applicants end up in the round file.

            There used to be a great article/post by Annoyed Librarian called (something like) “Come to Library School, Just Don’t Expect a Job” that referenced how bleak the numbers are for new graduates, especially those with no library experience.

      3. Sad Panda*

        The librarians at my library are finally beginning to retire….and we aren’t allowed to replace them due to budget cuts. (insert crying face emoji.)

  19. CheesePlease*

    I would try to find a networking opportunity (friends, spouses of friends, under 40 or young professionals associations, young parents group, alumni associations, other community groups) and ask people about their jobs. What sort of tasks do you enjoy about your role that you can find elsewhere (ex: building relationships with suppliers)? What do other people enjoy about their jobs? What companies in your area have the benefits you’re looking for?

    For example, I really like working cross-functionally as an analyst. I also enjoy project management. I used to be in the aerospace industry and now I work in construction – but the basics of what I enjoy can be found in either industry.

    Ultimately though, it’s ok to make a transition to a new industry and not be totally sure. Perhaps it’s a great fit! And perhaps, after a year or two, you need to move on. Stressful, but not impossible right?

  20. BellyButton*

    It is really scary. I will say your knowledge in procurement is sought after in a lot of companies. The procurement team at my company is paid well and many of them have a similar background to you. They negotiate all the contracts we have with any vendors and do a fantastic job to make sure the contract has everything we need and often get us a better rate. It may be something you are interested in, especially if you find a medical/legal-based company.

    One other note, I am in talent and leadership development- making a career switch after 45 is hard. So if someone is thinking of it, I recommend doing it before 45.

    Good luck!

    1. Bacu1a*

      I was coming down to also say procurement knowledge is huge. You may be able to find some local/state government work.

      To echo what someone else briefly mentioned above, you may want to go into project management. There’s the full PMP certification, but there’s also other certificates (your local community college may have something). There’s also Six Sigma, which is a process improvement framework that’s pretty popular in healthcare.

  21. Happy*

    I would suggest seeing if you can find people to talk to in different fields who can give you an overview of their job and the likelihood of a recession affecting their job. For example if I’m an accountant I could tell you this is what you would need to do and the credentials need and say whether or not the company I work at or other companies I know are looking to hire.

  22. Lalaluna*

    Speaking as a fellow librarian – I know so many others in the field in my area that are seriously thinking of leaving libraries altogether as well. What with the current trend of devaluing our Master’s degree and an overabundance of recent graduates, it’s hard to prove our worth to the various entities in charge of determining our job stability and pay. At my previous library (during COVID) when staff were pushing back against management’s “safety” precautions, the director was heard to say something akin to, “well, if staff aren’t happy, there are 200+ unemployed librarians out there looking for work….” So, yeah. If you’re dissatisfied, don’t look back, friend.

  23. Ann Ominous*

    I just had a fantastic professional development training class and some of the key points are right in line with this question. I’m just going to paste them here (it’s military/government so no plagiarism concerns)

    A Bunch of Questions to start:
    • Are you where you thought you would be 5 years ago? 10 years?
    • Do you get to learn new things most days at work?
    • Do you get to teach other people most days at work?
    • Are you in the right place to do the most you can for public service?
    • If you weren’t doing the job that you have today, what would you do instead?
    • Do you enjoy your work?
    • What should you do next?


    1. Define who you are in terms of knowledge, skills, attributes, and preferences:
    • What aspects of my job(s) interest me the most?
    • What aspects would I prefer not to pursue in the future?

    2. What would I like to do next? After that?
    • Ask other people about their jobs
    • Ask your boss about opportunities where you are
    • Check out [jobs sites] and see what skills are needed for your dream job

    3. Mind the Gap (analysis): Take time to bridge skills gaps
    • Go back to school; get certified
    • Developmental or Joint Duty Assignments
    • Take on a project!

    Things to Think About when you are thinking of taking the next step in your field:

    1. SWOT Yourself – How are you doing? [Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats]
    • Ask your boss
    • Ask your colleagues
    • Ask your employees

    2. How are your Communication Skills?
    • The people you work with may never meet you, but they will read or hear your words.
    • Do you listen?

    3. Sharpen Your Skills
    • Check out all the classes online that teach new digital skills, business trends, or…

    4. Network (Me? Network? I would never…)
    • Think vertically – not horizontally.
    • Make the most of every engagement; be sincere and bring your expertise

    5. Take care of yourself!
    • Seriously – if you don’t care about you, why should others?

      1. Ann Ominous*

        Thanks! It was really energizing to hear from such a high-level employee who was so engaging and obviously loved their job.

  24. Long Time Lurker*

    So this comment hit home, as I am a (former) Librarian who worked in libraries for 11 years before transitioning to Facilities Management and then to Construction. I was bored and disinterested in my Library jobs, but I assumed that was just how working was. I was “forced” into Facilities Management during the Great Recession (sort of a “do both jobs or you’ll get let go” thing) but ultimately I realized that I liked it much, much better, and it was good at it in a way that I was not as a Librarian. I still have days where I’m bored and don’t want to work, but I’m genuinely more intellectually stimulated now than I was.

    Here’s some things you should ask yourself- what are the things about being a Librarian that you like the most? Is it the reference interviews, or interacting with patrons? Is it the financial or facilities management of the library? Is it archiving, or cataloguing? Ideally the type of work or industry you’d be moving into would mirror the stuff you like doing now.

    There’s a lot of potential jobs out there for someone interested in Procurement and Medical Fields. I get why moving on from a career you invested time and education and money in is scary, but don’t let that fear prevent you from making a change that will invigorate you.

  25. hobbittoes*

    I changed jobs from academic librarian to technology trainer for a hospital and I use skills I developed in my MLIS degree constantly, though very differently!

    What made me brave enough to change was describing my library work to a friend who works in a different industry. He immediately said. “Oh! You’re a trainer! You should apply for jobs at my workplace!” Talking to friends or relatives in other fields about what you do at work can be so eye opening and help you think of ways to frame your librarian skills that make sense in their field.

    Also being a librarian was not paying for my library school student debt + childcare costs, so there was a real urgency in my case to find a job that paid enough to live. Training in healthcare does!

  26. ferrina*

    LW listed “specific job tasks” as a pro of staying put, but usually that’s something that has comparable equivalents elsewhere. There are very few tasks that are so specific that you can’t find something similar in another job. I love interacting with clients- now I work a job where I focus on internal clients. I love project management- I’m no longer managing a team, but I am juggling a lot of projects.

    Think about what makes you love that task, and explore other way you can embrace that.

  27. Chirpy*

    I don’t have a solution, but solidarity. I’m also an elder millennial who lost my museum job during the recession in 2009. I still haven’t gotten a good job since (ended up in retail), but I will say it did open my eyes to the absolutely bad office environment at my particular museum, and what I *don’t* want in a new job.

  28. cardigarden*

    Ooof. As someone who got my MLS in 2015, I feel “they promised us mass retirements that didn’t happen”. They were still telling us that then and as you know, it still hasn’t happened.

    My struggle is that I make a pretty fabulous salary compared to my librarian friends at other institutions and have great benefits, but even with that salary, spouse and I can’t afford to live closer than 50 miles from my job in Major Metro Area and my commute is 1.5 hours each way on a good day (bad days it’s 2 hours on the way home). Right now, it’s an annoyance, but I just know that commute just isn’t going to work when we have kids, and we can’t be a one-income household. Aka, do we sacrifice the quality of where we live or do I change fields and work closer to home?

    I’ve tried to make lists about what’s portable about my resume (personnel management, logistics, research, communication), but, I don’t know, it still doesn’t FEEL portable because the content of my department is a bit niche and the only salaries near my home that pay anything near what I’m making now are software engineers or lawyers.

    I don’t really have advice to offer, other than the empathy that you’re not the only librarian thinking about an industry change and worried about it. The Librarian Think Tank group on Facebook had a thread a few months ago that was all librarians who left the field and what they ended up doing instead, so that might be worth looking into.

  29. Eko*

    I feel you so hard! I got my library degree and my degree to be a teacher librarian (to be a librarian in schools) and I’m currently a school librarian and while I knew the hours would be long and the pay would be less than spectacular, I did not know how long the hours would be and how low the pay would be, and I’m honestly concerned for my physical health. If things don’t get better soon, I think I’m going to have to switch just to keep my body from breaking down, but switch to what? What will let me have health benefits, pay my rent, and ever retire? I don’t know.

  30. Spooky*

    What is more important to you: your job, or the other aspects of your life? There’s no judgement, either answer is valid. But it sounds like your role is not allowing you the money, time, or flexibility to live the rest of your life in the way that you’d like.

    Second question: Is your situation likely to change if you do nothing? Will it get better, or worse (such as stagnant wages in a recession meaning that you’re essentially taking a pay cut)?

    Third question: Are there any small changes you can make to improve the situation? If you have eliminated all potential small changes, then the only option left is to make big ones.

    If you decide to make the move, I’d look at ways to apply your skills to a different industry so that you can move laterally instead of starting at entry level.

    As a final note, remember Sunk Cost Fallacy–continuing to stay in a situation you don’t like just because it took time or effort to get there is not beneficial.

  31. kiki*

    I feel like you may be stuck in a loop I’ve been before, where first you must make X decision and they you can proceed to step Y, but step Y would help inform step X but you have to do X first. You can actually put X on hold! You can put off debating whether you should leave for now and start looking closely at potential career paths now. Right now, you’re evaluating your current job vs. an infinite possibility of jobs that could have any number of characteristics. Take some time to narrow down what you’re comparing your current job to a bit. Maybe take one or two courses you’d need for a new field and see how you like them. Network a little bit with folks in the field and see what they’re thinking.

    It does sound like your current job has some major pros: good benefits, very low stress, and the ability to leave my work at work. Are any of the fields you’re looking at known for those same characteristics? Once you get talking to people in the field, are they able to leave work at work? I think once you know a little more, figuring out whether you want to leave will be easier. Not easy, but definitely clearer.

  32. Library drop out*

    Same boat – finished library school in 2009, had an undergrad in anthropology, wanted to work in a museum but never made it. I did work in access services in a job that required a high school diploma with all other people with MLISs in a large academic library on the campus of a public institution with a big library school for several years. I now happily make significantly more than I did at the one job I had that required an MLIS – which I hated, as non tenure track we were paid ~half of what the tenured folks were – and my library background is constantly cited as part of why I got this job because organizational skills are important (even though I hadn’t worked in a library for 7(!) years before this one). Sometimes I look at library and museum jobs and then I decide I like to be able to buy food.

    1. Library drop out*

      You could look at publishers/education companies for Customer Success type roles – not what I’m doing now (got a project management job that I applied to on a whim and they were insanely fast from application to interview to offer), but a lot of what I was applying for when I got my current job was that. I felt like it was easy to explain how my skills were transferable to that kind of job.

  33. AnyaT*

    If you imagine doing what you are doing now, 5 days per week, for the next ~30 years until retirement – how does it make you feel? Is your gut reaction joy, “meh,” resignation, or crushing despair? Because I was in your position 6 years ago and I felt absolute despair at facing down 2-3 more decades of the same thing. Like you, my job was low stress, flexible hours, good colleagues, good benefits – but I wasn’t doing anything new and had grown too bored to be invested anymore. I was stagnating too, which didn’t help in a job search as I just didn’t have many projects or successes to point to.

    So I did some career counselling and testing (through my work’s EAP by the way, so you might want to see if that is an option), and it showed me some new options. One career path really stood out, I applied for the graduate program in my city’s university and started a 4 year part-time program while continuing to work. I was 39 when I started and graduated when I was 43. Within 2 months I had a job in my new field and now going to work is a joy. I have so many projects to work on and I’ve been promoted twice. I don’t look at the retirement date on my pension statement and want to cry.

    Obviously you have to look at the risks – I went to a field that is growing and knew I’d be able to find work. I did take a salary cut that I have only just made up with my last promotion last month, so consider how you would be able to cope with earning less for awhile. I’d also recommend you consider the timing – I had first tried doing a part time degree when my son was a toddler and I just couldn’t make the time management work. When I started my current Masters my son was 9 and that made things a lot easier. Maybe now is a time to start doing the background work on potential career changes but you put it into action in a couple years’ time. Lastly, you mention you have good benefits – are there any tuition reimbursement programs or educational supports available? My work gave me a 50% tuition reimbursement for my Masters degree, which helped enormously.

    Looking into other options, or even doing a retraining program, doesn’t mean you have to leave libraries. But it may help you clarify whether you do like it enough to stick it out for the next several decades.

  34. Kittengirly73*

    Hello fellow medical librarian! I graduated library school in 2007, so I feel your pain. The best advice I have is network, network, network. Do you belong to MLA or SLA? Even if you don’t go to in person meetings, being able to see the listervs of both groups is great. Sign up for any and all job boards, see what’s out there. I’ve worked in hospitals, academic, virtual, and now government libraries. I have friends who have the degree but do not work in libraries at all, but do different types of research. Talk to people. When you daydream about work, what are you doing? Good luck wherever you land.

  35. Nevian*

    I would pull the trigger and try it. BUT keep your lifestyle the same. Any additional salary you get goes into a “Use the red phone” bucket somewhere safe. Try it for six months. You might not be able to jump right back into the data field but you’d have tried. Otherwise you’ll spend your whole life wondering if….if…

    Also, as someone in procurement, I’d try that field! Most procurement positions can be done remotely, they’re ALWAYS in need, and you need very little experience since most jobs require on the job training to their standards*. And don’t let job descriptions that say “you must have 5 years of experience” scare you away. Most of the experience you need as a buyer is customer service, negotiation and time management. If you have those, sell those and you’ll be just as competitive.

    *This is not true for gov contracting, which can take years of experience and not at all like regular purchasing.

  36. Bagpuss*

    ” how do I know when it’s time to move on, when you’ve invested so much to get where you are now?
    How do you weigh the risks and the fear of the unknown against concrete positives and negatives?”

    It’s hard, becaue some of the elements are unknown, but what you can do is to try to gatehre more information to reduce whats unknown.

    Things I would do to begin with:

    Sit down and make a list of the things that you enjoy and are valuable to you in your current role, so you can look for as many of them as possible in new roles.
    Make a list of the things you don’t like or which are otherwise negative. Not just the low pay and limited opportunities for progression, but also any specifc tasks / types of task withon your role you dislike or find boring .

    Strart to research on what other options you may have that will play to your strengths. If they would require additiona lqualificcations, look into what imescale and cost would be involved .

    The investment you have made in your career to date isn’t lost – you have experience, knowledge, skill and expertise and some will be directly trasnferrable to other roles and others may be useful .

    Obviously how much overlap there will be will depend on what you do next – I would imagine that you will use more of your current expertise if you go into (say) data managment than market gardening, but there will probably be a degree of overlap of skills either way .
    I’m not in the US so can’t comment on how a change would affect thinsg such as your reutirement and social security, but perhaps once you have started to narrow down what direction you may go in next, talk to a finacial planner / adviser about how to best manage the change . Presumaby if you moved into a a better paid job you would then be able to sart to put money aside for retirement even if you lost out on benefits you might otherwise get if you stay put until you retire.

    Good luck.

  37. Former Gifted Kid*

    No a librarian, but left working in a cultural institution I absolutely loved to get a higher salary in a different (but adjacent) field.

    Make a list of the tasks that you enjoy doing at your current job. Think about what you like about those tasks and if there are related tasks or types of tasks that would give you the same satisfaction. (It might also be helpful to make a list of the tasks that you do not like at your current job). Use this as a starting point to find new jobs in other fields that you might like. Try talking to people (especially people outside your professional network in areas you might not have considered) about your desired job roles and if they know of any jobs that do those types of things. You can also start searching job postings by using those tasks as keywords. You’ll get a lot of junk, but you never know when you’ll stumble upon something that appeals to you.

    When you start applying and interviewing, ask about the things you care about. Ask about work staying at work, about benefits, and about stability. You can apply and interview and not take any offers. But you won’t know if there is a job out there that can meet your needs without the risk if you never start looking.

  38. Seriously?*

    I think it’s important not to wait forever to make a switch. I stayed in my last job longer than I should have – for good reasons although I was unhappy – and job searching in my 50s is a whole lot different than 30s or 40s. Obviously you are much younger than me, but it is easy to just go along with the status quo and find years have passed. Do some research into what else is out there, then make a decision. And I did just get hired in a new field, so it can be done!

  39. I'm a quitter*

    I resonated SO much with some parts of this. 2 babies during COVID. A job that has a lot going for it (but that I don’t actually like most days). I’ve decided to take the leap. Here’s what it came down to for me:
    – The job market might not be this good in 6 months. You frame that as a threat of layoffs, but I also see the threat that if I don’t make a move now, I might get stuck here (and I’ll never capture the salary upside of this market if I don’t do it now). Risk on both sides.
    – Maybe I will look back with regret but I’m making the best decision I can with the information I have now. If I regret it later, I probably have on rose-glasses because I am not happy with the situation now :)
    – No harm in looking :) and evaluating a real option.

    FWIW, I made a choice to leave academic years ago for quality of life and for me (YMMV) interest in the work and the prestige of these jobs IN NO WAY compensates for the quality of life hit you take for some of them (putting academia and library in this category, I am sure there are others). Seriously I am so much happier! And many of my friends in academia have asked longingly about my stable, normal life. It’s a message you don’t often hear inside that “dream job” so I thought i would say it.

  40. C in the Hood*

    It’s totally OK for your career to take certain twists & turns! I once was going to change industries to be an insurance underwriter & the horrible toxic office I was in turned me off of that forever, so I went back to administration. Best decision I ever made.

    So you say there are certain parts of your job that you like. What are they? What kind of jobs out there might call for those skills? That may be the direction you want to go in.

  41. Library_Lady*

    Librarian here, so I see what you’re going through. But I also got here – my dream field – after finding out that teaching wasn’t my career field. One thing that would have helped me way-back-when, had I known about it, was Simon Sinek’s book Start With Why. I heard him speak at a conference and was finally able to understand what made me “tick” and what jobs/careers might or might not be right for me. Short version for me is that my “Why” is to help people learn & discover. Public school teaching was *not* the way to fulfil my Why – too much stress, disappointment, etc. – but public libraries are a very satisfying way for me to fulfil my Why.

    Librarians are retiring, by the way. The Great Resignation is actually how I got into my current position about 6 months ago. But as you know, the pay still isn’t spectacular compared to many other career fields and it’s still a small profession where you might have to wait for someone to retire before you find a full-time job. FWIW, there are 4 positions open in the public libraries between my county and the next-door county. All are entry-level but they do offer great benefits.

  42. KatEnigma*

    Maybe you could use a good therapist?

    All I hear from you, OP, is fear

    Fear to stay, fear to go, fear you will miss libraries, fear you will hate the new field anyway, fear of being thought a job hopper, fear of being laid off in both the current or new job. Fear fear fear fear fear.

    I get it. The last 2 years have exacerbated that in many of us.

    A good therapist could help you sort that out, and then you could decide what you actually want.

  43. LibrariAnne*

    Don’t expect to entirely lean on your current experience to seamlessly translate to employers outside librarianship. I tried to leave the profession and wrote countless plucky cover letters attempting to show that my public service, project management, and supervisory skills apply to other fields, but librarian stereotypes are entrenched and hiring managers were not convinced.

    1. Ex Librarian*

      In my quest to leave the field, it took me a full year to overcome the severe lack of knowledge of what librarians actually do. I had a medical school student tell me she was shocked to find out that I did not shelve books. It’s so wild.

  44. Ardent archivist*

    I am a librarian who decided to leave the field after difficulty getting a FT job. It’s okay to go. You don’t owe libraries anything. Have a good life and be happy. You can use your library skills elsewhere.

  45. Risha*

    Oh LW, I really feel where you’re coming from. I don’t know much about your field, but I do know that insurance companies can hire people with a librarian background to handle the massive data. They also utilize people with library backgrounds to update/maintain sharepoint sites. I’m truly not sure about the full scope of these roles, but in my current job and former job (both were insurance companies), some of the database admins were formerly librarians. The skills that librarians bring to the company cannot be found elsewhere.

    As a sidenote, insurance companies are usually WFH or hybrid, no weekends/holidays. They are perfect if you have young kids and want to work and still be a SAHP.

  46. Ex Librarian*

    I left libraries after a 5-year stint and I never looked back. I loved what I did, but the bottom line was that the mental and physical impacts of making a severely low salary, plus the numerous issues that always plague the field, was just not worth it. I had a business degree and management experience, and the money I made in libraries was laughable, unfortunately. I truly wish society valued libraries appropriately, but in the current state, it would have been financially irresponsible of me to stay in the field.

    I think a LOT of hiring managers have zero idea what librarians actually do, and it took me a long time to find a good fit. The director at my library was shocked when I left, and told me it was not a smart move after being in libraries for years. But let me tell you: once I left, I wished I had done it way, way sooner. I left for a nonprofit role, so it wasn’t a complete culture shock, and I was able to grow and demonstrate my skills in many different capacities. It also paid significantly better, and while money certainly doesn’t buy happiness, my financial wellbeing really helped me to improve my mental health. My advice would be to start looking now, even if you’re not sure, because switching fields from libraries can be quite a challenge! Best of luck.

    1. DEJ*

      “I think a LOT of hiring managers have zero idea what librarians actually do”

      I used to work in a passion field and one of the things that we talk about is our equivalent of ‘de-librarianing’ your resume. How do you take the skills you learned in libraries and translate them into something that people outside of the profession understand?

      1. Ex Librarian*

        Yes! It’s so hard! It was so hard to get myself out of the habit of saying “programming” when I really meant “class and event planning.” As soon as I changed that wording, I started getting much better interest in my resume.

  47. Yellow*

    I feel like you know when you know. And if you’re still trying to figure it out, start passive job searching. This is is what I did when I was contemplating leaving my job of almost a decade. I looked to see what else was out there and applied to things that sounded interesting without stressing myself out about it. When a “Dream Job” came along and I went through the interview process, I knew I would be devestated if I did not get an offer. That confirmed it for me. It was time to leave, and so I did.

  48. ex engineer*

    I just switched fields, and to answer part of your question about weighing unknowns, I think the fact that you’re feeling restless is enough to at least look into other options, but you won’t really be able to weigh things until you narrow in on an opportunity.

    I was able to switch job after getting a lead from a friend, that used some of my existing skills, and the rest I learned or brushed up on in my spare time. When it came time to actually make the call when I got an offer, I was excited about the potential work in a way I wasn’t feeling at my current job.

    While what I do isn’t as noble as what I did before, and there is something a little bit hard about going back to being a newbie, the pay increase, the more flexible schedule, and the way I feel about the day to day tasks is so so worth it.

  49. El l*

    I think you have to confront these fears and make a move. Because life is long – yes, it is. For members of our generation, careers are going to be so long – we’re all going to be working into our 70s. You’re still in your 30s – it’s too long for you to settle. Or, even worse, to think you’re set, get fired, and be forced to start over.

    First the bad news: You’re going to have to let go of your anticipation of failure, and risk getting hurt. It’s not a given that your first job in whatever new field you try will work out. Job searching – especially when switching fields – is not fun.

    Now the good news: There absolutely are jobs where you can have better job security, some chance at growth, and where you’ll have time to raise your family – which is what it sounds like you’re looking for. Even better, you can suss out during your interview if they offer this, and turn down anything that doesn’t fit. There are plenty of jobs with tasks which you’ll learn to enjoy. You’ll forget this anxiety.

    1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      I think it’s so important to recognize that many jobs have better security and it’s okay to prioritize that, but nothing is totally secure. While very job/career move is a risk, staying has risks too! You simply can’t know that something you choose now will be viable in 10 years, much less 30 — we can only make the best decisions possible at each moment based on who we are and what info we have, and then do our best to be ready for what’s next. Life is change.

      1. El l*

        Such an important point – and many jobs are have different security than at first glance.

        Many corporate jobs are always vulnerable to what I call “the man in suspenders.” All it takes is someone senior who shows up and decides you or your team is no longer necessary.

        And jobs like trades are in their own way more secure. Because people always need these services.

        In any event, lifetime job security no longer exists. She’s going to have to move someday. Now’s as good as any time.

  50. LaFramboise*

    Speaking as a longtime Librarian (almost 30 years in various areas–k-12, public, now academic), I would see about data science. More money, more remote. You may have to get another degree, but most programs are remote and classes are 4-5 weeks instead of 4 months. And if you don’t need another specialization, even better.

    Good luck!

  51. Hidden Legacy*

    Fellow Librarian here, not US Centric. There are other Library adjacent jobs such as Records Management and Archival work, that have a lower barrier to entry than Library work. Not to mention Information Governance, Data Privacy and Data Protection are hot topics in our field. Look at ARMA’s job board and see if there is anything that is a close match to you.

    1. NeedRain47*

      Archives here tend to have a higher barrier to entry here as you must be a librarian with an archival specialty certificate. And they certainly don’t pay any better.

      1. Loulou*

        The archival specialty certificate is absolutely not universal, at least in the US (I actually am not quite sure what that means. But I agree archives are probably worse in terms of job security/compensation overall

  52. nontraditional librarian*


    I got my MSLIS in 2019, and prior to that I worked in academic and public libraries. During grad school, I was fortunate enough to have a mentor who suggested I might not be happy in traditional libraries in the long term. She pushed me to learn more about data…so I did. After graduating, I was applying to all sorts of data related jobs, and eventually got hired as a corporate metadata curator. I stayed there for about three years and just recently moved to a new company to take on a similar lead position.

    Here are the major differences, to me:
    Academic and public libraries all have a specific type of “passive aggressive” behavior. There’s a lot of hierarchy that seems to be truly unwarranted. Librarians are expected to do every job, all at once, for very little pay (and often no promise of upward trajectory).

    In the corporate world, my starting salary was 76k, which I know most academic librarians only DREAM of. Now I’m making twice that. There’s still hierarchy, but it’s clearer and there’s room for everyone’s growth. I still work in a field that is library-adjacent, so not everyone understands my job duties…but I have standing to say no and push back and set boundaries when I need to.

    You might miss certain things about libraries. But if you want more money…you likely won’t miss that much. and honestly, you can always go back. Seriously. give it a try.

      1. nontraditional librarian*

        I was targeting business analyst, data analyst, metadata curator/metadata librarian, data librarian, and even looking for corporate library positions. My current title is Data Governance Lead and I am firmly in the data gov space now.

  53. Hen in a Windstorm*

    “when you’ve invested so much to get where you are now” <This is the Sunk Cost Fallacy. You are putting too much weight on what's past. Right now, today, would you take this job knowing everything you know about it? If not, then it's time to move on.

    You're imagining a bunch of worst case stuff, but I challenge you to imagine best case. What if the new job is better? Pays better, better projects, lovely coworkers, great commute? You are giving yourself a long list of reasons not to act, but that's emotional. Validate those feelings, then set them aside so you can logically decide if it's time to move on. (And as always, it doesn't hurt to look – you're not committed to taking any job you interview for.)

  54. Paige*

    My instinctual response on reading your letter: “Get out. GET OUT.” I went through the same thing with teaching nearly a decade ago–I put so much work into becoming a teacher, and had student loans, and I was good at what I did! But it was ultimately too stressful, too overwhelming, and too low-paid. Every single year since leaving that profession, I have only become more and more thankful that I got out when I did. (Ironically, I went back into library work, which was a paycut, but had no commute and the position I got was more technical than most librarians actually want).

    Libraries do not pay anyone enough money to put up with most of the crap people working in them (including librarians, but even more so library parapros, who often make only *half* of what librarians with MLS/MLIS make and often have much more interaction with the public/patrons) put up with. If you’re not enjoying it now, it’s highly unlikely it’s going to get better.

    The good news is, that like everyone else here is saying, you should have some highly transferable skills, especially since you’re in a medical/corporate niche. You can try higher ed (maybe at a nursing or medical school), or pharma companies, laboratory admin, or really anything that involves procurement since you have that background, etc. If you read the job description and think “I could do that or learn to do that pretty easily”, go ahead and apply.

  55. yirna*

    An MLIS is SUCH a flexible degree. The soft skills/research skills you have are, frankly, highly transferable and in-demand if you look in the right places. From an MLIS, there’s jobs in not just libraries, but also archives, records management, research services, and other government. Data is big right now, and library skills are good at organizing it. You’ve got so many options.

    I decided to go with government after I got my MLIS, and the organization I ended up in is notorious for ‘internally poaching’ librarians for other roles, because the skills are just that useful.

    Additionally, I’m actually paid a good salary, I have a flex schedule based off of a regular, predictable 8-4 schedule, benefits, sick days and vacation time, and respect for the quality of my work (though, I’m not in the US, so YMMV).

  56. libremas*

    I asked myself this exact set of questions, in this same field, over and over and over during the last two (going on three) years. I still don’t have all the answers, but I’ve been in a new library for the last six months, and I’m much less unhappy than I was at my old one. There are library jobs out there that won’t make you feel this way, however few and far between.

    …but there’s no guarantee you’ll find one, or that you /will/ be happy there once you do. You might be happier in a totally new field with a totally clean slate. You might be more comfortable in a different library with a better schedule or higher pay. It’s so hard to know what the key is when you’re stuck in the Bad Place!

    In my experience, it came down to instinct. I never really felt ready to make the jump. Instead, I started looking. I set up job alerts on LinkedIn, Indeed, HigherEd Jobs, and various city governments. I read every posting for every job I could feasibly do. I researched every company on Facebook and LinkedIn and Google and Glassdoor. If something put my hackles or my antennae up, I didn’t apply. If it seemed all right, I threw my name in.

    In interviews, I asked lots of questions to make sure I wasn’t leaving one bad situation for another. This is where looking at your current situation is helpful. What is it about this job that grinds you down? The schedule? The expectations? The people? The money? What questions can you ask to see if those problems would be solved by moving to this new place?

    By the time I got the offer I accepted, I knew enough about that library and the people in it to be reasonably sure I’d be comfortable here. So far, my instincts were right. The best advice I can really give you is: see what’s out there, carefully assess everything you see, and when your gut says it’s right, it’s right. But you won’t know what’s right until you start looking at what’s there.

    The recession fear is So, So, So So So So Real, and unfortunately I’m still stuck in that particular Bad Place. If you find the secret, let me know :’)

  57. sadnotbad*

    I was in a very similar situation (including graduating in 2009, working for low pay in a passion field, worrying about losing my place on the ladder). I did eventually make a career change and I’m extremely happy about it. I had several false starts, though, where I began studying up on a certain field and then realizing it wasn’t going to be. Here’s what I did:

    I made several lists:
    *things I like doing and find interesting (such as specific job tasks I enjoy)
    *must-haves (such as salary, benefits)
    *heart desires (“I want to feel like my work is helping people” etc)

    Then I made a list of jobs that could combine a high proportion of things from those lists, and I made it completely wild, including anything I could dream up. The point is, instead of viewing things narrowly and with a fear of failure, I allowed myself to imagine a multitude of lives for myself. That led to two false starts where I attended pre-applications seminars at academic programs and even studied for a field-specific entrance exam before finally settling on a third option, but even those weren’t wasted time because the preparatory work was all it took for me to realize they weren’t for me.

  58. sadnotbad*

    Also: volunteering can be a great way to test the waters in doing different kinds of work without quitting your job.

  59. Milky way*

    As a lot of folks have said, start with a list. What do you like and what do you not? What are your constraints? (When I did this, one for me was “no jobs that require me to go back to school.” But this could be location, hours, salary, etc.)

    Then, talk to people in any job that seems vaguely appealing. Some of those informational interviews will be duds. I had one where I said I specifically wanted to get away from doing x, and he kept trying to tell me how doing x in his field would be exactly what I was suited for. Others will be very helpful. In one case, I realize career y would be great for me … if I had entered it right out of school.

    I was specifically looking for a direction, not networking for a new job, but one of those interviews did lead to my new job. But even if it hadn’t, after talking to almost a dozen people I had a much better idea of what I wanted to do next.

  60. Alexis Rose*

    Trying to balance the “devil you know” against the “devil you don’t” is a very real struggle. I didn’t change industries, necessarily, but I did completely change career trajectory within the federal government where I work.

    I was in a toxic team, no opportunity for advancement, the position wasn’t classified correctly so I wasn’t being paid enough for my skills. After only three years in that environment, I was struggling pretty badly with mental health. I felt stuck. I applied for jobs within government that were a stretch for my qualifications and…… I got an offer! Another manager reached out and talked to me about an opening he had on his team, what the team was like, the work they did etc. It sounded too good to be true, but I realize now that my perception was skewed because of how dysfunctional my current team was. I kept going in circles in my head about “what if its worse? what if its worse in a different way? what if this isn’t actually what I want?” Turns out that I should have been asking “what if its better?”

    The move was the best thing I ever did. It was partly logical decision (more money, not the same shitty boss I had before, more opportunity for advancement) and partly leap of faith. I don’t regret it, I only wish I had tried to leave sooner.

    So many people I know have had very non-linear career trajectories. Where they started and where they thought they would end up are night and day compared to where they are now. Do your research, shop around for the best culture fit for yourself, and at some point let yourself take a deep breath and make the leap of faith. Nothing is forever, you can still choose to move if you don’t like where you land the first time.

    The last piece of advice I have is this: you can give someone their dream job, all the responsibilities they ever wanted, only working on files or projects they love and are interested in; but if you give them a shit manager or a shit team, that dream job turns to ash. Good people are worth more than good work, in my experience.

  61. NeedRain47*

    OP, are you willing/able to move? I see a fair few medical library jobs, some of which pay okay, but if you need to stay where you are it’s always much, much harder. (I’m a librarian and my mom is a semi-retired medical librarian.)

    Otherwise it’s better to expand your horizons as far as jobs you will consider, but you don’t need to abandon everything you’ve learned as a librarian and start from scratch. Figure out what you do like about your job, and are good at, and try to keep those elements while losing the commute and inflexible environment. Think of it as “getting a better job” instead of “dumping your existing career”, that’s all it really is.

  62. Not a Librarian*

    I’m not a librarian and I work for a public library system, so my experience is not quite the same… but I think I understand where you’re coming from. There is an extreme satisfaction in providing a public (or client) service and if I’m being honest, I think libraries as an institution have a history of taking advantage of staff who take pride in that kind of service, because it is unique and staff are willing to let go of a lot considerations that others may require – things like pay, hours, boundaries. It also means moving outside the industry feels like a huge change and is scary. Because it is. It will be different and not what you’re used to. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It just means that you need to identify the things you want (or need) in your next position. It’s possible that certain transitions won’t be able to accommodate work/life balance, flexible hours, or other perks. But those are things that you’ll begin to identify when you start doing interviews (whether informational or job related).

    I think you should dip your toe in the water. Interviewing does not mean you’re going to leave and getting an offer doesn’t mean you have to accept. Though I appreciate that going through this process can be long, arduous, frustrating at times, and seems like a lot of work especially if you should decide to stay where you are. But, I think it will give you the information you need to make the right decision for yourself.

  63. Springtime*

    OP, you are at the point where you see no future in the job you have except for hanging on to the good points that have already come to you from it (for example, the certain tasks you enjoy). It is already time to move on. Since you don’t know whether you want to stay in the field–and it sounds like you would search within a limited geographic area–why not apply for jobs both within and without and see what you find? I wouldn’t take a worse job just to get away, but being willing to change jobs can it itself help you move up to something better.

    I was once where you were–a job with many good points but also some bad, where I had become “stuck,” and I developed a real fear of unemployment. I’m slightly older than you, so graduated undergrad into one recession, graduated library school into “your” recession, plus my parents had been unemployed during a hefty chunk of my formative years. All of these experiences had taught me to build up a healthy emergency fund, but I truly feared I was not qualified to find another job. (This fear may be different from yours.) I made the conscious decision to roll with the good points of what I had and hang on until I was actually laid off, which did eventually happen. But after about 48 hours of moping, it was like an enormous weight lifted. Since I now *had* to job search, I cast a wide net, found some part-time work quickly, and after about two years of cycling through library roles I never thought I’d try, I’ve sort of settled into a role similar to where I thought I’d be if I had just decided to try to leave my old job in the first place. It has been great. All my fears were coming from that job, and I should have realized it and left. Someone else there who did decide to leave had a really hard time finding something else and got very discouraged, but in the end did, and it has also worked out great. No matter how miserable you are, it is always possible to get more miserable, so that is a risk. But you won’t ever get anywhere better without a risk, either.

  64. Awasky Cromslack*

    I feel you, OP! I had a similar journey. I spent the first ten years of my career in book publishing–including having, then being laid off from, my dream job. I loved the industry, I loved the people, but the work environment was abusive, low-paying, and had no prospect of advancement. It took me a few years to come to the realization that I had to change fields. (I also had bosses who treated me like garbage during a personal crisis. There’s no call for that.) I spent a full year doing informational interviews with people in all sorts of jobs, and eventually decided on accounting. 1) It’s recession proof. 2) Every business needs accountants. 3) There was a clear path to a job–grad school, CPA, recruited straight into a firm. (Other jobs that sounded interesting had no clear on ramp.) I figured I could always change my mind about what kind of business I wanted to work for later, since every business had accountants. I’m not gonna lie, though–taking a year off to go thru grad school full time, including moving to a different city, was a big financial hit. And starting a new career in my thirties–including being an intern again, and being treated like an intern again–those first few years, I was like, what have I done with my life. Turns out, though, this job is so much more fulfilling than my old job. The transition was hard, but the career prospects are infinitely better, as is the pay. I’m also not working for shitty people anymore. I would recommend finding a career that is always looking for people, because those are the companies that need to treat you well to retain you. And hopefully you find you actually like the work.

  65. PleaseNo*

    You know it’s time to move on when you find yourself you’re looking at other jobs/careers, updating your resume, and applying to a few.
    Until then, you’re not.

  66. Bertha*

    I’m a corporate librarian and stayed in the field I was in for longer than I should have because I thought I couldn’t get in to a different field, or I thought I’d get a paycut. Neither happened. My organization recently hired TWO new corporate librarians, and we had a heck of a time filling the positions because most people don’t have corporate backgrounds. The job is mostly remote but will eventually require someone to come in maybe quarterly. These jobs exist!

    I have been able to get interviews for librarian or librarian adjacent positions at universities, a bank, law firms (check out conflicts analyst positions), engineering firms, healthcare, and with no specific experience in any of these fields. Sure, I’ve applied for some jobs and never heard from them, but plenty of places are willing to take a risk on a field-changer. The skills I have as a librarian are really transferrable and I am sure yours are, too. You’re a librarian – you can do some research and find all sorts of options are available to you! Don’t talk yourself out of them already. I made that mistake and stayed in my last job for too long.

    1. Bertha*

      And if this seems like I’m not answering your question of how to weigh the benefits, my point is this: you don’t really KNOW what the benefits are until you have another specific job in mind, and until you interview for it, and until you start to take that initial leap. When it’s an abstract “other job” that may or may not exist, it’s a lot easier to convince yourself that where you are right now is much better.

  67. DataGirl*

    I can relate a lot to this LW. I also graduated in 2008 with a MLIS. At the time I graduated, there were no full-time available librarian jobs in my area, and even part-time jobs would receive hundreds of applicants (the downside to living in an area with 2 ALA accredited MLIS university programs is too many graduates, not enough jobs). I was lucky to be able to leverage the Information Science side of my degree to start working in IT in a non-profit, doing things like organizing digital file systems, database work, some web development. There were actually several of us who worked at the non-profit who had MLIS degrees because they processed so much data and needed people who could organize it. Over time I developed my database skills and now work in medical education doing data related work. As much as I love libraries, I could never go back to the field due to the horrible pay. It’s just not sustainable especially if you have a family to support and with skyrocketing cost of living.

    Since you’ve already worked in medical libraries, a transition into medical education, health informatics, healthcare research, or quality assurance might work well for you. You can leverage your knowledge of organizing information to go into something more technical, or use your reference skills in research. Some of those jobs require a greater level of medical knowledge, like a nursing degree, but not all do.

    Anything on the support side of healthcare is a little risky just because whenever profits are down, we are the first people executive leadership wants to cut. On the other hand, there is a desperate need for people to do these jobs, especially in quality and patient safety, and it’s an industry that will never go away.

  68. anonymouse*

    I initially started out in study abroad and those positions are typically underpaid, people stay forever in them, and to really move up to the part where you’d make decent money you need a PhD which I had no interest in getting. I loved the work but I saw the writing on the wall and wanted an easier life. I was also the programmatic person that the finance people wanted to work with so I switched over to that and then eventually landed in grants and contracts management. I’ve bounced around a few different specialities, including working in international aid which I really thought would be my final stop. However, as passionate as I am about working internationally, the position where I felt most at ease was in staff management in research admin. I’m working to get back to that now and am hoping it’s where I’ll settle. All to say it might take a few stops before you get somewhere that feels right and that place might not be where you think/what necessarily lines up with your passions.

    Also, research administration/proposal development might be a track to look into? Familiarity with procurement would be huge there and if you’re good with medical content you could help a lot in writing proposals for medical research. I’d check out positions like these at medical research facilities (like higher ed med schools) to see if anything feels of interest? Research admin has the benefit of being a field that people slide sideways into more than start out in intentionally, so lots of folks hiring would also have been in a similar position to you. And lots of jobs for this field have gone fully remote.

  69. Never Surrender*

    If you fit in a little more schooling, look into becoming a paralegal. You will be able to use your research skills and, if you go into the product liability, medical malpractice and/or personal injury legal fields, you should be able to use your medical knowledge as well.

    I wish you the best of luck!

    1. Your friendly neighborhood Zen Buddhist*

      As someone who seriously looked into this — depending on where you live, the paralegal job market tends to be oversaturated, low-paying and fairly ageist. Look carefully at the schooling in any event (make sure the program is approved by the American Bar Association; your local community college may be your best bet).

      1. Never Surrender*

        I have been a paraelgal for 35 years and I have always made great money; more than many lawyers (caveat: that didn’t go to top tier law schools) and this is despite my entry to the industry without anything other than aa high school degree.

        Certain areas of the country (like NY) will hire a paralegal with no experience at all and nothing more than a college degree; others require at least an AA degree in paralegal studies or a paralegal certificate. The starting salary at my old, highly regarded firm for a person with a 4 year degree (in pretty much anything) and no experience at this moment in time is $55k.

        As someone who has worked on many product liability, medical malpractice and catastrophic injury cases, if the person who wrote in has the ability to read and understand medical records, interact with experts and use her existing skills to assist in the prepartion of these types of matters for trial, she can make very good money with the right placement.

    2. NeedRain47*

      I looked into this at one point, and salary for paralegals around here was more than I was making as a paraprofessional, but less than I’m making as a low level librarian.

  70. Seal*

    Having spent my entire 30+ year career in academic libraries, first as a staff member, then as a librarian, and now as a library administrator, I can safely say that librarianship as a profession is a self-perpetuating mess. It shouldn’t be, given what libraries and librarians can and should do for their respective communities. But the profession as a whole is caught in the endless cycle of luring prospective librarians by promising them that their MLIS will guarantee them good jobs and a decent salary, only to reluctantly admit that such jobs are few and far between. Worse, there are few opportunities for advancement for those that do land a job and far too often such opportunities require assuming managerial roles that library school never prepares people to take. So you have a profession full of bad managers and disgruntled employees that wonders why nothing ever gets better.

    Despite my obvious cynicism about the future of my profession, I realize that I’m one of the lucky ones and that as an administrator I have a responsibility to try to break the cycle. But I wouldn’t wish what I had to go through to get to where I’m at professionally on anyone. So my advice for the OP is the same as I’d give for any of my employees: if the bad parts of your job outweigh the good, it’s time to move on. As a librarian, you have many transferable skills and you shouldn’t feel obligated to stay in the profession just because you spent time and money getting a degree. Our library is currently hemorrhaging employees, especially librarians, because people are fed up; I’m planning to join the mass exodus and won’t be looking back. You need to do what’s best for you.

    1. Anon for this one ;)*

      Agreed. Just talked a staff member out of participating in a low-rank, but online, MLS program, and am trying to get them to focus more on the information side in building skills. We’ll see.

  71. IsbenTakesTea*

    Another older millennial who graduated in 2008 here — I managed to get a job in publishing, which was absolutely my dream job. But after 5 years, I was doing the same calculous, with the panic of how I could switch careers–or even what role to look for.

    What really helped was reanalyzing my role from a process-based perspective, so focusing on what parts of my job would transfer if I substituted “widget” for “book.” It turns out I wasn’t managing book schedules, I was managing product schedules. This opened up possibilities in any field that dealt with products — so lots of options!

    I then tried to analyze what actually brought me joy from my job. Yes, being able to start the morning saying “We’re making books today!” is glorious, but what truly left me satisfied was creative problem-solving and learning new things. So I knew that I could probably be happy in any role where those two things were happening, and at the same time, I recognized my company was removing those parts from my day-to-day routine by creating unsustainable expectations.

    I’m now in tech, and I _do_ miss being able to say I’m in publishing. I _do_ miss the joy of making books. If someone offered me my current salary to do what I was doing six years ago, I would seriously consider it. But I’m glad I made the change, because I’m mentally and physically healthier and don’t feel trapped in an industry known for exploiting its workforce.

  72. hmbalison*

    I was a person who stayed with a meh job for a long time because of its flexibility when I was raising children. Even thought it didn’t pay well, I stayed because it was familiar. Then the company laid me off, and I had to find a new job at age 55. It was scary. It took 6 grueling months, but I ended up with a wonderful, great-paying FT job in a new industry. It’s the best job I’ve ever had.

    I regret that I didn’t have the courage to make the leap 10 years earlier.

    I encourage you to listen to your instincts about what is making you want to make a change. Start looking around and spend time mapping out what your career reset might look like. Reach out to your network and find people who are doing what you might like to do in your career reset. Then, you can make a decision with real-world, current information about whether to stay or go.

    Good luck!

  73. Marian Codebrarian*

    LW, I graduated with an MLIS two years earlier than you, lost my first job in the Great Recession, struggled to find another one… and eventually after two very bad library situations, switched careers.

    It sounds like you ARE ready to move on, and the only things holding you back is sunk cost and a feeling of security with your current job (though I feel like librarian jobs are always at risk of being cut at the first sign of recession). If you’re currently enjoying your job, and relatively secure, then you have a golden space to explore other options, learn what other opportunities for advancement are out there, without the desperation of needing to make the change and find a job ASAP. Use this time to do the research, do informational interviews with people in your network to learn about their fields. Before I switched careers, I spent a year+ doing free online courses, meeting people in the industry at Meetups, reaching out to friends and former classmates for informational interviews and for referrals to other people who might be willing to chat about their jobs.
    Once you have a better idea of what’s out there, it should become clear whether you want to take the jump or stay put.

    1. Marian Codebrarian*

      I actually researched two different fields and ended up choosing the one that required additional training but had a supportive and encouraging community.

  74. squee*

    Also an elder millennial/xennial.

    I went to law school at 30. Never regretted it for a moment. 7 years in and I cannot imagine doing anything else.

    1. squee*

      which is to say: I think the fact that you are asking the question means you already know the answer.

  75. Wolf*

    I’ve been happy with my decision to change fields. I went from education to nursing in the middle of the pandemic. Had some bad life changes, including divorce, but have landed on my feet largely due to having so many options for how I make a living.

  76. East Coast Girl*

    I went through a similar decision-making process a few years ago, OP, and can share my experience for what it’s worth. I graduated with an MLIS in 2005. The promised jobs weren’t out there and for a few years I worked in a related field but not my “dream” field. “Dream job” came along in my field and I thought I would stay for life. In reality, after 10 years, while there were many things I liked about my field and I loved my colleagues…life changes, needs change, interests change.

    I took a chance on a job in the non-profit sector, where I could use transferable skills but it was very much not libraries or archives, and loved the work. After a couple of years being strung along on contracts, zero benefits, with no promise of full-time permanency, I realized that while I loved the work I was missing the relative security I had working in the public sector.

    I started casually looking, though not applying for much, until a job in a completely different field (back in the public sector) struck out to me. I applied and got my foot in the door and, a year later, due to organizational changes, was promoted into a health policy analyst role. Lots of research, lots of writing, interesting subject matter. It draws on my skills, in a very different way, and I love it. I know a few other MLIS grads who have ended up going down the road of (non-library) research and policy work and are happy.

    Not saying that’s the answer for you. But the moral is, I guess, think carefully about your needs and the pros and cons. As mentioned, what surprised me the most was how much the lower salary and lack of security in my non-profit gig (in between public sector gigs) got to me despite me going to non-profit had been a carefully considered decision. It all worked out, in the end, and I don’t regret the stops I made on the way, but it was a learning experience!

  77. Cate*

    I can imagine it’s hard when you’re thinking of something quite different but I don’t think you should think of switching fields as throwing away or abandoning the hard work you’ve put in so far. You will have gained a wealth of skills and insight that will go with you to another role – whatever context it’s in. You can interview and explore other options, and even be offered a new position, without there being any requirement to take it. Scoping things out is just that, scoping.

  78. TC*

    Wow, this letter could nearly be me (minus the babies)! I work in fashion/apparel manufacturing and am disillusioned with this industry, how it affects the environment, how employees are treated, etc. I’ve seen a few of my colleagues pivot over to UX/UI design during their covid unemployment, which I never got (yay to never having an employment break?), which I think I’d be interested in. I’m also interested in data analytics, but for both career changes, there’s SUCH a time cost to upskilling myself which I just do not have while working full time, not to mention the same fear the OP mentioned at putting so much work into a transition, only to get there and hate it/start at the bottom again, especially when it comes to salary. Will definitely be devouring all these comments!

  79. Anon for this one ;)*

    I left librarianship to go into financial planning after I fell in love with the subject. After almost 10 years I was burned out, and based on comments made to me decided to go back into librarianship. Took a year (2009 when I started looking – great timing, right?) but got a good job in a place where I could afford to buy a house. Worked there for 9 years and moved to my dream job (not perfect but gives me everything I want) in my dream location. Won’t deny that I am under heavy burnout, and work is tough. But that’s about 80% pandemic burnout/jealousy of others getting a break from work (which I can’t afford) and only 20% the job itself. No job is perfect, but if I didn’t have the support I have at this job I would not be here.

    What really helped me get back in librarianship was two things: 1.) I could move to a less desirable, but affordable area. I not sure that is applicable to you with the family ties, and 2.) after leaving librarianship I got a second master’s in business (emphasis on financial and tax planning) and was very willing to be the business school liaison/collection development librarian along with my other duties.

    I will admit I did not know how bleak the job outlook was when I decided to go back. I actually think things are better now overall, as even librarian positions are going unfulfilled. (Of course, the lack of a living wage may be a part of that.)

    I guess overall I am saying that even if you leave, you can come back especially if you get in-demand skills during your time away. Different workplaces have different cultures, so a job change may help with that, but I do think in a lot of ways libraries (my experience is academic libraries only, and only a few of those) can become toxic quickly with only one malcontent, and there are usually more. But there are also great places to work, and for me being around college students is a great bonus.

    Don’t be afraid to make a change. You have a master’s in info science and there should be job opportunities out there. If you are in contact with fellow students see what they are doing. If you like the medical side of your job I’m guessing you can find many hospitals, etc. who could snap up your procurement experience. Talk to people in the field you might want to change to, and find out how to make your experience relevant there. Leave on very good terms with your current job so you maintain that reference, but being miserable and underpaid and lacking family time is not a good combo. You can probably find a WFH position if you want one, and have a much better work/life balance. And just because you leave doesn’t mean you can’t go back. You’re still young and (hopefully) have energy. Build the life you want!

  80. Beebee*

    I have been going through a (less extreme!) version of what you are OP over the past couple years. I am in a field that I kinda like, is related to what I went to school for, and pays well-ish (I say “ish” because it has NOT kept up with inflation and something that paid well 7 years ago is now “getting by” material for where I live). I have no children so my situation is obviously different but that’s the context for you.

    I felt increasingly unsatisfied with my job. I would regularly switch companies after a couple years (not abnormal for our industry), feel the rush of being somewhere new and hope it would be different, only to realize that I was unsatisfied again after less than a year. I was getting great feedback and people liked me but I just felt bored with key aspects of my job. One day I realized that my frustrations were not with my specific companies but with the industry / job itself. I hated working excessive overtime, I hated management which essentially is my entire job / department, I did not want to move up into my boss’ job, and while there was a lot I did like I really, really hated these aspects. What I did like was the people I worked with, the stability, and the security.

    Even knowing I was unhappy, it was tough to decide what to do. I wanted to move into a similar yet not exactly the same industry that would require me to at least do some school. I opted to go back for a degree because where I live it was affordable and I wanted to REALLY be sure I liked what I was switching into.

    What made me decide to do this was that it was:
    – School was affordable (I would not have done a degree if I had to take out loans or if I did not get transfer credits, instead I would have done a one or two year program while working)
    – I always had my current industry to fall back on if things didn’t work out
    – I had savings and was able to afford to take the needed time off and then work part-time to full-time for the rest of the degree (I’m done this year!)
    – I was not happy spending 8 hours a day doing something I didn’t like, being unhappy in a place that actively made me dissatisfied with life. Really the other reasons could not have been there and I still would have switched for this reason alone. I know a job for some people is a means to an end and that we don’t all like what we do for work because sometimes we just need to work to survive. But I also knew I was not as stuck as I was leading myself to believe and that the version of my life where I continued down the path I was on was not one I was interested in. I didn’t want to wake up in 10 years and feel like it was too late to change.

    I think for you it will help to figure out do you hate your workplace or your industry? I know you said jobs are tough to get but you could try somewhere new out and see how you feel about it. If you have a feeling this won’t help or you try it and it doesn’t work, I’d ask what do you have to lose by trying something entirely new? You don’t get paid well at your current job, you don’t seem to enjoy it, and there’s a tonne of other negatives you listed there. Are there one-year or less programs for an industry you would be interested in that you could do on weekends or at night to test the waters for something new? Is there a career counsellor you could talk to? A friend whose job you are really interested in trying out?

    Since you have kids I’m hesitant to be like “just quit your job” since you obviously need to provide for them and that’s the most important thing. But your happiness is also something that helps you provide for them and it’s worth it to invest in yourself. Ask yourself if where you are now is how you want to feel in ten years and whether you will regret not making a switch.

    Good luck!

  81. MagnusArchivist*

    I totally get it. Can you use your fear of a recession (my fear, too! hi from another library worker) as an excuse to plan a career change? This could look like: start saving what you can so you have the freedom to job hunt *if* you get laid off, start loosely making lists and doing research into other jobs you might like, start casually asking other people about their jobs, etc. Just, like, panic casually and at a leisurely pace.

    That way:
    No recession and you keep your job = you keep your job! you keep all the things you like about being in libraries & bonus, you have some money saved up and a better sense of your professional self
    Recession and you lose your job = you’ve lost the things you hated about this job and you are prepared for something new!
    No recession and you decide to leave = still prepared! Can now make this decision calmly.

    (This is all very idealistic, but maybe a way to frame wondering about other paths that isn’t all or nothing and doesn’t force you to make a decision RIGHT NOW.)

  82. Linda*

    I made a career switch a few years ago (to libraries, coincidentally) and here’s the mental exercise that really helped me get clarity on what I wanted to do: I pretended that I was about to win a billion dollars in the lottery. So much money that I wouldn’t have to care about anything or anyone I didn’t want to care about ever again. But also so much money that it would be a major shock and I would need something constructive to do for a year or two while I adjusted.

    So, if you could do whatever you wanted, but you had to do *something*, what would it be? In my case the answer was “go to library school and then hang out in obscure libraries all the time.” In your case maybe it’s interior design, or being a career coach, or tutoring, or marine biology.

    1. Anon for this one ;)*

      I’d work for minimum wage at a humane society. Unfortunately, that won’t sustain my current lifestyle. ;)

  83. A Pound of Obscure*

    How do you know? You really don’t! But I’d like to make a case for that being perfectly normal and okay. Sometimes a leap of faith is required. Sometimes change is good (I love change, personally). But most of all, get over the notion that any change is permanent. If you apply for another job and your gut is telling you it’s not the right move for you (e.g., if you take a job only for the money or only for the purported flexibility, but something in your interviews makes you doubt it’s all it’s cracked up to be), listen to that voice. I took a job once for the money and because I already knew many of the people who worked there, but I ignored the warnings I saw in the interview (which was mostly the bosses talking about themselves). I ended up hating that job and stayed for only 18 months, but I found another job in an unrelated field because of the technical writing experience I had gained there. Coincidentally, this happened shortly before you graduated college (2007, when everyone’s 401(k)s were plummeting and government contracts were drying up, which was the environment I worked in). That next job then led to another in a different industry, and ultimately to my current organization in government, where I’ve been for 8 years. Skills do transfer; I’m living proof of that. But here’s an even more relevant example: My spouse pursued a certain kind of health profession (doctorate), and ended up hating it. He left it and did something completely unrelated, starting over at square one at an entry-level wage. This was early 1990s, after George HW Bush had suffered a one-term defeat because the booming ’80s economy had fizzled out; there weren’t a lot of job options then, but spouse knew he had to get out of his chosen profession before it killed him. It was a bit of a blow to his ego for a little while, but that was short-lived. And, because he’s smart and capable, he moved up rapidly and ended up making more than he did in his original profession and retired 20 years later with an enviable retirement account. Big changes can be made, and often they’re exciting. Sometimes they’re not, but even then, you don’t HAVE to stay there; you can change again. Don’t worry so much!

  84. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    Just coming to the comments to say “shout out to the MLIS class of 2008!” Long may we run…away from libraries.
    I loved the program and the work, but chose the golden handcuffs of my non-library corporate job instead of jumping into the insecurity of library work.
    I really enjoy it.
    What I’m trying to share is that staying in libraries is not a mistake, but neither is leaving. Like the above comments, find something to go TO and you will surprise yourself.

  85. Mary*

    I graduated with my library degree in 2001 and was in a similar place in terms of job search, coupled with a lack of experience since it was my first job. I ended up in administrative work, which turned out to be a perfect match for me then because there was no filing chaos that I couldn’t cope with (a room filled with literal 4ft stacks of paper files to be sorted? Cataloging 101 and I rolled up my sleeves!) I’ve used every bit of my library degree down the years, and right now I’m in patient resources. I could see you being able to transfer your administrative skills along with medical knowledge from the information end of things into an administrative role, either patient facing or not, similarly. On your level with your experience you wouldn’t be at the bottom by any means, and if you look at billing department positions (remote, or not patient facing) or even a clinic office management role you could keep the daytime hours/scheduling that gives you time with family.

    I know it’s a scary place to be in, no matter your field, but opening up the search parameters may pay off and keep you in the field long enough to take advantage if the positions open back up. Plus, you’d have a chance to say current and familiar within the system.

  86. Jen*

    Formerish librarian here. Your story is not unique, lots are leaving because…everything.

    I have a couple of suggestions. Since your background is in medical libraries, those are easier to come by. Not sure you can move, but if you are, there are options. I know a health sciences library in my state that cannot find good candidates for a generalist position and I know another one who would have a collections oriented job opening up soon. I myself used some grad school health sciences knowledge to pivot to a medical library position that restored my faith in libraries and made it so I wanted to stay in the field after considering leaving.

    Second, remote work is hard to find, but it is out there especially if you have technical services experience, which it sounds like you do. I now work at a consortium that, like most others, has moved entirely remote since the pandemic. We just did some hiring, and had a very competitive search I think due to the remote nature, but those jobs are out there. Although not what I envisioned when I became a librarian, I’m still supporting libraries and I have a ton of flexibility now with my family, which as been wonderful during Covid times.

  87. One Random Librarian*

    Gen X library manager here… I’ve found that libraries (especially public ones) vary wildly in work and management culture, even in neighboring systems. Every library system is basically an independent fiefdom governed by some local entity, so even the pay for the same relative position in the same relative area can vary more than you’d think from library to library.

    If your main issue is the culture or hierarchy where you’re at, a change in institutions may provide a vastly different experience. As far as specialties go, there are healthcare settings (usually those doing research) corporate, special and academic libraries that employ subject specialists, but my experience and observation has been that you often advance into management faster as a generalist. You’ll never get rich, but at the higher ranks it’s a livable income in most areas of the country, and the occasional chance to feel like you’re doing real good for your community.

    It is a field where promotion opportunities at any given institution are often few and far between internally. The only real way to shortcut the advancement process I’ve seen is by moving to a next level position at another institution, and/or being mobile enough to move to places where demand is higher/MLIS holders are fewer on the ground. Not an option for everyone, obviously.

    Even locally, don’t forget about the existence of special libraries, small academics (community colleges are often nice) and corporate librarians. Larger library vendors also employ librarians, such as Baker and Taylor, Midwest Tape, Ingram, etc.

    Sadly, the story about all the librarians retiring and opening up vast swaths of upward mobility has been circulating since at least the Clinton administration, and has never been true.

  88. A. Nony Mouse*

    As a fellow librarian I truly feel your pain. Keep in mind that not only are library jobs vanishing, but the ones that do exist are rapidly changing what they ask of employees. So even if you did stay your job might look different quite soon.

  89. Delta*

    I also graduated college in 2008. Fun times.

    After working a low paying but not dissatisfying job for many years, I started looking at web development boot camps. I’d seen friends with no technical background do them and succeed in the field. With no coding background whatsoever, I started taking an online intro to python course for free. I liked it a surprising amount, and signed up for a bootcamp long before finishing the course.

    If you like logical, organized thinking and enjoy malicious compliance (computers love malicious compliance…), it’s very worth looking into.

    At this point I have a flexible schedule, work remotely and get paid muuuuch better than my old job could ever have paid. Bootcamp taught me the minimum to be useful at my new job, and I definitely had to put in some extra work to improve for my first two years or so, but still under 50 hours per week. I did a few hours of mentoring bootcamp students for my first year and a half or so, which was *great* at solidifying my own fundamentals.

    If you do any sort of tech boot camp, look into how to network in the new field. If you’re a woman, there are often slack groups for women in tech/data/whatever that can be really helpful in finding the first job. If not, there should still be other useful groups!

  90. M.*

    When I decided to leave publishing, I went through the very same thought process as you are now. I believed in the work, got along swimmingly with my manager, loved the authors I worked with, and overall worked with a great team. But I knew that I was done—the money was awful, the commute horrendous, and the workload was unsustainable. Do I miss working in publishing now? Yeah, a bit. But what I miss more is the IDEA of working in publishing. I have no regrets about leaving. And while I’m certainly open to returning to the field, now that I’m out of it, I know now what I will and won’t put up with.

    My feeling is that if you’re asking yourself these questions on a regular basis, it’s time to go. Or at the very least time to begin exploring something new. Anytime I feel this way, reaching out to people, scheduling informational interviews, putting feelers out there, revamping your resume, etc. always make me feel better, less claustrophobic, less panicky. It makes me feel like I have much more control of the situation.

    I know how you feel because I felt it, too. But I would also encourage you to try taking some pressure off yourself—a job is really just a job, a way to do the things you want to do with your life. Ask yourself if you genuinely love your job and want to continue or if you’re stubbornly holding onto something that doesn’t, in fact, exist.

  91. Ferret*

    Just a note that I work in procurement right now (with a completely different background in engineering) and there are definitely opportunities there if that is something you are interested in.

  92. Less than real*

    As someone who has gone back to school several times, I found it beneficial not to change my career track, but nudge it in the direction that was more appealing to me. For example, pure engineering was boring and I wanted more data, so I went back for an information science degree. Then I found a job that perfectly incorporated both. Next, I felt like I needed more human behavior mixed in, so I went back and got a psychology degree. Now I have a job that mixes the three.

    So I suggest looking for what might be a good mix for you and working towards that.

    In my field, we need librarians to serve as data curators more and more (so much data all the time). And that could put you working in all kinds of places/topics.

  93. LibraryIT*

    First, you are far from the only librarian I know of who either thought about or did switch careers since the pandemic! The burnout is so real! So any question you have about “am I the only one feeling this way” – you aren’t!
    My advice is to look at other industries and jobs where you would get to do similar things to your favorite parts of your job. If you like the acquisitions tasks, is there another industry that involves procurement or buying or contracts? MLS/MLIS skills are very transferable.
    And also – I think it is very possible to jump back into libraries if you decide you want to come back, especially if you are doing something with a related skill. I think in the future people will really understand “the pandemic was bad and I needed a change, but now I want to go back to my roots”. A lot of us have had similar thoughts!

  94. HIPAA-Potamus*

    Consider reframing your thinking–stop focusing on the absolutes. Leaving the industry does not mean you’ll be blacklisted from library. I think changing any job is scary enough, and triple that with kids in an uncertain world. I did it last year with a 3 year old, it was terrifying, but glad I did.

  95. Mid*

    The advice I was given was to ask yourself “If nothing changes, will you be happy where you are in five years?”

    It doesn’t sound like you will be, but only you know your mind.

    Also ask yourself how much of your actual job do you like? Not the idea of it, but the actual work that you are doing. Do you enjoy it? Is it fulfilling or draining? Are you challenged? Given room to grow and evolve? (Not saying that work has to bring you joy, or that everyone has to constantly be looking to move up in the world, but the goal should be to at least not hate the thing that takes up the majority of your day, and to have the ability to reach a level of stability in your job so you can fulfil your other goals.)

  96. Oryx*

    Consider working for a library vendor.

    I say this as someone who graduated with her MLIS in late 2007. I got lucky and found a job right away, but after working as a librarian for several years I left traditional librarianship to work for a library vendor and it was the best career move for me. I still work in very close proximity to libraries but without the burnout of being a librarian (and it pays better).

    1. Product Manager with an MLIS*

      This was my path as well. Graduated with my MLS in Dec. 2007 and had a reference librarian job lined up for January. I think I would have liked the work more if my library had been less dysfunctional, but we’ll never know. I applied to one or two things at other libraries in my city but eventually ended up with a job doing training & customer support at a vendor. Other librarians liked that I “got it” and my colleagues liked that I had real-world experience to draw from. I started out in a job where I was really able to draw from my experience as a librarian, but 11 years later I’m a product manager. Still use my organizational and instructional skills honed as a librarian regularly. :)

      In my experience job searching last year it was hard to tell which places were open to remote hires. I did learn that most postions at EBSCO can be remote now, but in general my strategy was to apply and then if I got a screening interview I would ask about it then.

  97. Policy Wonk*

    Consider the Federal Government. We need librarians (go to USAJobs and enter librarian as a search term) but we also need people who can compile and analyze data for all kinds of things. Figure out which General Schedule grade meets your salary requirements, and see what’s available.

    Good luck!

  98. cosmicgorilla*

    OP, I think you may be stuck in the sunk-cost fallacy. “I’ve put so much time and effort into this that I need to keep going.”

    What’s the cost of staying where you are? Yes, you could end up in a worse situation on the other side. You could end up with a lower paying job. You could end up having to shell out $$ for additional education.

    But you could end up with less stress, more job availability and flexibility, more money. You could end up with less feeling like the axe is going to fall at any minute.

    It’s ok if your dream changed. It’s ok to pivot if your reality didn’t match your dream. It’s ok to explore options.

  99. Bess*

    Fellow Great Recession traumatized millennial here–have had pervasive job security anxiety over my career, and all of it without reason in hindsight.

    Of course you never know until you try. The values I have now are financial stability–enough to pay bills and save and have a little fun; AND to some degree the work engages me, interests me, keeps me challenged. The other stuff is all tradeoffs. My current work is highly challenging and I’m always learning, and I’m surrounded by smart people. There’s a lot of drama, though, and the drama sometimes outweighs the positives.

    With young kids it becomes a bit more complex. There is so much to be said for being able to leave a job at home and focus on your kids. You won’t have this time back with them and they need you. That said, I’m guessing there are a lot of fields where you could make more money than in libraries and not necessarily be signing up for a stressful workload. Is it worth the time and effort to job search? Such a huge time suck. With young kids, good benefits are also HUGE.

    But don’t let the sunk cost fallacy, or potentially warped anxiety/negative thinking about your prospects, hold you back. If you don’t feel invested in this career path–like, not this job, but this overall path–it might be worth exploring. You’ve learned a lot to get here and that time wasn’t a waste.

  100. 15 Pieces of Flair*

    You won’t know for sure if you want to leave until you have a viable offer for a different position.

    Step one: Identify a viable alternative career path. Another poster suggested legal librarian, which may be a good starting point.

    Step two: Research that career path. What are the requirements? How in demand are those roles? What is the salary range? Are there positions within a commutable distance?

    Step three: Once you find some roles you’re interested in, schedule informational interviews with people working in similar roles in that field. Ask about them about their experience and advice for getting an initial job in that field. If their employer is hiring and it seems like a potential match, ask whether they would be willing to refer you.

    Step four: Apply to positions ideally through referrals.

  101. Inside Math Teacher*

    This will be a strange suggestion, but have you looked at jail/prison libraries in your state/area? Most of the major prisons have a library with a full-time librarian. Jobs are usually 8-5, no overtime, great pay & benefits (but check, some states are better than others) It is similar in some ways, but also different. (no public)

    Challenges? Inmates? You are helped and trained with how to deal with the inmates. Different institutions have different policies, but you have the right to feel safe.

    I teach in a prison. It is extremely rewarding to do this work. My job is 40 hours. That’s it. No P-T conferences, great co-workers in all areas. I absolutely love my job & I highly recommend others to look into teaching “on the inside”!

    1. Em*

      This is actually my dream job:prison librarian. I do not live near enough one that has a library sadly.

      1. Inside Math Teacher*

        There is always a need for teachers & as long as you have a bachelor’s degree & enough classes in English, Social Studies, Science or Math, they will consider you… and probably hire you, too.

  102. merp*

    Ha, I could have written something very similar. For me, I like less about my job so it was easier to decide to leave and do something different. But I’m super familiar with the inner voice of the “bored millennial job hopper” and it’s hard to overcome!

    One thing I’m telling myself is that my master’s degree isn’t going anywhere. I can decide to return to library work in the future if 5 years from now, what I’m deciding to do instead no longer makes sense. It’s honestly so relieving to think about getting away from the bureaucracy though, and that makes it feel like the right move for now.

  103. Jam today*

    OP your post hit home. I’m an elder millennial who graduated college on the cusp of the 2008 recession, and then finished grad school when my chosen profession had little opportunity and heavily reduced salaries. I also drudged through and this year I decided to make a career path shift for two main reasons: 1) My former employer was not interested in giving any return on my professional development (in terms of pay or promotion). I hit a wall in the industry and wanted to continue to grow professionally. 2) I also started a family which was the best lesson in determining what is worth my time. An industry wanting me to stay stagnant because it serves them, is not worth my time. I want to own my professional success. I’m in the same profession but in a different industry. Zero regrets on the change.

  104. emily*

    Knowledge management. Most jobs do not require the cert and will train you. A lot of jobs will consider your librarian exp as transferable. Good luck!

  105. Anonymous Koala*

    I also suggest looking at the people above you in your career and the lives they live, not just career-wise but overall life-wise. What do the senior people in your field do, how much money do they make, and how much work-life balance do they have? I left academia when I realized that all of my female roll models were working 80+ hours a week, didn’t have families or never saw their families, and were making low-to-mid six figures after decades of climbing their way up the pyramid. It made me realise that the career I loved wasn’t worth the lifestyle it required.

  106. Sick of Workplace Bullshit (she/her)*

    This is so timely to me. Thank you for publishing this, and thanks to all the commenters!

  107. Librarylady*

    I’m currently a former youth librarian who moved into admin and was asked to take on continuous improvement. I love the work! For the first time since I was a baby librarian, I feel like I could work outside of librarianship, and am looking at making that change in the next few years. There are a lot of opportunities to learn about CI on line and in most libraries, there is a chance to try out improvement projects without committing to a new job/career while building your resume.

  108. StitchIsMySpiritAnimal*

    Everyone else has adequately tackled why and how to move on, so I’ll just add that if you’re worried about being out of the loop in your old job, volunteer at a library or join a library board. You’ll still have your foot in the door if your worst case scenario comes true. (If that’s possible with small kids. I know it’s an Ask.)

  109. megaboo*

    If you are working in procurement, collection management systems often need help. You are generally behind the scenes, work offsite (like an annex) or different areas of a regular branch. The good part of that is you don’t have to plan programs, aren’t patron-facing and have a regular schedule (for me, no more nights and weekends). It’s worth looking at.

  110. Sylvia*

    As a librarian, I have to say that it’s daunting to think about changing jobs or careers when you have so many people telling you that they couldn’t get a job in the field. In my field I’ve heard that a lot–however, it has mostly been from people at the start of their careers. The mid-career librarians I know have been able to transition to different jobs and come back to librarianship within a few years if they wanted to (not all of them did). These librarians were active in the state librarians’ group and had a decent network. However, most had to move to different cities in order to get another librarian job, so if you love the city you’re in, you may want to stay in your current job.

    I second what some have said about vendors–the librarians I know who have gone to work for vendors are happy, especially now that the vendors are more inclined to let employees work remotely. I’m not sure how recession-proof those jobs are, but some of those vendors are international companies and fairly diversified, so maybe they can weather a recession without too many cuts.

  111. Andy*

    Good luck to you, OP! When I did something similar I took comfort from the idea (Malcom Gladwell?) that it takes 10 years to master something, which gave me permission to put a period at the end of my last 10 years and look forward to the next 10, instead of trying to paint it all as one connected story arc. So my advice is to think of yourself as a “mid-career professional in transition”, which made me feel less like I was starting over and more like I was jumping from one phase to another – even though, to outside observers, I fell back.

    I had a similar situation – MA in Theology in ’08 with the idea of being a priest, got married instead, and over the years got really disillusioned with the religious job market (and with religion). I did some introspection and figured out what attracted me to the field in the first place. I decided to jump into healthcare admin, so I made a plan that led to another MA and a series of short-term entry-level jobs. I converted my years of people skills into patient service skills, and my supervisors noticed and I advanced quickly. It’s only been four years since I fully switched and I now work in a job I want to keep forever, that is fulfilling, pays better, with much better stability. I’m still considered early career but I already make more than the leadership at my old place. I should write AAM with thank you and a success story!

  112. Ana Gram*

    I saw a video on social media recently and the basic premise was that your life is your main goal/pursuit and that work is your side gig. It’s not a perfect comparison but I love the idea that work is the thing you do to make money…and nothing more. It’s not who you are and it shouldn’t be the defining characteristic of your life. It’s a broad statement and I’m sure many people won’t identify with it but it really struck me. I’m two years out from potential retirement at my first career and just sitting with this idea has really started to reframe the types of jobs I might look for after I retire.

    So, I’d tell the OP to choose a job that lets her live the life she wants (within reason…I won’t be buying a Malibu beach house any time soon!). Maybe the benefits and low stress at the current job do that. Maybe more money would do that. Make the choice that funds your life.

    I realize that this is a privileged outlook but it sounds like the OP has the privilege of options which is great for her.

  113. Dawn*

    From where I’m sitting, apart from the low pay, it sounds like you’ve got a pretty good thing going on right now; I’m not sure you’re going to find it easy to find better than what you’ve got right now.

    So maybe what you want to do is broach the topic of a raise. It will help to do market research there and see what other people in your position are earning, and particularly with inflation on the rise there is an argument for at LEAST a cost-of-living increase.

  114. Cremedelagremlin*

    I’m not sure where you live, and this is not the question you asked, but have you considered becoming a teacher-librarian?

    Teaching (in my country) is pretty recession-proof, ok-paying, quite flexible and every school has a library.

    I’m in a similar boat as you, but kid of reversed: I became a teacher after the Great Recession and have been slowly changing careers. But it turns out I’m TERRIFIED of the job uncertainty that will be greater in nearly any other job. Ultimately, I’ve realized that I don’t want to make important life decisions from a place of fear. And I’m not in the same financially vulnerable place I was in when I graduated university with a large debt, no credit and no savings into the 2008 recession.

    I would look at what kinds of safety nets you have, what you might like to do instead, what it would take to get there. The sunk cost fallacy is just that – a fallacy.

  115. WantonSeedStitch*

    There are quite a lot of former librarians (or people who earned an MLS but never got a job in a library) who work in my field, prospect research. This is research on potential and existing donors to nonprofits. I’ve found that the background of a librarian is excellent for producing people who are very good at finding and using information resources, and at analyzing the information in them to produce actionable knowledge for our fundraisers. They also tend to be really good at drawing out from the fundraisers what it is they actually NEED to succeed (reference interview). The jobs tend to be the most stable, well-compensated, and recession-proof at larger nonprofit organizations like universities and hospitals. Benefits tend to be good in both kinds of places as well. I’ve heard, though I don’t know for certain, that hospitals pay better. But universities tend to have more paid time off (holidays, winter closing, etc.). In many places, there’s room for advancement as well. You can also get exposed to other opportunities within a large nonprofit organization that might be good for you.

    1. Engagement Administrator*

      I always knew that if I left libraries I’d persue work as an Executive Assistant because I love being the ‘go to’ person, solving problems, and making things run smoothly (which is the direction I went, although my new career has a lot more project management aspects than typical EA work). But another thing I was looking at/considering was Grants administration, which has a LOT of similar crossover skills to librarianship.

  116. Maria*

    I’m in a similar boat to OP. Graduated undergrad in 2009 and professional degree in 2015. I have a toddler and am expecting a second child. I don’t love my job but I’m sticking with it because I need the stability due to FMLA, work from home, and how tough the newborn/first year is. That said, once my personal life is more under control (eg, kid is sleeping through the night, not breastfeeding, we have daycare, and assuming my partner’s job is secure), I will start looking. We are young in our careers and I figure now is the time to jump if the right field or job comes along! Good luck OP. It’s been a doozy of 10+ years for us.

  117. Blinded By the Gaslight*

    I worked for 20 years in academic libraries – I went the route of obtaining my MBA, thinking my combined experience and education would allow me to move from library “paraprofessional” (::eyeroll::) into management. NOPE. Nobody wanted my twenty years of actual experience or my master’s degree, they just wanted that damned MLIS. Despite dedicating most of my adult life to libraries, I was constantly having to justify my skills and knowledge to librarians who looked down their noses at paraprofessionals (or just straight up abused us) purely because we didn’t have the MLIS. It affected my sense of self, my financial security, my whole life. I fought really hard to make it work, not wanting to give up a career I’d dedicated myself to for so long, but I finally realized being forever blockaded in my career was making me depressed, angry, and fearful for my future. Who the hell needs that after 20 years of service??

    So I changed careers entirely into local government administration, and I’m happier than I ever was in libraries. I make more than I did in libraries, my earning potential for the rest of my career is much higher, I actually have room to advance in my new career (and I’m being encouraged to do so!), people are glad to have me on the team, and I have never had to legitimize myself to someone because of my degree. I wish to hell I’d ditched libraries much, MUCH earlier in my career. (And I wish that industry would take a GOOD, HARD LOOK at itself and actually deal with its employment problems because this isn’t new–literature has been talking about this for literally decades.) It would have saved me years of depression and financial instability.

    Don’t fall into the sunk-cost fallacy like I did. Your happiness, career prospects, and financial security are more important. Transfer those skills into an industry that will reward you, not hold you back.

  118. Jules the 3rd*

    Assess what you like / don’t like about the current job. If it was me, I’d have a spreadsheet with some value weights that I’d use to score this job vs other potential ones.

    For example, corporate procurement, esp for technical manufacturers (eg, biotech) is:
    1) Easily remote or hybrid
    2) Pretty well paid
    3) Not terribly secure unless you’re at the ‘contract negotiation’ level, but not super insecure either
    4) Has good growth options (I just went from computer manufacturing procurement to environmental reporting within the same company, which uses a lot of the same tools and processes), though they are usually more lateral than up.

    Where the current library job sounds like:
    1) Never remote
    2) Not well paid
    3) Secure, it seems like, but you can override me on that
    4) Few growth options

    Security is currently my highest priority, since I’m the main breadwinner and there’s kids. But 20 years ago, salary and growth opportunities were higher. What categories and how you weight them is completely individual.

    When I knew my old position was going away, I did focus my hunt for positions within my current employer because of all the toxic environment stories I’ve read here. I have confidence in my company’s processes. If ‘business environment’ is high on your list, look at larger companies, especially those on “Best Companies for Working Moms” lists or are HQd in Europe. For procurement specifically, check some of Monster’s Best For Working Moms:
    Abbot; Boston Science; Colgate; HP; IBM or Kyndryl (recent spinoff); Kimberly-Clark; Lenovo (lots of US sites); Lexmark; Merck; Novo Nordisk; Proctor & Gamble; Texas Instruments; Unilever.

    Good luck…..

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      btw, nothing is recession-proof except for maybe Home Depot and Lowe’s and the like. I spent the first decade of my career going from recession to recession, and all you can do is diversify your careers (do not both work in the same industry / company) and try to have that emergency fund that is so hard to build when the babies are small…. But even $10/week would be real useful when the car’s fuel pump breaks.

  119. Cat R.*

    I feel this so hard! It took me ten years after I graduated from my MLIS program to get a stable library job. I often felt like switching fields and did apply for jobs in other industries that required similar skills to mine.

    It might be worth making a change and doing something different for a while. You won’t be locked out of the library field if you did decide to come back to it. It’s a tough field to stay in and it was exhausting for me when all I could find were temp positions. I think the structure of the field as a whole is a big problem and we kinda kick ourselves in our own butts by not changing.

  120. I'm just here for the cats!*

    I don’t have much advice except that I think you are being too hard on yourself. ” I’m being a semi-bored millennial job-hopper and I need just to be okay with settling down in a good-enough job.”

    Wanting to change careers because what you are doing now is not working out does not make you a job-hopper. There are so many people who have chosen new careers for various reasons. Everything you listed is a valid reason for wanting something different. Heck, Even if you are just bored you are allowed to want to change careers.

  121. Sara without an H*

    …I’ll leave libraries, realize what a good thing I had, and won’t be able to get another job like the one I have now. That there are negatives to every job and I’m being a semi-bored millennial job-hopper and I need to just be okay with settling down in a good-enough job.

    Ummm…OP, do you always invalidate yourself like this? Please don’t talk to yourself that way — it’s not true and it’s not helpful.

    Several commenters have already suggested analyzing what you like and don’t like about your job. This is good advice; take some time and do a matrix or plus-delta review of your job. Once you figure out what’s most important to you, start looking for jobs that would offer more of what you like and less of what you don’t. Do not restrict yourself to library jobs — since you’re already in something medical-adjacent, that might be a place to start.

    Then sit down with your partner (if you have one) and talk about how a job change might affect you and your family. Read your employee handbook and make sure you understand what happens to your retirement account, medical insurance, and PTO if you leave. Make a plan for paying off any outstanding consumer debt you may have and putting some cash aside.

    Then start looking. Read the AAM archives, tune up your network. Since your boss and your colleagues have already demonstrated that they’re not supportive, keep all of this to yourself. If you catch yourself catastrophizing, stop.

    You may find that you have more options than you think you do. And if you decide to remain in your current job, it will be a conscious choice, rather than your brain weasels telling you that nobody else will ever want you.

    You may also want to do a quick online search for “Vocational Awe and Librarianship: The Lies We Tell Ourselves,” by Fobazi Ettarh. It’s open-access, just paste the title into your favorite search engine.

    Good luck!

  122. ExpertDiceFailer*

    You can’t really know what the future holds, but your brain has a pretty good way of weighing risks and returns and telling you a gut feeling.

    At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, I was contacted by a recruiter. I’d been unhappily working at my then current company for several years, a place where neither the position nor the company/industry were my passion, and I’d just survived layoffs to become the most junior person in my department. As it turned out, the recruiter was looking to fill an opening for a bigger company that is doing work that I do consider extremely important in the renewable energy industry. My life situation was not the same as this, but I had the same concerns about switching jobs right before a pandemic arrived, and potentially going from indispensable to the most dispensable. But I trusted my gut and followed it to the best job I’ve ever had- far better pay, benefits, working conditions (the new job is permanent remote, so I got 2 hours of my day and lots of gas money back from commuting), job security, and respect of my coworkers. And I get it all to work at a place where I’m making a positive difference in the world.

    You can probably guess what I would do in your situation based on all that, but I can’t claim to know what’s best for you. All I can say is to follow that gut feeling wherever it goes. Your brain has a good idea of what will be best for you. It might take something of a leap of faith, but trust yourself and you’ll make the right choice for you.

  123. Solitary Daughter*

    Hey Pal, another Librarian here. I’m actually a library director, and I work really hard to make sure that I’ve created a good place for staff. I have a very healthy budget to work with, our staff are paid above market value on average, and over the past five years I’ve worked with my leadership team to improve the culture of the organization. I absolutely 100% adore pretty much everybody in my organization. I have worked very very hard and I’m proud of what I’ve done as a leader.


    I am so burned out. I’m burned out by the pandemic, motherhood, the culture wars over censorship and what free speech actually is. I’m tired of trying to rebound from the pandemic and dealing with people’s terrible, entitled behavior and the dismantling of democracy that I see around me every day. I feel guilty that I don’t want to stay in it and fight, but I also feel like the world has been asking too much of me for the past few years and I deserve to be less drained by my job.

    I’m not alone in wanting to change jobs among my network, and I know a lot of other librarians who want to do the same, or figure out a way to transition into the private sector. I guess I just want to say: you’re not alone either, and our profession is going through some bad stuff right now. It’s exaggerating what’s already difficult about our profession.

    I recently heard an interview where somebody quoted Amy Krouse Rosenthal: “Pay attention to what you pay attention to.” I’ve been thinking about that a lot: what always holds my attention no matter what I’m dealing with or going through? Maybe that could be of use to you. I wish you well and I hope you’ll find the next right path for yourself!

  124. Cat*

    As an elder millennial who took a recession-proof job in medicine, I can honestly say that the stability, salary, and benefits are okay, but I would go back to school for my passions in a heartbeat. The only problem is that 10+ years later, I don’t know what they are anymore. My career has consumed me to the point where hobbies are almost nonexistent. This isn’t to say, don’t go into nursing or the medical field, but maybe find what you love and research the shit out of how you can make money doing it.

  125. Formerly Libraries*

    Are we the same person?? I do not know if someone else has already recommended this but Naomi House ran a series of interviews about non-library jobs in 2020 on her site (

    After I got my MLIS I started in special libraries, moved to public for 7 years and then ended the first 10 years of my career in a government library. At that point, I was pretty over libraries and what librarians are expected to endure for the sake of public image/mythical neutrality. Reading Fobazi Ettarh’s words about vocational awe and the lack of response to a pretty horrific situation by library leaders made me need to take a step back. I ended up starting a new role as a program manager with a non-profit, but I had also looked into educational technology and library vendors to find something adjacent that could still use the skills that I had developed over the years in a way that was less emotionally taxing.

    I would think about the things that you really love about your job and try to look at other fields to find out if they would also make a good fit. There are so many transferable skills from librarianship to project management, program management and grant management. It never hurts to apply to jobs outside your field and it could give you some great perspective.

  126. DJ Abbott*

    OP, is there a way you could try out the fields you’re thinking of to see if you really like them? I wanted to work more with people and worked in a grocery store to get experience and find out if I would really like it. I did, I loved it.
    Also check out the thread from a couple weeks ago about industries that are growing and those would give you more stability.
    Corporations in any field are generally not real stable because management is always changing things, trying to squeeze a few more pennies of profit. Corporate workers usually stay in jobs for around five years, then usually they can use that experience to get another (corporate) job easily.

  127. trixie*

    Your career sounds like mine. I had years as a paraprofessional so did not need to claw for the post MLS job. Even did a stint in law after research. My advice to you – stay in corporates and see if you can move into procurement. Then you could move into contact mgt, too. I found my corporate job mesh well with raising kids and you seem to be early into those years. Good luck!

  128. Quickbeam*

    I’ve been in your shoes. I was 30 and in a secure job (law), good benefits, excellent pension. There is no objective test for career change. The downside was that my job had a strict residency requirement in one of the most expensive counties in the US.

    I ended up going back to s hook for nursing and spent the past 35 years as an RN. When asked if it was worth it, I often discuss the pros and cons. I am happy with where I ended up but there sure wasn’t a roadmap.

  129. mx butlertron*

    i am exactly you, but in school libraries rather than public libraries. it’s rough out there right now, particularly for librarians. my kids (and my own health) needed more flexibility, less stress, and to work with people who understand the importance of children’s literature. this winter, i got a job at a literacy nonprofit. still in the book world, not user facing, 3/5 remote, and getting back to serving under resourced kids. i also don’t anticipate difficulty getting back into libraries if i decide that i want to, and i feel guilt, but i’m taking this time to use my skills in different ways and heal from an entire career defined by stress, isolation, and unprofessionalism. there’s a lot out there you can do with an MLIS, and especially now, if you need to justify leaving public librarianship, you can point to little kids and covid making continuing in that role impossible. i don’t know what parts of being a public librarian are your strengths or are important to you, but you can find those in jobs that are less public facing and therefore way less stressful. within librarianship, there’s corporate/legal/medical jobs if reference is your jam. there are museum jobs if direct instruction is what gets you fired up. if you’re a cataloger, information architecture is super important in tech. i’m rambling some, and i’ve never actually commented here before, but since i’m in an extremely similar situation, i figured i’d stick my oar in. solidarity!

  130. The Courtney Formerly Known As*

    I’m relatively late to the party, so I don’t know if you’ll see this LW.

    I am working in a ‘passion industry’, which I think you could call library work. I spent my first year miserable. I thought it was just a nightmare market but I had so much love for the actual work. Then the company I worked for shut down, and I found a new company who does the same work. I feel entirely different about it now – it’s supportive, I have a full team to brainstorm creative solutions, and a far better understanding of the work than I would have gathered in the previous company even if I had been there for 20 years.

    In all honesty, it sounds like you’ve tried this method of fixing your situation. If multiple workplaces have the exact same culture, it’s likely an industry issue. Plenty of jobs have security and supportive cultures. I think it’s worth taking the plunge, because you wont lose your research skills after trying a new career for 2-5 years.

  131. Mrs. Liberry*

    Have you considered being a school librarian? Great hours if you have kids, and incredibly rewarding. I’m in the northeast, where both teachers and librarians are relatively protected from some of the garbage going on elsewhere in the country. Also, there happens to be a shortage of us, so if you’re good at the job, you shouldn’t have a problem finding a position. Depending on the state, with an MLIS, you can get a provisional teaching certificate. It’s an awesome career.

  132. Lala*

    It sounds like you are contemplating a major change and feeling a lot of anxiety about it, which makes a lot of sense and is so, so normal. The thing about anxiety/fear of the unknown is that they can blind you to the fact that not changing ALSO involves risk: you might miss out on a job that you would’ve loved even more. Also, no job is 100% secure (especially in a shrinking field like library science!), so who knows, maybe you could end up laid off anyway, even if you stayed.
    To answer your question, writing to an advice column and using words like “hostile,” “low-paying,” and “no room for growth,” when describing your job/co-workers are pretty clear signs that it might be time to move on. I also think it’s important to point out that we’re talking about a job, not like, a shotgun wedding. Presumably, you would do some research and also weigh your options at interviews before making any long-term decisions.
    I was where you were a few years ago (although admittedly I was earlier in my career and hadn’t invested quite as much as you have). I HATED the first 3 positions I had after grad school and seriously considered leaving my new field altogether, but then I landed on the job I have now and it’s the most fulfilling work I’ve ever done. I never would’ve gotten here if I’d stayed in my my previous field, and I wouldn’t have been able to land this job if I hadn’t built skills in the previous shitty jobs I had. The point is, nothing is permanent and even if you make a “mistake” you can always course-correct. It might even lead you somewhere you never expected. I have a feeling you will look back on your letter someday and just laugh that you even considered staying. I’m rooting for you. Good luck!

  133. Jonquil*

    Honestly, this sounds like how I ended up in government work (I know library is often government, but more like the civil service side). Stable pay, good hours, unionised workplace, family friendly, diversity-positive culture, generous maternity and sick leave were all super appealing to me as an arts graduate without family support to fall back on. And you have transferrable skills: research, information management, records management, analysis, customer service, stakeholder engagement. It can’t hurt to look around.

  134. Sleeve McQueen*

    I worked in the media for 20 years, had a job I loved and was doing what I dreamed of doing as a child. Then I decided to move into an adjacent field because I could see where things were headed. It was challenging as a lot of my identity was “being a journalist” but then I realised that the job I was doing was going or gone anyway. It was not becoming more enjoyable as the years went on as the demands increased. I am glad I went and got different experiences and feel like the skills I picked up in all of them were very helpful for where I am now.

  135. Bobby Pins*

    This is the first time I have ever been moved to comment but your story is so similar to mine that I want to share my experience. My dream job was museums. I also graduated just as the 2008, recession it and jobs we were all told we could walk into vanished overnight (archaeology, completely tied into the building trade here in the UK). I also then went into post grad education and spent the over 10 years trying to make it work in my field. I was made redundant at the end of 2020 from a job that was in hindsight sending me to the brink of serious burn out. It caused me to have a major rethink of what I wanted out of my career. I first struggled to find a project role in a directly related field but after a wider search I ended up working in a project role for a government agency in IT. Which has been a bit of a steep learning curve.
    I have had to major work untying my identity from my job and I am still trying to navigate work that I am finding interesting, but I just don’t have that all consuming passion for. The pay is not great, although I am getting a large professional qualification funded which was one of my main reasons for applying. I have a great manager for the first time ever and my work life balance is pretty good. The other thing is that I have major job stability. I’ve felt like we were heading into a recession since the start of the pandemic, and I have come to realize safety is a very important to me at this time in my career. Ask me about fixed term contracts again in 10 years.
    That’s just my experience but hopefully you can take something away from it.

  136. Library Lady*

    I was in exactly this position as a public librarian. When I was 32, I wanted to live my best life but had to figure out what that was. So I left the world of libraries for a couple years and used my research skills to explore my options.
    In those 2 years, I made a list of every job that has my skills and did tons of informational interviews about them, did an internship (even though I was older than usual), took a 1-year contract position at a huge multinational organization that was the opposite of libraries, and volunteered.

    At the conclusion, I realized what is most important to me in my career: enjoying my daily life like I did in the library. So I put the word out to coworkers at my old library (which I loved dearly) and they helped me come back. Now that I’ve seen how other careers with my skills contribute to the world, I know how to make my own satisfying contributions happen at my library. The pay is a downside that I’m willing to deal with now that I know my alternatives.

    1. Library Lady*

      To be clear, my point isn’t that you should just stay in libraries. My point is that giving yourself permission to explore can give you the data – and personal insight – to help you make decisions that you feel good about.

  137. Dragonfly7*

    I recently left my support staff library job and am using my customer service and basic tech support skills in another industry that is willing to train me to develop more advanced tech skills. The base pay for my position is the same as the “entry-level” (prior professional experience required) librarian positions.
    Deciding factors: repeatedly asking for training in a certain area and a basic communication improvement for several years, my chronic illness stabilizing, and simply the fact that I was verging on no longer being able to pay all my bills on the amount of money I was earning.
    Concrete negative: although I can work from home most of the time for the moment, the commute sucks when I have to work during standard business hours. However, I’m a renter, and I will be able to afford to move closer if it bothers me too much.
    Concrete positives: Same or better benefits in all areas except health insurance costs. This job change is also a 44 percent raise. The library staff received a 4 percent raise.

  138. Engagement Administrator*

    I see this is resonating with a lot of people, especially in the libraries field, and I’m one of them.

    I graduated with my library degree in 2008, moved to a rural public library to gain experience to be competitive in the city I wanted to live it, and had a quite successful career as a children’s librarian for 12 years. Just before the pandemic started I was in my dream position (finally), and loving it. And then everything feel apart–I had a baby, the lockdown, collapse of leadership in my org. I was miserable and dealing with so much toxic stress on a daily basis.

    I networked with friends, and ended up changing careers a year ago. I’m working for an international business, making more money and better benefits than government work, completely flexible work, and I love who I work with and my brain is happy with what I am doing every day. I literally couldn’t not imagine being this happy outside of libraries. I was absolutely passionate about public libraries and working with kids, but once my own kid has grown a little, I’ll have capacity to volunteer and do things I didn’t have capacity for when I was giving EVERYTHING to my work.

    Data/research is not what drew me to libraries; I’ve always been in love with the human aspect. My programming/project managment skills along with my customer service experience and high emotional intelligence–all honed in library work–have turned into a fantastic fit for me in a role that is a cross between a project manager and executive assistant.

    During the process, I did pros and cons lists, and wrote through what I was afraid of. But ultimately I realized that my career and experience wouldn’t go away, and if I made a mistake I could go back to libraries. But…I never will. Leaving has been the best decision for me and my family, and I’m excited to see what things look like for me in a few years.

  139. Zee*

    However, I’m so afraid that I’ll make an industry change and regret it. That I’ll leave libraries, realize what a good thing I had, and won’t be able to get another job like the one I have now.

    I did this recently. Changed careers in the beginning of 2020, realized the new one sucked horribly, when back to the old one towards the end of 2021. Granted, I work in a field with more jobs than libraries (though not a lot of *good* jobs), but my point is just that it’s totally fine to change your mind! It really wasn’t an issue when interviewing. If you’re in a situation where you want to leave your current job no matter what, it’s fine to try something new rather than trying another library job.

  140. SML*

    I feel for you- it’s so overwhelming to think about making a change! Maybe try getting some of it out of your head and onto paper. Write a pros/cons list- one for staying in your role and one for moving industries. Seeing it all together may make you see things in a different light. Related, a mindset shift might be helpful too- moving into a different type of role is scary, but it’s also really exciting to think about potential benefits that you never experienced before! Talking to friends and colleagues who have made big changes could be helpful too.

  141. Susan Morgan*

    Knowledge management is an adjacent field you could look into, if you haven’t already. It’s in demand and a good corporate career path. If you’re not familiar, you could do a job search and the listings will show what skills and requirements those jobs have. I think you’ll find your qualifications are portable.

Comments are closed.