Moving for a job: Andrew Finegan

AndrewFineganI moved over 3000km to my first job as a qualified librarian. Like many professionals do, upon my graduation, I opted to move to a regional city as a means of gaining valuable experience in a place where my skills were in high demand. And so, after living in Melbourne, Australia for 28 years, I relocated to the far northern city of Darwin, where I stayed for two and a half years and gained a wealth of valuable experience in collection development, branch management, cultural heritage and reference service delivery.

This was, at the time, planned with the endgame of developing a suite of professional skills that would ultimately bring me back to Melbourne, and to my dream job – wherever that might be. However, since my return, I have often felt the call to venture forth to other horizons – this time in the international development sector, where there is often demand for library and information professionals.

The past two years have taken me to Papua New Guinea – from the sleepy port of Alotau, gateway to an island paradise, to the somewhat-eery historic ghost town of Rabaul, under the shadow of the constantly-rumbling volcano, Mt Tavurvur. It has also taken me to Vietnam – from the beautiful world heritage site of Hoi An, to the bustling, growing metropolis of Hanoi. And soon, I will be departing for further information management adventures in Pristina, Kosovo, in what will be my first time in Europe – over 15,000 km from home.

These opportunities have presented a somewhat twisted path, establishing my librarianship skills, but also building experience in cultural heritage, museum programs, records management, and community capacity building. There are certainly times where I crave a more “settled” career back in Australia, but until the opportunity comes to settle into my ideal career path, I’ll opt to take the path less taken.

[image: the author posing for a carefully-positioned selfie in Hanoi]

Posted in Discussion topics, Guest post, Round 2015A and tagged , , , .

13 Comments

  1. Good for you, Andrew. Your diverse skills in records, museums, heritage would be appealing to hiring teams. I envy your ability to work internationally. I hope to do the same one day; for now I have started volunteering for short term international development projects and find it very rewarding.

    • Great! That’s how I got started working overseas. Don’t discount international volunteer work as anything less than something that you get paid a salary for. Professional work is exactly that, and if you can apply those skills overseas, and get paid an allowance to support yourself (even if it’s only a volunteer living allowance) then it totally counts. πŸ™‚

  2. Thanks for posting and best wishes for your work and travels. I’ve been very interested in becoming more involved in international development projects in the library and information sector. How would someone get started? Are there any organisations that might offer opportunities for library and information work?

    • Depending on where you’re from, your government may have an international development program that you may be able to get involved with. In Australia, this is the AVID program (http://dfat.gov.au/people-to-people/avid/Pages/avid.aspx). Don’t let the “volunteer” label put you off – it’s about you volunteering your profession skills and know-how and it provides a generous living allowance. Although, with our government’s new budget, that might all change. But any rate, I often see assignments that would suit a LIS professional, whether it’s developing an education resource centre, or supporting parliamentary info services, or capacity building as a law librarian.

      I’d also recommend registering for the UN Volunteer program. Similarly, they cover all costs and provide a good living allowance, and there are a range of agencies that you can work in, in an info management or public information role, either in one of the peacekeeping missions, or other affiliates agencies such as UNDP, UN Women, UNESCO, IOM, etc…

      Good luck! πŸ™‚

  3. We’ve also got a post coming up this week rounding up some places to look for jobs and opportunities such as Andrew has experienced. It all sounds amazing doesn’t it?

  4. Hi Andrew, what an inspiring post! As a new graduate in Melbourne (from Monash Uni, 2014) I wonder whether you have any tips as to how to accumulate some of this great experience and skills? I have found work in high schools as a Library Technician but am eager for more development as a Librarian – what type of library did you work in whilst in Darwin? Its been quite hard to break through in the industry and gain more responsibility and skills, so any advice would be invaluable πŸ™‚ Thank you and best of luck with your work!!

    • Hi Michelle,

      Maybe I’ve just been incredibly lucky, but my biggest tip is to be proactive, seek out the opportunities, and don’t be afraid to pursue them with courage and confidence. The usual advice also applies – make sure you’ve got an impressive resume and, more importantly, supportive referees. Use social media to network with other library professionals and engage with online discussion.

      You’re possibly better off relocating to where the librarian work is, rather than sticking in Melbourne as a library technician – the exception being if you’re in an organisation that will support you moving upwards internally into a librarian role, in which case you should try to get that happening as soon as possible.

      However, I found that living in Darwin was a fantastic way of getting experience. It’s a transient population, so people move around a lot, and professional vacancies often come up. I started out in a university library, but realised very quickly that wasn’t for me, and moved back into the more familiar environment of public libraries, and very quickly found myself managing a small branch team! Later on, the opportunity arose to move to the Northern Territory Library, and gain experience in delivering services for a state-level library collection. It was one of the most interesting library jobs I’ve had, to be honest!

      That said, it’s not always easy moving about, so you should definitely also consider your own personality, how well you cope being away from friends and family, and living in potentially isolating circumstances. It’s important to know your own limits, and understand your own motivations for moving. I personally get a lot out of travelling and experiencing new places, and the excitement of that definitely offsets some of the more challenging aspects of living abroad. Anyway, I’d be happy to chat about it further if you want to get in touch.

      – A.

      • Thanks for the tips πŸ™‚
        I do love to travel, I spent 2009-2011 travelling, studying and working around Europe and North America, but now Im settled in Melbourne with my partner and buying a house and all that jazz, so moving around again isn’t too much of an option, at least for a while.. Hopefully through my networking and hard work I can manage to make my way up higher somewhere soon! I do love the sound of moving somewhere like Darwin though.. I appreciate your message, can I ask if you had a job lined up in Darwin before you moved out there, or just went and found it after moving?
        Thanks again and best of luck with your work!

  5. Hi Andrew, what an inspiring post! As a new graduate in Melbourne (from Monash Uni, 2014) I wonder whether you have any tips as to how to accumulate some of this great experience and skills? I have found work in high schools as a Library Technician but am eager for more development as a Librarian – what type of library did you work in whilst in Darwin? Its been quite hard to break through in the industry and gain more responsibility and skills, so any advice would be invaluable πŸ™‚ Thank you and best of luck with your work!!

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