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Professional Skills

Stay Current in Your Profession

Once you have a job, staying up to date in your field is crucial.  However, saying you want to stay up to date and actually doing so are two extremely different things - as the speed at which information comes rushing at us these days is overwhelming.  As such, managing the information flow and staying on top of it can also be overwhelming, and it is all too easy to become quickly buried and fall behind.  


Below we review some potential ways that you can get a handle on taming the speed and variety of news, website updates, and relevant snippets of crucial info that are heading your way work for you.

Where do I start?

The best way to stay in the know with the goings-on in your profession? Read. Read the news. Read professional newsletters. Read academic/scholarly articles (or at least the abstracts!) to see how folks are innovating.

This is the perfect time to utilize library resources.

Check out the Subject Guide that best relates to your field.

See what resources the librarian recommends for finding newspapers, magazines, academic journals, websites, even professional associations in that field. If specific resources are not listed (titles of journals, etc.), chances are they have a list of databases that are subject-specific. Depending on the database, they will provide access to hundreds of resources that pertain to your subject area. Narrow your search down to a smaller date range (say the last few years). 

If you would rather the resources come to you, consider setting up an RSS feed manager, like Feedly.

While it is not always financially or logistically possible to have a subscription to every journal in your field that you might want to keep up with, it is frequently possible to have the Table of Contents (ToC) of many journals in your chosen field emailed to you every time a new issue comes out.  Using a ToC to quickly and efficiently stay on top of developments in your area is both a practical and simple (and economically smart!) way to manage your time.  


Many journals offer this service for free, and it is merely a question of navigating their website to find out how you can start receiving these regular email updates from them.  Below is an example of how to navigate through the journal Science to get their weekly ToC emailed to you. You will see that you have a wide choice of newsletters / tables of contents to be emailed to you, and that you can also choose from other updates that the journal has to offer.  Once you have set up this system, you can typically go back in and change it or cancel it at any time.  Searching through other journal websites will get you similar results and options, and typically all of these services are available for free.  


Finding and Joining Professional Associations: Where do I start?

Use the resources around you — talk to your professors, internship supervisors, advisors, etc. See what professional associations they affiliate with, or which ones they would recommend for a student or new professional to join. It’s a good idea to let them know what area of your field you are interested in pursuing professionally.

Search for associations or organizations using a simple keyword search in Google. Enter a keyword or two about your field (e.g., data science) and tack on the word association, professional association, or trade association. If the profession you are interested in might require working in fields that are outside your area of expertise (e.g., a librarian for a corporation or law firm — they might have a handle on all things library world, but need to beef up their knowledge in law or business), try searching for associations in THAT area. They might have a section or division of the association specifically for people like you! Even if they don’t, it’s a great way to develop expertise in that peripheral field and stay relevant in your profession.

Attend conferences sponsored by the association or organization. Use this opportunity to ask attendees what OTHER associations they’re affiliated with, what resources they utilize to develop themselves professionally, etc.

Coming soon!

TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.


TED Talks are an excellent way to hear about what experts and cutting edge leaders are currently thinking and doing.  TED talks are an excellent way to both become and stay stay inspired.  


Podcasts are an incredible way to keep up to date on the latest and greatest developments going on in your area, or to always have an ear tuned to the conversations going on in your professional environment.  Podcasts are easily searched and managed by a variety of podcast apps and players - and after some experimentation on your own you can quickly settle into one you prefer.  Below are some of the better known ones to help you get started.  


Google Podcasts:

Pocket Cast:


Podcasts (Apple):