Sunday, 23 March 2014

Skype Interview: Prospect Research - March 12, 2014

On Wednesday, March 12th, following our student group business, we were joined by Carmen Lee via Skype. We actually had the opportunity of meeting Carmen on our Toronto Trip at dinner during the reading break. I spoke casually with Carmen about the idea of possibly doing a Skype interview on prospect research, and it ended up happening!

In the interview, Carmen gave us some great insight into the world of prospect research - what "prospect research" actually means, what her role as a research officer entails, how prospect research fits into special librarianship, and pointers on finding employment in the field!

Carmen Lee is the Research Officer for the Toronto East General Hospital Foundation, as well as the Membership Director of the SLA Toronto Chapter. She graduated with a Master of Information degree from Toronto's iSchool, and took every single research course available in the program at the time. She also took a continuing education class called "Prospect Research for Information Professionals", which was incidentally taught by a graduate of the iSchool. Initially, in her job search, Carmen started out in an academic library setting, but had a chance to move around within the field during her practicum. She found her current position through Charity Village, a database of non-profit professional job postings in Canada, and by employing her Boolean searching skills looking for things such as "research job career", "research identification", and "research analyst". Before attending her interview, she reached out to a colleague in the field via LinkedIn to learn more about prospect research and prepare herself.

What does this tell us?
  • We need to employ the skills we attain through the Library and Information Science program outside of situations simply involving assignments and papers. Abilities such as Boolean searching can be used immensely for the purpose of a job search!
  • We need to prepare. When going in for an interview, don't wing it. Prepare in advance so that you can present yourself as professionally and suitably as possible! Make the employer believe that you are the best fit, and you are exactly who they are looking for!
  • We need to network. They say that connections are how you get jobs, but that doesn't translate to "inheritance". Networking means reaching out and connecting with others - even better, with professionals. Harness the networking opportunities you get from talks, conferences, socials...basically any situation that puts you in touch with professionals. Start right now and connect with Carmen Lee on LinkedIn!
  • We need to look at the non-profit sector. Because we are continually exposed to the distinct areas of public, academic, and special libraries, many of us don't stop to consider the fact that there are jobs out there with non-profit organizations. 
    • Carmen has recommended taking a look at these three places to start:
      1. Charity Village
      2. APRA (the Association of Professional Researchers for Advancement)
      3. AFP (the Association of Fundraising Professionals)

But, what is prospect research?
  • According to Carmen, prospect research is the act of gathering and analysing information, and presenting and interpreting the results
  • Prospect research can be divided into two main branches...
    1. Active research, which concerns things such as competitive intelligence
    2. Passive research, which concerns more reference-oriented work. 

What are the responsibilities of a prospect researcher/research officer?
  • It is your job to connect the dots. Rather than simply stating things, prospect research entails strategically connecting what you find to meet your client's needs. Keeping in mind your clientele/audience, you need to mine the information and data that you collect, compile the information into a cohesive, presentable format, and as Carmen described it, "make your client look amazing"!

Are there jobs for librarians in prospect research?
  • Yes! Majority of Carmen's colleagues are librarians and hold the MLIS degree we are currently in pursuit of! 

Who are the clients of a prospect researcher/research officer?
  • The clientele will vary depending on the organization. Carmen works for the Toronto East General Hospital Foundation, so most of her clients are from the foundation board members, as well as the hospital board members. 

What are the most important questions to consider when serving a client?
  • What are they using this for? For instance, if the client is meeting with someone important, what would they need to know about that person to help meet their initiatives?
  • When do they need it by? If the time frame is shorter, the client would need key points. If there was more time to work with, more in-depth information could be useful.

What resources does a prospect researcher/research officer use?
  • Free and open sources. The Toronto East General Hospital Foundation is a non-profit organization, so Carmen's research tends to employ the use of free databases and resources, much of which can be accessed through the Toronto Public Library. 
  • Direct data collection. In addition, Carmen finds other information through  a more direct approach by consulting her colleagues. 
  • Mainly online material, with some offline. Carmen described her work as being very online-heavy and if she does conduct offline research, its purpose would be more for establishing a historical context. 
  • Social media and news. Carmen has a daily routine of looking through national news sources, and social media platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, and RSS feeds.

If I'm interested in finding a career in prospect research, where should I start?
  • Carmen suggested consulting Prospect Research for Fundraisers: The Essential Handbook by Jennifer J. Filla and Helen E. Brown as a worthwhile read that includes important terms and definitions, as well as databases. Luckily for you, this book can be found at most public libraries, and is accessible as an e-book through Western Libraries here!

I hope that you have found this post helpful, and explore the possibility of a non-traditional library science career in prospect research! If you have any other questions about prospect research, Carmen's contact information, along with the other SLA Toronto Chapter executive members can be found here!

Thank you, Carmen for the wonderful advice and opportunity for our students!

Megan Siu, originally from Edmonton, Alberta, is a co-chair of the UWO SLA Student Chapter, but is also involved with the UWO CLA Student Chapter. She is currently in her second term of the MLIS program and is only growing more certain of her passion for the field of library and information science. Her interests are focused in special and non-traditional librarianship, particularly in legal and government-related environments.

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