I’m dating myself but in the early 90’s I found myself in graduate school pursuing a degree in Library and Information Science. At this time, there was no graphical Internet browser as of yet, although there was an “Internet”. There were also online information content providers like Lexis/Nexis and Dialog.
Library Science classes at that time consisted of traditional library skills like learning the structure and cataloging rules to the Dewey Decimal System and the Library of Congress Schedules (LCC Classification), as well as Collection Development (how to stock your library), and understanding basic reference sources (what “book” to look at for research). Classes also consisted on how to the use the “new” electronic resources like CD-ROM and those online content provider resources I mentioned earlier.
Since there were no user-friendly graphical interfaces at the time, searches via online resources were done using straight boolean logic. The user typed bright green or orange letters onto a blank black screen and hit the “Enter” button on the computer keyboard to receive a list of results. To do an online search, there was no way around using boolean logic. No buttons or shortcuts. You HAD to use it. You had to understand nesting, quotes, the * wildcard, etc. You were actually given a class grade on this knowledge. I took one entire class devoted to nothing else but learning how to create boolean search strings to search Dialog.
At the time, this was as cutting-edge as it could get. Publishing companies were just beginning to upload their content onto provider platforms. The idea of partnering content with technology was just taking off. Nobody really understood boolean logic except computer geeks and …. well…. librarians.
Flash forward to the late 90’s. 1998. I had just returned from attending the Special Libraries Association conference. By the way, I recently checked up on this group and observed that the Special Libraries Association has been trying hard to align its identity with a more current vision. However, in 1998, I believe it was still very much on track with the times.
Having just returned, I received a call from the Director of Research at LAI WardHowell, a competitive executive search firm. They were looking to hire a new researcher to support executive recruiting and they had pulled a copy of my resume from the career room at the conference (resumes were not yet commonly found online). A large majority of the researchers in executive search at the time were people who held a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science. These were people who were familiar with and could dig into the many directories available, on their quest to identify top-level executives. Directories, at the time, sat on shelves. Some information sources were on CD, but CD and electronic directories were still new. LAI WardHowell was interested in hiring me as a recruiting researcher supporting the executive recruiting effort because of my Master’s in Library & Information Science.
Flash forward to 2013. I’m sitting at SourceCon listening to Glen Cathey talk about growing your own research team for his presentation entitled: “Looking for sourcers? Grow your own!” Glen built a team of 40 sourcers from scratch in just four months. He recruited and hired people from a wide variety of career fields and varying amounts of work experience (some were students just out of college with no work experience). The sourcers he hired shared certain characteristics in common, such as having a positive attitude and being able to demonstrate that they were quick learners and committed to excellence.
However, Glen’s presentation made me acutely aware of how very different the profile of a sourcer has become as compared to years past. Technology and the Internet have changed the playing field. You no longer need a Master’s degree in Library Science or Computer Science to understand how boolean logic works. You don’t need to be a professional librarian to know where to look for information. The Internet has delivered us from relying on certain professions to overcome these things.
It’s a little bit unnerving to realize that my education and experience doesn’t necessarily elevate me in the sourcing world the way it used to. I’ve got a great head start because I’m older and wiser, and I have a deeper track record. I also continue to keep up with the latest technologies, methods and web sites. However, Glen’s presentation made it obvious that nobody can stand still in the sourcing world.
No matter if you’re twenty years into the profession or just starting out, the moral is the same: Don’t stop learning. Keep yourself on the cutting edge as much as possible. I believe sourcing will continue to evolve and change, and new people with fresh and varied backgrounds will continue to enter the field. There is only one thing constant in sourcing and that is continuous change and evolution. But would any of us choose to be sourcers if it were any other way?