Help Wanted: Search Specialist

As we increasingly move to an Internet-centric society, we’re seeing all kinds of new and interesting careers spring up. Soon, we’ll see some interesting career opportunities for smart, adaptable workers.

A few years ago, we saw the rise of professional bloggers and search engine marketing specialists. Right now, we’re seeing professionals developing mobile applications and social media widgets.

In 2009, we’ll see the evolution of the Search Specialist. Now, these people are already out there in niche jobs (and they’ll probably be able to find this blog posting). But coming soon, we’ll probably see headhunters and HR departments looking for knowledge workers who can quickly and effectively mine the Net for super-specific information.

It would be natural to expect this to go to someone with a library sciences degree, but I think Search Specialists will evolve from people who work within specific industries.

I’ll give you an example. I worked as an editor at a small e-marketing agency specializing in pharmaceutical communications directed at healthcare professionals. On my team, I had an editor who was a wizard at uncovering information on the web.

Sure, she was good at Google, but that’s a given. She also knew how to dig deeper and get information in other search engines, like Yahoo, Ask, and MSN (all of which give different results). She also knew how to search blogs, message boards, and news articles to dig up more information.

This is going back a few years before the big YouTube and Twitter explosion. But a Search Specialist will be the kind of person who can quickly and effectively dig up, organize, and present highly focused data sources.

In our case, this editor could dig up information, sort the gems from the junk, and generate an informed position on just about any topic you can imagine. Going forward, and it’s going to be important to access all kinds of information on the public Net, even the stuff that isn’t well tagged and indexed by Google.

Blogs, videos, Flash interfaces, games, e-books, Twitters posts, social networks (including Facebook & MySpace), manuals, databases, closed communities, news archives, software, all contain valuable information. Some of this information is indexed, but most of it is not.

Several industries already leverage search specialists, including patent and other legal businesses. In the future, other industries will seek people out who can mine and measure information from Net sources.

Search Specialists will be needle-in-a-haystack researchers who defy traditional job roles. Some of them will be research specialists or editors or scientists or journalists or work from home entrepreneurs.

In the beginning, they will be underpaid and under appreciated. But one day they will be valued and coveted knowledge workers who can extract stubborn data from nearly any source. In the right organization, they will be highly paid and highly promotable, especially as they research corporate strategies.

If you like to search, discover, and organize, it’s probably a good time to start positioning yourself as a Search Specialist in your current career. Eventually, as the career landscape shifts, you’ll be prepared for a new career as a Search Specialist.

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  • Artie Dugan

    I’m currently for hire as a “feral information aggregator.”

  • Artie,

    What’s your role as information aggregator? What’s your background that led you to this role?

    Buddy

  • I think that information retrieval and management will be huge in the coming years. Although “new” media information that has been preserved in media since the 1990’s, tends to be more easily accessible and archived through a variety of online search systems, information authored in legacy formats will not be so easily managed.

    This is the role of the search specialist. I am married to a librarian specializing in deep informational retrieval relying heavily on online databases. Even as a very savvy internet user, I am still surprised by how many deep wells of data she has made me aware of.

    The coming years will part, like the digital divide, those users who are true “search specialists” and those who are just comfortable using google. These specialists are elite, because they will be able to determine the value of, order the importance of, and determine the relevance and credibility of the author. The popularity of facebook, twitter, blogs and short-form comments replies will make parsing searches an absolute requirement.

    If you are in need of someone with the skills required to sift through the endless tomes of the internet for your data, you should contact your local Library and Information Science Program. These programs produce the elite of information management professionals.

  • Renee

    This is an interesting read, especially since US News and World Report just named librarianship as one of its best careers in 2009: http://www.usnews.com/articles/business/best-careers/2008/12/11/best-careers-2009-librarian.html?s_cid=rss:best-careers-2009-librarian. I agree that specialization is very important for the current and next generation of researchers. Librarians who work in a corporate or specialized environment have always historically had more opportunity and earned better salaries. Though, I’d still argue that we’re mostly underpaid. I have a MLIS and a law degree and have positioned myself as a legal information specialist. I have found firsthand that there is a lot of opportunity for people with this experience and expertise at law firms, corporations and law schools.

    The Special Libraries Association (SLA) is the professional association for specialized librarians. Most experienced corporate, health care or law librarians are involved with SLA or their state’s chapter of SLA. There are also further specialized library associations like the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), for example. If an employer is looking for a subject specific researcher, I would urge them to post their opportunity at the Special Libraries Association website (www.sla.org), among other places.

  • Renee,

    Your background is clearly well positioned for your career. And your value isn’t just in your ability to uncover information. The real value is in your ability to FILTER content.

    I think all specialized librarians will be in demand if they can master data mining beyond Google. And if you are a librarian, I have to imagine that you’ve got a curious mind and this is actually going to be FUN.

    In this case, I think that we’re going to see a lot of organically grown, enthusiast librarians who serve particular industries. Again, it wont be just about digging up information. It will be how to uncover, filter, and qualify what they find.

    And in a short time, companies will be paying for that service.

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