Looking for a Job

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Revision as of 13:36, 26 September 2005 by (Talk) (Online Job Search Resources)

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Success Stories

Online Job Search Resources

Blogs/Websites to Watch

Specific Blog Posts/Articles to Check Out

Tips for Job Seekers

  • Start a blog! If even if you aren't yet working as a librarian, you can differentiate yourself from the crowd by starting a professional blog. Be careful what you write, though. [1]
  • Create a job portfolio. Include a statement of professional goals, objectives and values. Having something that will remind you what you think is important will do at least three things: 1) It will help you assess whether an institution is the right fit for you, 2) It will give an institution an idea of what motivates you personally, 3) It shows you know how to make a long-term plan which is a life skill that translates quite well to the professional world.
  • Each job application you submit should be customized to that position description. Therefore, don't include statements of professional goals, objectives and values. Such content makes it seems like you submitted a generic resume!
  • Have someone who has been a member of a library search committee proofread your resume and cover letter. You will get a much better appraisal of your materials by someone who has seen good ones and really bad ones.
  • Better yet, get a mentor who has been a member of a library search committee to give you good advice on all aspects of the job search process. I had one, and his help was immeasurable.
  • Do tailor your cover letter to the specific job. I know it can be tedious to write new cover letters for every job, but sending out form letters is as good as throwing them in the garbage. Better to write three excellent cover letters for jobs you really want than to write 20 so-so ones. When there is a list of qualifications they are looking for, discuss how you meet those specific qualifications. Don’t go on and on about your ability to design great websites if it has little to do with the job requirements. When search committees are reading 100 or more cover letters for a single position, they will keep ones that speak specifically to their requirements. Most search committees can easily sniff out a form letter. Also, try and talk more about what you can do for them than why you want to work there. The more concrete you can be the better.
  • Don’t apply for any job you wouldn’t actually want. While this seems like obvious advice, when you’re in an impossibly tight job market you might not want to miss applying for anything you’re qualified for. If you don’t want to be a cataloger, don’t apply for cataloger jobs. If you only want to work in public libraries, don’t apply for academic library jobs. I learned my lesson when I was preparing for an interview and was struggling to think of a response for when I got the inevitable “why did you apply for this job?” question. I realized right then that I’d only applied for the job because I met all of the qualifications, not because the job met any of my qualifications.
  • Listen to your gut. The people interviewing you are the people you are going to work with almost every day, so if you don’t feel comfortable with them, don’t ignore that feeling. If people don’t make you feel comfortable at the interview and don’t make an effort to get to know you during the parts of your interview day that are supposed to be social, it’s a pretty good sign that you won’t be comfortable there if you get the job. Realize that if you are not being treated like a potential colleague or that you are not being treated like you deserve, you should not take that job if you are offered it. I know this job market sucks, but it’s not worth it to take a really bad job you know will make you miserable. It’s too big a chunk of your life. Don’t settle.
  • Find a way to distinguish yourself from the pack. This advice is extremely important for new librarians who don’t have much exprience in the field. Hiring committees are taking a leap of faith when they hire someone without much of a professional track-record in librarianship. What would make them do that? For entry-level positions, there may be over 100 inexperienced librarians applying, and probably some exprienced ones to boot. When you don’t have experience working in your favor, it’s important to make yourself stand out in some way. Become heavily involved in professional organizations. This shows a committment to the profession. Become more tech-savvy than the average new librarian. The more programming languages you know, the more things you can do with websites, the more you will stand out. Start a blog. This is controversial advice because it can hurt as much as it can help. If you are writing negative rants or overly personal things, a blog will only serve to make you look bad. If you are writing positive/constructive things about topics related to librarianship that interest you, you can communicate a passion for the profession that the search committee may not be able to glean from your cover letter.
  • Get comfortable with public speaking or learn to fake it.
  • Have lots of questions for the search committee. Think about these in advance so your mind won’t go blank when the time comes. One I always liked to ask, and which elicited the most interesting responses, is “what do you like about working here?” The responses to that question often gave me a good idea about how the staff really feels about the library, the patrons, and their colleagues. Other good ones include, “what are some common qualities that successful individuals at this institution possess?”, “how are decisions made at the library?”, “what are the more difficult challenges faced by someone in this position?”, and “what would you like to change about the library?” These, too, should be tailored to the specific position. Don’t just prepare questions so that when the time comes you’ll have some. Think about what you really want to know about this job and this library. What would make you want to work there? What would make you not want to work there? Pick questions that will help you to know what you need to know to make a good decision.
  • Always send thank-you notes. Send separate handwritten notes to each search committee member and try to personalize them in some way. It will make you stand out from the crowd and will remind them of you when they are making their hiring decision.