Friday, September 9, 2011

Surviving Your Library Job Search by Yvonne Mulhern

Job-hunting, even at its best, is never easy.  In a down economy and a profession teeming with freshly-minted graduates, it can be a long, soul-sucking experience wrapped inside a nightmare wrapped inside an abyss (ok, maybe I exaggerate a little). Below are some ideas that will hopefully lessen the pain.
  1. Do your research.  Besides investigating a library's web presence (and its physical presence if you’re close enough), learn about the town or neighborhood where the library is located. At the very least potential employers will take note of your interest. Google your interviewers to discover areas of interest, past presentations, etc. Find out what others are saying about the library—are there any red flags, such as recently proposed budget cuts or frequent staff turnover? Remember, they’re not just interviewing you, you’re interviewing them. Show them that you’ve really thought about working and living in the area.
  2. Expand your horizons.  When searching job listings, don’t forget state library association job listings, government (local, state, and federal) listings, library-related listservs, or library school websites. Follow library job lists on Twitter. If possible, be flexible about re-locating. If you live in an urban area, don't discount jobs from rural and semi-rural areas in your state.   If you’re really flexible, try international listings. Also, be open to different types of libraries.  For example, I assumed I’d never get hired at an academic library without a second master’s degree—luckily I was wrong. Further, don’t forget to broaden your job search to non-libraries, where a librarian may be called a taxonomist, knowledge manager, digital curator, or metadata expert. Don’t have lots of library experience?  Chances are you have transferable skills from your past jobs—or even your hobbies. Can you deal effectively with an irate customer or patron?  Do you collaborate well with others? Do you have supervisory or training experience? Can you program computers or design visually appealing materials?
  3. Cultivate a professional network.  Librarians love to help people.  Don't be afraid to query the librarian hive mind on Twitter, Friendfeed, or listservs. Take advantage of student membership discounts in library and information organizations, such as the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (an international organization), the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, or the American Library Association (which has an online forum, a mentoring program, and job search assistance at conferences).
  4. Stay involved and current. Look for opportunities to volunteer in a library or information center or even online.  Even a few hours a week will make a difference, especially if you don’t have much library experience. Keeping up with library and information developments is challenging but crucial. Be sure to read journals and librarian blogs in your areas of interest.  Remember, your time is valuable--don't follow a resource unless it is consistently useful, entertaining, or both.
  5. Maintain your professionalism.  If you don’t have an online presence you can start small, with thoughtful comments on library blogs.  If you discuss your job search, stay positive and professional—especially on library listservs, which are archived (remember, the library world is small and has a long memory!).  As you craft your online presence, consider creating an e-portfolio. Or, start a blog to showcase your sterling skills in YA literature, programming, etc.
  6. Stand out from the pack.  Go the extra mile: give a poster presentation at a conference. Start a Twitter chat in your area of interest. Or, grab the bull by the horns and plan an unconference with some colleagues. Whatever you do, make sure you have the energy and commitment to follow through.
  7. Take care of yourself. Treating yourself well during this stressful time period is a necessity, not a luxury. Skimping on meals, sleep and exercise will all take their physical toll. On the emotional side, carve out time for activities unrelated to your job search--even if it's a few minutes a day, or an hour a week. Make time for friends and mindless fun.  You will need them both.

Job-hunting, like dating, is a numbers game.  Like dating, you will often meet a lot of people before finding the right fit. Remember that you’re a professional with valuable skills to offer.  And when you do get hired, pay it forward by helping out another job-seeker.

Yvonne Mulhern is an academic librarian at Tarleton State University and a co-director of the Texas Social Media Research Institute.  Her blog is MissCybrarian.

1 comment:

  1. Even though I'm just starting library school, I enjoyed this post--great advice! Thanks!