Today I am happy to present a guest post from Kim Dority with smart (and welcome!) ideas and guidance for how to best approach your first job in the library and information science (LIS) field. I love that just reading this knocked my anxiety level down a notch or two. I hope it helps you, too! -Kate
Thinking about where your LIS career may take you? To riff on Dr. Seuss, oh, the places you’ll go! Of course, when you’re just starting out, that very amazing universe of LIS opportunities can be a bit daunting – where should you start?
The good news is that wherever you start, your first job is just your first job. In other words, that first job is simply the first step in what will undoubtedly be a rich and varied path of professional projects, opportunities you can’t even imagine at this point, and a great learning experience.
What it won’t be is the determining factor in what your LIS career will be for the next several decades.
Given that it’s 2016, you probably know that social media can help you find a job. You know that it can help you meet new people and network, and you know that those connections are what will likely lead you to a new job. Finding like-minded professionals can seem like finding a needle in a haystack of needles, so here are some starting points. I hope you’ll share some of yours in the comments!
LinkedIn is the largest professional networking site (it boasts over 433 million members) and it’s the site that employers and HR professionals use most when searching for candidates. Use it to network and connect with other professionals, join and participate in groups, ask and answer questions, and connect with alumni.
I bet you’ve heard this advice during your MLIS or MARA path: Conduct informational interviews. And I bet you haven’t followed that advice yet. But, I have to tell you, although setting up and going through with one had me somewhat anxious, I did one last semester and it was much less terrifying in real time than my pre-interview angst predicted.
I bet I can predict and shoot down most of your arguments against taking this step. Wanna play?
Argument: I’ve never heard of informational interviewing before this program. It is not a real thing.
Rebuttal: Au contraire, mon frere.
a. It’s in Wikipedia, so it must be real
b. Lots of other resources online talk about how and why to conduct them
c. The nice librarian I talked to in October was not confused about what I was asking
You attend the Career Development workshops, you thoroughly reviewed the Networking section of the Career Development resource site, and you have practiced your networking skills when you’ve gone to the ALA Annual Conference, but you are questioning the hype about networking and wondering why this job search strategy doesn’t seem to be working for you. Perhaps you have missed the final step of networking.
Successful networking isn’t really successful unless you do one last thing and that is take action and follow through. I see it like this, with every networking contact you make there is an opportunity attached to it and it comes down to you whether you choose to act on that opportunity or not.
Do you have questions about your chosen career path? Are you feeling overwhelmed by all the possible jobs open to iSchool graduates? Have you come across a job title that sounds interesting but you have no idea what it really means? I promise you, you are not alone. I had (what I thought were) firm plans when I entered the program, but the more options I learned about, the fuzzier that path got.
Enter: Alumni Career Spotlights. These show us how iSchool grads are using their degrees in Real Life, and many of them are very open to answering a few questions via email or even through informational interviews. You can search the listings by keyword, name, year graduated, and/or degree earned.
A few quick examples to whet your appetite:
The big one, ALA’s Annual Conference, is coming up in June, as is SLA’s, and SAA’s starts in July. So, hopefully, you’ve thought about attending a professional conference (I argue: you should!!). Please, let us know in the comments! Maybe you’ll even discover some fellow Spartans you can connect with.
You did it! You just found your dream job. A position that sounds like a perfect fit for you. You feel like this is the reason you went to iSchool. Your pulse is racing and you have butterflies in your stomach—you are so excited. But you know you aren’t ready for it.
You feel like this just isn’t the right time. You are still working on your MLIS. The position is full time, and you aren’t ready to make that commitment. It would also be a long commute, and that is more than you want to take on right now. What do you do?
If you honestly know that the timing is not right to apply for this job, don’t do it. It would be a waste of your time and of the company’s time. But, I would not let this opportunity slip away. It’s a perfect time to follow up with the hiring manager or another contact in the department to get more information about the position and the type of candidate they are seeking. It’s time to do an informational interview.
Recently, Library Journal surveyed academic and public library directors, as well as some LIS movers and shakers, to learn what skills they think librarians will need in the next 20 years. For students, that means having the 11 skills on this list will help you get a job. Do any of these look familiar? They should! Note: I’ve taken the skill name from the original source, but the descriptions are mine.
Library directors want librarians who can demonstrate and explain the value of their library to their community, politicians, budget committees, and donors, among others. Information professionals should be comfortable and articulate when interacting with lots of kinds of people.
Last month, Jill Klees (our iSchool Career Center Liaison) hosted a Colloquium entitled “Applying for a Library Job? Do This!” that featured two library hiring managers who discussed what they look for in applicants and preparation tips. They also answered audience questions at the end of the hour. They shared a ton of really relevant, practical information. This is the second (Part 1 here) of a two-part series where I’m sharing what I learned, and I also promise to get answers to your questions. Keep reading!
Last month, Jill Klees (our iSchool Career Center Liaison) hosted a Colloquium entitled “Applying for a Library Job? Do This!” that featured two library hiring managers who discussed what they look for in applicants and preparation tips. They also answered audience questions at the end of the hour. They shared a ton of really relevant, practical information. In the first of a two-part series, I’ll share what I learned, and I also promise to get answers to your questions. Keep reading!