Q: I am a SJSU SLIS grad and had a question about how to handle being out of the workforce for a couple years. I am planning on staying home with my kids and am wondering the best way to convey that gap on my resume once I am trying to get back into the workforce? Should I explain the gap and if so how?
A: When you find yourself out of the workforce for a while, you want to be sure to continue to stay connected to the work world in some way. That might mean volunteering, working part-time or working on a project or contract basis or getting involved at your kid’s school for example. Try to continue doing something that allows you to demonstrate your skills or develop new ones. Think big in terms of paid and unpaid experiences as both of these can add value to your resume. Choose your activities with purpose and think about how you can include the experience on your resume and how you can communicate the value of what you did to a potential employer. In doing this, you won’t really have a gap on your resume because you will account for your less than full-time work experience with other activities that show how you stayed connected to the world of work.
As SLIS Career Center Liaison, I was recently invited to share job search tips and other career advice on how to land your ideal library job during a recent webinar hosted by American Libraries. Myself, Bohyun Kim – digital access librarian at Florida International University Medical Library in Miami, who blogs at LibraryHat and host David Connolly, who co-manages the ALA JobList website, participated in the lively discussion. You can view the session recording, or read highlights from the discussion on our School’s new student blog. Enjoy!
Q: I did my best in the interview and I thought I had nailed it but I didn’t get the job. I even asked for feedback and they said I did extremely well. I don’t know what else to do.
A: Unfortunately, even when you do your best in an interview, it doesn’t mean you will always get the job. There are many qualified candidates in the talent pool. But please don’t lose hope.
As hard as it is, don’t take it personally when you know you did your best in the interview. There can be many reasons why you didn’t get the job and many of them are out of your control. Hashing out all of the possible “what-if’s” is not the most productive use of your time.
Instead, focus on the things you can improve and move past the disappointment. Keep a positive attitude and definitely keep on interviewing. After each interview, evaluate what you did well and what you would like to improve on for the next time. The more you interview, the better your odds of hearing, “You’re hired!”
Q: I have some very specific things that I will be looking for in a career once I complete the program. I'm constantly reviewing job postings, background info on professionals in the industry and reading up on current trends. But I can't really identify an exact position that I want.
Also, I'm concerned that the broad types of classes I plan to take will make me a Jack of All Trades, Master of None. As an undergrad student, I didn't allow myself to explore much outside of my major (Communications) and I found that it pigeon-holed me in the job market. I don't want to make that same mistake, but I also don't want a potential employer to dismiss me for not having enough specific experience. I know I'm not completely hopeless, just in dire need of some direction.
A: Thank you for your message. You are doing all of the right things at this point in terms of reviewing job descriptions, researching the backgrounds of professionals and staying on top of industry trends. Keep doing this.
Q: I have worked for the same employer for the past three years, but was promoted from Circulation Specialist to Head of Circulation nine months ago.
I currently have two separate entries for this on my resume: one for each position held. However, I’m concerned that if a prospective employer is skimming my resume quickly they may not notice that both positions are with the same employer. They may then assume that I’ve been job-hopping. However, I’m not sure how to lump them together without being dishonest or incredibly wordy in describing multiple positions. I haven’t been a department head for the entire three years – or is it acceptable to only list the highest position held? I’m not sure how to list two positions held with one employer.
A: This is a great question. One easy way to handle this is to write…
Head of Circulation, Company Name, City, State, include total dates here from when you started with the company to present
Q: How early is too early to arrive for my interview and do I need to send a thank you letter afterwards?
A: It is best to arrive 10-15 minutes prior to your scheduled interview time. Any earlier and your interviewer might get annoyed. Any later becomes a reflection on your time management skills.
I think the best scenario is to give yourself plenty of time to get to the interview so you don’t feel rushed or anxious about getting lost, dealing with unexpected traffic, or figuring out where to park. You can always wait in your car for a bit, look over your notes, take a few deep breaths, and compose yourself before you head into the interview.
Q: I’m wondering if you could comment on using SLIS instructors as references in a job search. One of my instructors last semester invited students to contact her if we’d like a reference. In this case, if a job search won’t begin for a year or two, should we wait until then to ask the instructor for permission to give contact information to a potential employer? Would it be appropriate after such a time lag to ask an instructor to comment on a student’s skills/abilities etc.? Is it even reasonable to use academic references, or is it better to use only work references?
A: It is reasonable to use a past instructor as a reference. I like the idea of having references that know you in different capacities. It provides a well rounded view of your work style, personality, and job related capabilities. It does become an issue when using a reference that is not someone you currently have interaction with. So here is what I recommend.
Q: I am currently enrolled in my final three credits towards my MLIS from SJSU. I’m working on my CV for a position at an academic library, and I have a question. I have been a graduate research assistant for a faculty member during this past school year. I was wondering if I should include this experience under my employment history, or under my education.
A: Include this position in your employment history or experience section and treat it as relevant work experience. Tailor it as much as you can to highlight and demonstrate the skills you want to show case to employers. Any experience that is related to the job you are seeking whether paid or unpaid is best listed in the employment history or experience section.
Q: I just graduated and have begun the process of applying to Academic Librarian positions. I understand that I will be frequently asked to provide a statement of diversity. I haven’t heard of this before, and was hoping you could provide me with some direction, and description of this process?
A: In doing some research on the topic, I found that each academic library has its own personal diversity statement. Be sure to look up each library that you are interviewing with so you can demonstrate that you have done your homework, you understand their diversity statement and you can talk about it.
Do your own internet search on ‘what is a personal statement of diversity’ or ‘how to write a personal diversity statement’ and find helpful posts like this one http://theadvancededit.com/admissions/should-i-write-a-diversity-statement/ and many others.
Q: I am preparing for an interview and I read somewhere that I should ask questions and that if I don’t it shows that I am not interested in the job. What questions should I ask?
A: You absolutely want to have questions prepared ahead of time to ask at the end of the interview. It is common for the interviewer to turn the tables and ask you what questions you have for them. Having questions ready to go demonstrates that you have put thought into this position, that you are interested, engaged, and prepared. Not asking questions sends a negative message to the employer that you’re not very interested in the job or you just haven’t thought much about it.
Interviewers appreciate questions that demonstrate you’re interested in the work itself, the details of the job, and the culture of the department and the organization in which you’ll work. I recommend writing your questions down and keeping them in a professional folder during the interview. When it is time to ask your questions, you can open your folder and be ready to go.