Did You Read the 2019 SJSU ‘MLIS Skills at Work’ Report?

Career Blog

Published: July 17, 2019 by Greta Snyder

Don’t worry; I did! It probably got lost in the mix of heat, fireworks, and endless emails that queued up when you finally tried to take that well-earned one day off ever, and that is why this blog is here to make sure you don’t miss out.

This is your ticket to success

The recently released SJSU iSchool ‘MLIS Skills at Work’ uses data collected this spring from 400 recent job posting in the LIS field to highlight job market trends for current students, job-seekers new to the profession, and practitioners looking to grow their careers in the field. This report offers information crucial to successful job-hunting, including which career paths had the largest volume of job openings, in-demand skills, typical job requirements for various types of information work, and more. The report’s findings will help you focus your job search while also helping you determine which of your skills you can emphasize -to speak to trends in today’s job market.

The great news: as an iSchool student, you are already set up for success because the skills report translates directly to the MLIS competencies.

Job search keyword dream come true

You’ll see immediately upon glancing at the report that it is a keyword goldmine. Keywords are vital to see what skills you should cultivate, how to articulate your past repertoire of experience, and how to translate your current amazing work to the future. Think of keywords like metadata or #hashtags that link you directly to jobs. Below are top skills in demand listed in order based upon percentage of occurrence in job descriptions.

Top skills in demand

  1. Interpersonal and communication skills: 68%; this skill remains critical.
  2. New Technology/Databases: 27%; first year this skill has been highlighted as necessary.
  3. Project management skills: 26%; increasingly needed skills.
  4. Independent: 25%; can you hold your own?
  5. Collaborative/Teamwork: 25%; integral.
  6. Reference/Research/Reader’s Advisory: 22%; these specialized skills are key.
  7. Microsoft: 18%; still the standard.
  8. Supervisory/Leadership: 18%; increasingly needed skills.
  9. Training/Instruction/Curriculum Development: 17%; think MLIS competency K.
  10. Diverse Communities: 17%; most often in academic and public settings a crucial skill.
  11. Digital Publishing/e-Resources: 14%; e.g. digital copyright and online resources.
  12. Coding Languages: 8%; specialized skills can get you the job.

Intimidated? don’t be; good news for those breaking into the field

  1. Interpersonal and communication skills. Good news:  even if you have no specific LIS career experience, you definitely have developed these skills through coursework and other employment; don’t just mention professional communication skills, be sure to emphasize customer-oriented communication skills, e.g. patron, client, student, etc.
  2. New Technology/Databases. Good news:  in the iSchool you work with new technology and have the opportunity to study emerging databases! These job postings use language such as “interest in, familiarity with, or experience with new and emerging technology,” so even if you are no expert, express your interest and exposure to new technology. New to the LIS field? Then emphasize any experiences using technology and internal systems or databases, and your ability to be a quick, agile technology learner.
  3. Project management skills. Good news:  who hasn’t overseen or planned a group project in your MLIS coursework? If you haven’t yet, consider offering to lead your next group project! Keep in mind variants of this skill include descriptions of “supervising or leading a team project, planning and organizing a project, and overseeing large and long-term projects.” Currently working or volunteering in the LIS field and beyond? Then identify and create opportunities to manage, organize or plan a project.
  4. Independent. Good news: being able to take the initiative to earn your MLIS through SJSU’s rigorous fully-online program demonstrates your ability to work independently and prioritize, with exceptional time management and attention to detail. Think of your academics through the filter of job skills in order to integrate the two more seamlessly. If you have independent work experience, highlight measurable outcomes of success.
  5. Collaborative/Teamwork. Good news: this is why group projects are an integral part of the iSchool curriculum. Most workplaces require effective collaboration and teamwork, so think of specific examples of how you demonstrated these two skills. What steps did you take? Tell a story.
  6. Reference/Research/Reader’s Advisory. Good news: even if you have never held down a reference desk, think of academic research you have conducted. Not familiar with Reader’s Advisory? Get acquainted: here are some helpful tips from ALA and The Reader’s Advisory and some additional reader’s advisories. List work experiences when you were a resource, providing exceptional service to customers or co-workers to find information or recommend a product.
  7. Microsoft. Good news: first, students have free access! If you weren’t already a pro at Word, you will be by the time you graduate. Have you used Excel or PowerPoint for a course, or do you have past experience with these? Familiarize yourself with the full Microsoft Office Suite. Remember that for many work or school projects you can determine what tools are used. So, while Google Docs and other online tools are fantastic for collaboration or final presentations, make sure to challenge yourself to keep your Microsoft skills fresh.
  8. Supervisory/Leadership. Good news: again, take on leading a group project if you haven’t done so before. Do you have any previous work experience in a supervisory role? Even if outside the LIS world, this skill translates readily, so be sure to include any supervisory/leadership experience. Other leadership opportunities could include involvement in iSchool student clubs, past student group involvement, or volunteer experience.
  9. Training/Instruction/Curriculum Development. Good news: for MLIS students you will have evidence to meet Competency K, “design collaborative/individual learning experiences based on learning principles and theories,” in your back pocket. Do you have any past experience in education or internal employee training? Now is the time to share it! If you are struggling to find a way to cultivate these skills, consider taking on a training opportunity in your current workplace or creating your own YouTube series on how to use a specific software, resource or a topic you are passionate about.
  10. Diverse Communities. Good news: the iSchool is a diverse community! Think of how many amazing people you have worked with through the program that come from a variety of experiences and backgrounds. A great way to gain this skill through coursework is to design class projects that work with, or are designed for, diverse communities. Have you worked in any role directly with diverse communities? If not, put yourself out there to gain this crucial work and life skill:  volunteer and connect.
  11. Digital Publishing/e-Resources. Good news: chances are you have used e-Resources and digitally published resources. Want to really hone this skill and be able to answer interview questions? Familiarize yourself with SJSU ScholarWorks, get involved with SRJ or take either Open Access if offered again in Spring 2020 with the ultimate pro Ann Agee, or Digital Copyright with the awesome Margaret Driscoll this Fall. No space in your course-load? Check out my final project for that course, a Copyright Toolkit.

Next steps

  • Start to integrate these top skill keywords into your resume; for any job you directly apply to, be sure to tailor the language in your resume and cover letter to match the specific terms of the job description.
  • Make a list of opportunities. Consider how you can develop these skills in your current workplace or role, including looking strategically for volunteer or internship opportunities that might give you a chance to cultivate specialized skills.

Final thoughts

When you’re in job-search mode, you want to be hands-on and strategic. The skills report is so full of great information to implement and help you succeed that I will finish my coverage next week with additional key takeaways, suggest additional MLIS courses and steps you can take this upcoming year. With these powerful tools, you can transform yourself from simply another applicant to an unforgettable dream applicant.

Let’s talk! Please comment below, email me, or Tweet at me with any questions, suggestions or resume stories. I’d also love to connect with you on LinkedIn.

Career development opportunities

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Interviewing 101

Should you take your list of references into an initial interview? Nope – but you do want to follow these guidelines so you’ll be ready to respond immediately if asked for them.


Great blog

Thank you for a great article and just to add that it's important to tailor the resume for each job. Remain truthful but bring to the front the skills that are required for said job.


Thanks Sarah!

Thanks Sarah! Glad you enjoyed the article! Great point about tailoring the resume to each job, this is so crucial so indicate you have a) read the job description and b)can identify what skills are most required to succeed in the job and how you have demonstrated these skills. Thanks for adding this excellent point!

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