No Experience; No Problem: Applying to LIS Jobs Without Professional Experience

Career Blog

Published: August 31, 2018 by Evelyn Hudson

A recent article on The Wall Street Journal website announced that many employers are now placing job ads with the phrase, “No experience necessary.” Just a few years ago, it seemed impossible to find a good job that didn’t require at least two years of experience.

For LIS students without professional experience, this change is good news. It means you can apply to more jobs and have more opportunities to land something you’ll love. But, what do you talk about in your cover letter and the interview if not your experience? Here are four topics you can discuss instead that will up your chances of getting hired.

  1. Internships – Internships are a great way to get professional experience without all the paperwork. If you completed an internship, talk about what you learned and what you gained from your time there. Discuss how your activities as an intern translate to the work you would be doing at the job. Since internships are as close to professional experience as you can get without being true professional experience, discussing your work as an intern will put you ahead of other candidates who never interned.
  2. VolunteeringVolunteering is an excellent way to boost your resume and a great topic if you don’t have other experience. If you volunteered in an LIS setting, talk about how what you did there prepared you for the work you would do in the job. If you did not volunteer in an LIS setting, it is still possible to relate your work to the LIS field. For example, you might say you learned how to interact with people at a soup kitchen. Soft skills are important—don’t forget them!
  3. Courses – Coursework is a perfect topic if you don’t have professional experience. In many cases, the work you did will relate perfectly to the job you are applying for. For example, a collection development course is just right for a collection development job. Discuss the projects you completed and maybe even send a sample of your work. This will give the employer a good idea of your abilities and give you talking points during an interview.
  4. Your career goals – It is OK to talk about your career goals in an interview. Show the interviewer your passion for the LIS field and why you would dedicate yourself to the job. An interviewer is likely to better appreciate someone who truly sees a job as her future than someone who sees it as a stop along the way. Letting the interviewer see and feel how ready you are to fill the position gives you a much better chance of getting hired.

What would you discuss with a potential employer besides professional experience? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Upcoming Webinars


Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018 at 5:30 PM PDT to 6:30 PM PDT

This workshop will be recorded.

Did you know that the SJSU School of Information has one of the most comprehensive and useful career resource information sites in the entire library and information science field? Come find out more as we explore the Career Development site. Learn about all the iSchool resources to help you consider and choose your career direction; discover different work options and opportunities; jumpstart your networking and job search skills, and build the strategies and structures that will lead to your new career.

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New LIS Jobs in Handshake

High School Library Media Teacher     Chico Unified School District
Student Engagement and Outreach Librarian, Altoona Campus     The Pennsylvania State University Libraries

Don’t forget to explore job openings outside of the public and/or academic libraries in Handshake. Consider searching on topics such as taxonomy, research, data management, digital asset management, and similar terms that may reflect your particular LIS skills or area of emphasis.


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