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.
When doing a job search, I know you spend hours researching job opportunities and perfecting your tailored resume and cover letter. To keep your job search on the right path, avoid these common email mistakes.
Here are 5 things to AVOID when emailing a potential employer.
1. Having an unprofessional email address. Ensure your email address is appropriate and easy to spell. Using your name is a safe option.
2. Using “cute” fonts. Don’t use fancy fonts or include borders, flowers, quotes or messages that can back fire and send the wrong impression. Keep your font style and email page clean and professional.
3. Sending one email to multiple employers. This is mass mailing and no employer wants to be a part of that. Employers want to know that you have specifically targeted your communications to them.
4. Sending emails from your work account. Don’t use your work time to conduct your job search. This reflects negatively upon you and your work ethic.
Q: I have been volunteering at the reference desk of my public library for 1 1/2years. But my plate is filling up with work, internships, etc. Is it worth it to keep volunteering there to “stay in the system” from a hiring stand point? I realize my first library job could be in any setting but I feel like I have learned all I can there considering the restrictions of the position. If staying on the books as a volunteer could give me an edge in the job market should a position open up in the public library system, I would make it work.
Q: I will be graduating soon and am updating my resume. I have worked at several places in the past, and was wondering are we supposed to list every place we’ve worked at in our resume? How far back do we go? Are we supposed to list work places that we think will be the most relevant? What if that creates a gap in the work history?
A: The purpose of a resume is to get you an interview so it is advisable to go back only 10 – 15 years in your work history. The reason behind this is that you want to include your most recent and relevant experience. This is what employers are most interested in and going back more than 15 years can date you and you want to avoid that in today’s competitive market. Keep in mind that a resume is not a compilation of everything that you have done. It is a current document that highlights the best of what you have done as it relates to and supports the position you are applying for.
Q: I recently graduated from SLIS but I haven’t been actively searching for a job until now. I have looked at the Career Development site and there are some great resources there, almost too many to absorb. Do you have maybe a quick 3-4 step plan to get the ball rolling as far as job searches go? I know this is a very broad subject but any advice you can give me to get me started in a smart way would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.
A: I can appreciate your question. Conducting a job search can be a daunting task. Here are 3 steps to get you started.
1. Having a clear focus for your job search is important so that you don’t feel like you are all over the place. I recommend having a Plan A, Plan B, and a Plan C. Plan A is your first choice and your main focus. Plan B is the back-up plan. What else might you be interested in doing or where else do you see your skill set fitting? Plan C is the back-up to your back-up. If all else fails, what can you do to keep yourself working and gaining skills? For some people coordinating with a Temporary or Placement agency can be a good viable option.
Q: I’m in my last semester at the iSchool. I am starting to apply for jobs and have been following your blog and listening to your recordings. Right now I’m buried up to my ears in my final course and completing my e-portfolio, but I have a few questions that I would like to pose to you:
- How can I best use the career center resources to help me find employment after I graduate?
- What would you suggest I be doing during my final months at SLIS?
- Do career center resources remain available to me after I graduate?
Thanks for your help and input!
A: Thank you for your questions. I like your style of planning ahead.
As alumni, you will have access to the Career Development section on the iSchool website, as well as, the monthly Career Development Elluminate sessions I conduct and the iSchool Career Blog at no charge. The piece that you will not have direct access to is one-on-one career coaching from me and access to SJSU Handshake.
Q: How do I answer an interview question when I can’t think of an answer or I have never had the experience the interviewer is asking about?
A: You really have 3 options:
Option 1. You can say you don’t know the answer and leave it at that. (I don’t recommend this option. Always come up with something to say.)
Option 2. You can say, “That is a tough question, can we come back to that?” This is a strategic way to gain more time to come up with a desirable answer. Be sure you do come up with an answer because the interviewer will come back to the question.
Option 3. If you absolutely have not had to deal with the situation the interviewer is asking about, you can say, “I have never had that experience, but if I did, here is how I would handle it…” or “I have not had that experience but I did deal with something similar and here is what I did…”