Saturday, July 09, 2005

Job Hunting: Lessons Learned

Kudos to Meredith for an outstanding post today about the things she's learned in the course of her job hunt.

Her thoughts closely mirror my own, particularly on the following points:

* "Don’t apply for any job you wouldn’t actually want"
Like a lot of recent grads, I got to a point where I began applying for any position that I was remotely qualified for. I understand all too well the financial and emotional toll that new librarians face when seeking their first professional position, but don't accept a position that you know will not make you happy. In my case, my heart is set on a specific type of special librarianship. Yet, I applied for and even traveled to interview for academic positions simply because I had been going through a dry spell and the academic institution was the first "bite" I'd had in quite some time. In reality, I knew I wasn't going to accept such a position, so taking a day off work to interview wasted my time, as well as the time of the interviewer and the institution.

* "Do not pay to fly to interviews"
Meredith is exactly right when she says not to pay your own way for an interview unless you're relatively sure you have a good chance of getting an offer. I read somewhere that some interviewers are reluctant to give applicants a "free vacation" and will ask them to pay their own way as a means of testing how serious they are about the position. I appreciate that there may be some applicants who view an out of town interview that way, but most new librarians searching for their first professional position simply can't afford to incur such expenses without some type of guarantee for employment.

* "Get a mentor" (or two)
I've had the great fortune to have two wonderful mentors looking out for my best interests. First, my boss, who encouraged me to go to library school and every day sets an example for me of the type of librarian I hope to become.
I also have to thank j, who has listened to many stories of my job hunting woes and whose advice and insights I value more than I can say.

* "Find a way to distinguish yourself from the pack"
One of the best ways to do this is to get involved in a professional organization while still a student and volunteer for as many opportunities as you can. I attended my first state SLA chapter meeting in September 2003. In February 2004, I was asked to finish out the term of the chapter's secretary who had left the positon unexpectedly and in May 2004, while still a student, I became the chapter's President-Elect and Program Chair. I'm sure my ability to multi-task and the experience I developed in the course of program planning was largely responsible for the initial calls of interest I would get from interviewers who had reviewed my resume.

* " Don’t give up hope"
Like Meredith, I've had moments where I've thought being a librarian simply wasn't in the cards for me and began looking at alternatives to that career choice. Fortunately, my passion for the field won that fight.


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