by Chelle Batchelor, past SLA-UW Student Chapter Member
In late April I had the honor and pleasure of teaming up with SLA President Cindy Romaine to present this talk on the Future Ready Job Search at an SLA-UW Student Night event. As soon as she explained to me the Future Ready concept, I started thinking about how the key components of collaboration, flexibility, adaptability, and community could be applied to the difficult job search we all experience after we graduate with our MLIS degrees. Here are just a few ideas for a Future Ready inspired job search, but please feel free to add more!
Community: it is crucially important to actively reach out to your community of practice while you are in graduate school, and afterward as well. If you are reading this, you’ve already started! The key word here, however, is active, and I think people sometimes miss that when they receive (or give) advice like this. So, you are reading Future Ready 365. Great! But, can you do more? Post something, perhaps? Here’s another example: many people attend large professional conferences as part of their job search, which can be mind-boggling and sometimes even end up feeling like a waste of time and money. The key is, it is very important to get actively involved in the conference in any way you can! Find a way to volunteer, present a poster, or join a committee or peer group as well as attending a career fair or resume review. You can then note your achievements on your resume, and you will be interfacing directly with professionals who might have helpful career advice or leads! The important thing is to find meaningful ways to connect with your community.
Collaboration: I think community and collaboration go hand in hand. By connecting with the community of practice that has evolved around the kind of work you want to do, you will discover peers and mentors who can help you with your job search. Ask your peers to review your application materials, or form a job search support group to trade resumes and share ideas about how to represent your skills. Brainstorm with your peers to help each other think of skills you have gained through your coursework. Ask your mentors for advice on where to search for jobs, what to include in your application, or how you might broaden your job search strategy if you have run out of ideas. Finally, keep your peers in mind when you are searching for jobs. For example, when you see a position that you don’t think is the right fit for you, take the extra step to share it with a friend who might be more interested!
Flexibility: this one is probably the most important, and the most difficult. In my presentation I represented the problem as a Venn diagram. As with a Boolean search, each time you add another “AND” to your search strategy, you narrow your results. So, let’s say keyword phrase #1 is YOUR JOB SKILLS, #2 is GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATION and #3 is TYPE OF JOB YOU WANT. Once you put those three together, you could end up with a very tiny job market to target! In order to get your first job, you may need to broaden your search. Gain some new adaptable skills, extend your search to places you haven’t considered before, or consider jobs in the tech and information industry that are not traditional “library” jobs. Those jobs might turn out to be a perfect match for your energy and enthusiasm! Don’t just search the library job lists like SLA, ALA, PNLA, LibGig, and LISjobs, try to find out what companies and other organizations are hiring information professionals. Some examples I gave my Seattle-based audience included Serials Solutions, Zaaz, Ascentium, Amazon, and Microsoft.
Adaptability: once you have identified an organization you want to work in, learn as much as you can about them and their culture. For best results, adapt each and every resume or CV and cover-letter to match the job and the work environment of that organization. Look at their web pages and familiarize yourself with the culture you see represented there. Use the language of their website, and especially the language of the job description to describe your skills and experiences in your application materials. If you don’t understand the lingo or are unfamiliar with their corporate culture, try to set up an informational interview with someone in the organization who would be willing to tell you more about the work they do and what they look for in a new employee. Finally, if you are invited to interview for a position, be prepared to answer questions about why you are interested in working for that organization, and why you care about the work you will be doing in the position you hope to fill. Be the person they want!
I hope this information is helpful for those of you graduating this year. It is a tough marketplace right now, and I think you will need to be more flexible in your job searches than ever before. The information profession is changing every day, and while it becomes more interesting, it also becomes more competitive and complex at the same time. Please take advantage of this SLA community to post more ideas for a future ready job search in the comments below!
Chelle Batchelor is the Access Services Librarian at the University of Washington Bothell and Cascadia Community College Campus Library. She graduated from the University of Washington MLIS program in June 2005 and was hired as the Head of Interlibrary Loan at the University of Las Vegas in July 2005. Two years later (almost to the day!) she began her job at UWB. She was an SLA student member from 2003-2005 and is now actively involved in ALA, co-chairing the Access Services Discussion Group and the Cooperative Remote Circulation Committee. Chelle brings the perspective of a UW iSchool Grad whose cohort has gone far and wide in the Information profession in the past six years.