Job Hunting Tips for MLIS Graduates

I listened to a webinar done by LLAMA (Library Leadership and Management Association) a couple of weeks ago and I thought I’d post some of my notes in case they are helpful for anyone else.

Webinar: Job Hunting for the Recent or Future MLS Graduate
November 18, 2010
— presenter was Brian Keith — HR at University of Florida Libraries

When starting your job search:

  • Know what your salary requirements are. If you can’t afford to live off of what the job will pay, it isn’t the job for you. But it’s also wise to remember that what you’re paid will be based on your education and experience. There are a couple of surveys that could help you figure out your salary requirements — ARL Salary Survey, ALA Salary Survey for both public and academic libraries. 
  • It is tough to know how many applications to send out. The better they’re done, the more complete they are and therefore the more time you spend on them, the fewer you need to send out. However, if you can compose a well-crafted cover letter that can have minor adjustments for future job applications, you are saving yourself time. But make sure you make all the necessary adjustments. Don’t apply to a job at the Green Library and give them a letter addressed to the Yellow Library. 

The application itself:

  • CV vs Resume
    • Both are acceptable; pay attention to what the job description requires.
    • CV is usually for academic professions and can be as long and detailed as is necessary.
    • Resume is for business professions and is usually 1-2 pages.
  • Cover Letter
    • Develop and deliver your message early in the cover letter. This is your chance to shine!
    • Look back at the job description and highlight the required and preferred qualifications listed. Focus on your strongest qualifications.
    • Explain your interests or your career path or personal goals. Explain why it would be a good move for both you and the organization. 
    • If your experience isn’t library-related, explain why it is still relevant and how it improved your suitability for the job. (This can also include education and volunteer experiences)
    • This should be well-written, proofread and be 1-1.5 pages. 
  • References
    • Choose your references wisely. If the application is looking for someone with supervisory experience, your reference should be someone who knows about your skills in this area. 
    • Prepare your references by sending them an updated version of your CV or Resume, a copy of the job description and your cover letter.
  • If links and reports and other information are included in the job application or other emails you receive after being selected for an interview, know what that information says. The organization is handing you the answers to interview questions and you will be able to get a better grasp of the organization if you’re aware of it early.

The interview:

  • Be able to answer: “Why do you want this job?”
  • Show engagement, enthusiasm and leadership in librarianship
  • Remember that search committees are not necessarily skilled recruiters. You may have to ask them questions if you the questions you were asked do not cover everything you have to say. 
  • Ask questions during your interview:
    • Why is this position available?
    • What do you like best about working with this organization?
    • What are the expectations for this position?
    • What are the opportunities for advancement?
    • What are stakeholders in this organization looking for?

Those are my notes. Any additional ideas or tips?

Other helpful blog posts:

How Social Media Can Help With Your Long Distance Job Search


10 Responses to Job Hunting Tips for MLIS Graduates

  1. JenWaller says:

    I have a couple tips!

    1) You'll hear it a million times, but you'll have an easier time getting interviews if you're willing to change locations. I know not everyone has this flexibility, but a whole lot of people do. People tend to read a job description and think, “Oh, I don't ever want to live there.” Which leads to my tip #2…

    2) Just because you interview for a job doesn't mean you have to accept it. The interview process (yes, even in this economy) is a two-way street. You may discover you don't like the leadership, or you can't imagine living in that particular town. On the flip side, you're losing out if you “pre-decide” you don't want to live someplace without visiting it.

    This is one of the biggest mistakes I see people making. They cut themselves out of potentially really great jobs just because they think they won't like living in a particular place.

    I wrote more about this (and I posted a few of my cover letters) awhile ago in a blog post here:

    Good luck!

  2. Heidi says:

    Thank you for those important tips, Jen! Location, location!
    I will edit your links into my original post.

  3. syeds says:

    Thanks jen, for your supportive comment i too even face same problem when i face my first interview., But at that time i didn't have enough knowledge of internet. Thanks.

    Job descriptions

  4. Murray says:

    Thanks for sharing these Heidi.

  5. biblioblond says:

    These are all great points! It can be very scary applying for positions after a MLIS and every bit of free advice helps!
    I cannot agree more about being willing to relocate. I obtained my public library director position because I was willing to move off the beaten track. If I had stayed in a large urban center I'm sure no library would have even considered me for a director's position for at least another 10 years. At first it was scary taking such a huge leap but I wouldn't trade my job for the world!

  6. Heidi says:

    Thanks for your encouraging comment about being able/willing to relocate. Do you have any tips on how/where to find job opportunities that are off the beaten path?

  7. biblioblond says:

    Honestly, jobs off the beaten path are usually really well advertised. There are no MLIS programs offered in my new province so they need to be very active in their recruitment to get professionals to relocate. Our public library system advertises on the job sites of library associations, through library job ListServs and at library school career fairs. MLIS graduates definitely need to be aware of all of these sources.
    Also, our library system offers one-year contracts for new graduates. This is a great recruitment tool because many new graduates looking for experience are more willing to relocate for one year in order to gain experience. The library system benefits because the hope is that once the librarian has relocated they will like their new position and town and that they will want to stay on permanently.

  8. Heidi says:

    I think you're exactly right — about how new MLIS graduates are more willing to relocate for a certain period of time. I know of several classmates who have applied to positions located in a non-preferred place knowing that they will be there for 2-3 years. Thanks for your thoughts!

    Would it be okay if I mention your tips in a future post?

  9. […] February 11th, 2011 § 28 Comments If there’s one thing I know for certain it’s this: you can never know anything for certain. With that in mind, some of us are facing an frighteningly exciting time in our lives — we’re going to graduate and look for a job we will LOVE! Most of us have had jobs before, but now that we’re finishing our degrees, we’ve found our passion and we’re ready to head out into this (not so perfect yet) world of employment! So, save this post. Use it when you’re ready. Be ready for anything! And please share what you learn. With that, I offer you a 3-course meal of Job Tips [the search, application, interview] and some leftovers. This uses resources from a previous post on my blog. […]

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