Toughing It out in a Tight Job Market: Hands-On Advice to Help You Stand out during a Job Search

By Arenofsky, Janice | American Libraries, November-December 2012 | Go to article overview

Toughing It out in a Tight Job Market: Hands-On Advice to Help You Stand out during a Job Search


Arenofsky, Janice, American Libraries


You're all alone--with thousands of other information professionals--pursuing a library job in a down economy. If not for sheer stubbornness and hard-won self-respect, you might consider a career in the fast food industry.

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But don't despair, said David Connolly, who compiles ALA's JobLIST, a resource for career advice and job search information. The market is back to pre-2008, he said. "We may be treading water, but at least it's not getting worse." In fact, accordingto Connolly, experienced librarians can anticipate a relatively strong job market because the first wave of baby boomers is retiring from such top--level library positions as director and department head. This trend should peak between 2015 and 2019. "There will be a trickle-down effect favoring promotions," said Connolly, "although some libraries are not filling entry-level positions due to budgetary problems."

So the advice for job searchers is compromise--in salary, work environment, and/or geographic location. For instance, consider academic library positions in the Midwest, where there is less competition because of fewer sought-after locations and subject-expert applicants.

Brand

While compromise usually eases the way for job searchers, it does have limitations--unlike brand promotion. Brand promotion means marketing what you stand for--your skills, accomplishments, and knowledge. (See "Personal Branding for Librarians," page 34-37.)

Start by becomingactive on social media sites and forums. Communicate a personal message of honesty and integrity that also underscoresyour strengths and goals. Because employers will google your name as a pick check on reputation, beat them to it and delete what reflects on you negatively. But don't censor yourself unduly: the goal is to be as professional as possible.

"Add your comments to a successful, well-read blog," suggests Connolly. " Or go on LinkedIn or Twitter and start or contribute to discussions." (ALA's JobLIST has a presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.)

First, however, enhance your image in three key areas: track record, technology, and teamwork.

"Prove your value"

If your resume includes salaried or volunteer experience in public, academic, school, or special libraries, take a bow. Then work on "quantifying your accomplishments," said Connolly. "Don't just give job descriptions: Documentyour contributions and prove your value." Highlight specific projects. activities, and results. Also, make certainyou spotlight transferable skills such as customer service, project management, or supervision. "Sometimes you can misstate something on your resume, neglecting to translate the experience [to the library environment]," he said.

But what if after all that, your gas meter still veers toward empty? That's easy--fill 'er up! Demonstrate your creativity and set up a library collection at your church, temple, hobby club, or community nonprofit. Or organize an information database for a medium-size business, hospital, or law firm. In no time at all, you will be mining those projects for treasure.

Been away from libraries more than two years? Update your skills with an online or in-person library science program offering the Certificate of Advanced Study. For instance, Drexel University in Philadelphia offers an online post-master's digital libraries program. Make sure to get an internship or field experience as part of the curriculum. And while you're at it, get published in a few professional journals.

Rev up your inner geek

Technology know-how is a definite plus for employers. Demonstrate any knowledge of 0 web design, computer languages, or e-resources you may have. Create a personal e-portfolio.blog, or website. Film a YouTube video or post digital work-related photos online. List social media sites, blogs, and discussion groups you participate in.

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