The Info Pro's Survival Guide to Job Hunting

By Mort, Mary-Ellen | Searcher, July-August 2002 | Go to article overview

The Info Pro's Survival Guide to Job Hunting


Mort, Mary-Ellen, Searcher


When I wrote "An Information Industry Survival Guide" for Information Today in 1998, the future looked bright despite what the editor termed "a number of interesting developments in the information industry." Those interesting developments were "the closing of EBSCO Document Services; the consolidation of Gale Research, IAC, and Primary Source Media into the Gale Group; and The Dialog Corporation's move of its headquarters from California to North Carolina." (1) Those were real storm clouds on the horizon. Since then the economy has slowed and left us with a new buzzword -- "dot-gone" -- to describe the evaporation of thousands of Internet ventures.

In 1998, my brief was to compile as many useful Web sites for industry career and job information as I could. This time I want to shift the focus to the strategies involved. Rather than compile one more "all you can eat" set of links to add to the other sets of links out there (many of them quite excellent), let me outline an effective online job search strategy you can adapt to your own career focus and industry target. I want to show information professionals how to think about searching for work. I'll cover the worst way to find a job, the easiest way to find a job, and then map out "The Invisible Job Market for Information Professionals." As information professionals, Searcher readers have an unfair advantage in the job market -- you know how to focus, find, and put information to use. If you think it's wrong to use this unfair advantage to find a better job, please stop reading now.

Why Most Job Searches Fail

I have worked with job seekers for 15 years, first as a public library business librarian, later as a job search trainer for libraries and career programs. Since 1996, I've helped millions of online visitors (over 20,000 a day) at JobStar: California Job Search Guide [http://jobstar.org]. JobStar began with federal grants from California libraries and continues with advertising revenue from CareerJournal, the online job site of the Wall Street Journal. If you add the 10 or so daily e-malls I receive as Electra, the Electronic Librarian, asking for individual assistance, I've answered 25,000 since 1996. You'll see that I've thought long and hard about where most job searches get bogged down or fail.

When it comes to unique job search activities like writing a resume or negotiating salary, all of us know of our need for information and guidance. But just as most people think they do a pretty good job searching the Web (because they never know what they're missing), the average job seeker rarely realizes how much strategy it takes to look beyond the obvious. The average job seeker thinks job hunting is just common sense.

Common sense says that companies hire by running an ad in the newspaper or at a big online employment site where job seekers congregate. When most people look for employment online, they picture a finite number of virtual "hiring halls" and imagine their biggest challenge will be identifying the "best" spots online. Check the Sunday paper and check some big online sites -- if there's no ad for a chemist in my town, then no one in my town is hiring a chemist this week.

Most job searches fail because the job seeker obeys the dictates of common sense. It's not until the job seeker runs out of relevant ads, or sends hundreds of electronic applications into the cybervoid, that anyone suspects a problem. Too often job seekers conclude that the fault lies in them -- in their qualifications, work history, or resume -- when the real error lies in their conception of how the job market works.

To make matters more confusing, the common-sense approach does match exactly how the public sector hires. When a city or a county agency has a job vacancy, it announces open positions in public places. No opening listed on the county Web site? Check back next week. A not insignificant irony is that the local librarian -- who may be asked to prescribe information to a stuck or failed job seeker -- is herself a public employee and found every job she's ever had following the path of common sense. …

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