This answer is provided by our guest author, Rachel Kuhn Stinehelfer.
Q: In the summer of 2010, I applied for massage therapy jobs and librarian jobs. I discovered with my simple 1-page massage therapy resume that I could get an interview and even the job. Most of the job opportunities were found using one information resource: Chicago Craigslist. The interview process included a practical portion: I had to give a massage to a colleague. The job opportunities were at respectable salons: Asha SalonSpa, the largest collection of Aveda salons in the Chicago area; Heavenly Massage with 11 locations in the Chicagoland area; Massage Envy, the biggest massage franchise in the country; and Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa, a luxury spa on Michigan Avenue.
But when I applied for librarian jobs, I didn’t even receive a call back for interviews. It’s not like I didn’t do a deep search. I used nine different information resources: Chicago Department of Human Resources, USA jobs, LISjobs, Metropolitan Library System, American Library Association, Illinois Library Association, CareerBuilder, my alma matter’s career database, and The Chronicle of Higher Education. My 1-page resume was not getting the response that I was hoping for. One rejection after the other reminded me of something else…my experience searching for jobs after graduating from Dominican University in 2007.
There must be a problem. Even though I was primarily looking for an entry-level position, I clearly am competing with candidates who look better on paper. The biggest issue could be that I am transitioning from an entirely different field. What’s the solution? My library resume and references could be improved if I acquired more experience; this would give my prospective employers more confidence. But, by definition, I am a Librarian, since a Librarian is someone who completes a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science. Moreover, I already did two internships while in school: one was at the American Library Association and one was at St. Scholastica High School. What can I do to improve my chances of getting hired?
RKS: You make some great points about the differences in looking for a salon type position and a professional librarian position. Having been on the other end of reading those letters and resumes I can say that there is A LOT of competition out there. There may even be fifty candidates for an entry-level job. Try not to be discouraged, but do look at your resume and cover letter with a closer eye. I would also recommend having a friend (especially one who is already in a professional librarian position) edit your resume and cover letter.
First things first – do not confine your resume to one page if you have more relevant experience than that. The non-library work is somewhat relevant however you need to make sure it does not look like you are too heavy on the salon work. I would briefly describe the salon work including the years you worked there and a two-sentence description for each job. Mostly to show you have been working during those years. You can bring together the public services/working with people aspects of the two types of jobs in the cover letter.
The internships and your coursework at Dominican should be the bulk of the resume. Describe the specifics of your internships and list any websites or databases where the committee can go and review your work.
Do limit the cover letter not necessarily to only one page, but for an entry-level position not much more than one and a half. The cover letter is the personal connection you can make with a search committee so be sure to tailor it to the job for which you are applying. Know that this is your chance to express why you are making a career change and how the work you have done in a salon will help you in libraries.
Who you list as your referees is also very important. Do list library folks – I find it useful to list your relationship in parentheses or italics – Professor or Internship Supervisor. I would only list one salon referee probably your current employer or if you are not comfortable with the current supervisor until you are further in the process you can simply say Current supervisor contact information upon request.
Finally make sure you are qualified for the position. If you do not meet the basic qualifications which may include a specific major or years of experience then you do not need to apply.
Good luck to you in your job search and new career as a librarian!