Q: I’m just starting my professional job search, and I was wondering how to market my interest in different areas. I’m equally interested in both academic librarianship and young adult librarianship, with experience and classes in both. I plan to apply for both types of jobs. How should I talk about my interests and career goals in an interview? I feel like I should tailor my goals to the specific position, but I don’t want to lie about my interest in other types of libraries and I don’t want to be thought of as desperate for any position. Plus, I really don’t know what to say if I’m applying for a job in a third area. Help!
SM: Simple answer: Only apply for jobs that interest you, and market your skills, experience, and interest to the job at hand. You should definitely, absolutely, tailor your materials (resume, cover letters, etc.) to each position.
Any library experience you have, at this point, will help you get a job. Include all of your library experience on your resume, but highlight your public library experience when applying for public library positions and academic library experience when applying for academic positions. During an interview, you wouldn’t talk about your interest in other types of libraries; you would talk about how your experience, and the skills you learned, working in other types of libraries will help you in this particular job. Keep in mind that many of the skills you have are transferable like customer service, marketing and expertise using various technologies. You won’t be thought of as desperate, or lying, if you are genuinely interested in the position. And, search committees (that I’ve been involved in, anyway) like job applicants who are versatile and have experience in diverse roles and different types of libraries. You can play up your versatility to an extent; just make sure to always place emphasis on the required and preferred qualifications of the job at hand.
If you haven’t yet, you should start thinking about your long-term career goals. I know it can be tricky to do this when you are just starting out and you don’t quite know where you are headed… but try to imagine your future in libraries. Where do you see yourself in five or ten years (which is a question you might get asked in an interview)? If you see yourself as an academic librarian working with college students, then maybe you want to limit your applications to academic positions, or if you ultimately see yourself as a public librarian working with young adults, then maybe you want to limit your applications to public library positions. It can be difficult, but not impossible, to switch from one area of librarianship to another, later on. To conclude, you will get a good taste of what each job will be like as you interview, and you might be perfectly happy in either type of library (or a different one altogether). Just be sure that you choose a setting and position that makes you feel comfortable, supported and engaged. Your first professional position will help to direct the rest of your library career.