Q: I completed my MLIS degree in 2010. I have 7 years of public library experience working as a Library Page and 4 years as a Library Assistant in a special library. While job hunting, it seems I am either overqualified since I have my MLIS, or underqualified since I don’t have years and years of experience. (But how do you get experience when you can’t find a job?) I have been sending out applications, but haven’t heard back from anyone. How can I get a full-time job? What am I doing wrong?
TA: We hear often from others on the market who feel the same or similar…folks who are looking for a good fit and a good fulltime position in the library profession. Unfortunately for many, that job is hard to find, and it’s not because they (or you) are doing anything wrong. Many libraries are having to scale back on recruitment due to the economy, and many librarians close to retirement are staying in positions longer because of their own personal finances and the economic uncertainties. This results in very large applicant pools for the few positions that are actually being filled. Be sure that you apply for positions for which you are truly qualified. Sometimes, I hear entry-level librarians say that they’ve just gotten so discouraged that they’re applying for “everything” they see. While this might seem to be an effective strategy (it’s got to increase your chances of landing a job if you have a lot of applications out there, right?) I think it actually works against a candidate’s chances because you’re not targeting your efforts and spending time where it belongs.
You may also want to have someone look over your resume and cover letter to get feedback on how it’s perceived by the reader—Is it too advanced for entry level? Is it too general for higher level positions? ALA’s New Members Round Table offers a resume review service (year-round for members, and on site for everyone who makes an appointment during ALA Annual and Midwinter conferences), as well as similar services provided by local and statewide professional associations. You may also want to consider information interviews with HR professionals or subject specialists in institutions where you’re looking. (Take a look at our previous articles on Informational Interviews)
Most importantly, stay positive and stay active professionally. Attend professional association meetings in your local area. Follow blogs, listservs, and literature…just stay involved with the current conversation. It will serve you well on the job market, during your interviews, and in your first position.