Q: I think I would like to get an MLS degree someday but would like to have experience working in a library first. Unfortunately, I’m having difficulty getting a position whether it is paid or volunteer. I think part of this is from appearing overqualified since I have a Bachelor’s degree and about five years of customer service and clerical experience, but the other reason baffles me.
When I can get them, my interviews for paraprofessional positions generally go well until I mention that I would like to get a Master’s degree. At that point, the entire tone changes and my interviewers become very negative and discouraging and end the meeting very quickly. This has been consistent for all of my library interviews in the past four years, which include several public libraries, one public school library, and one academic library.
I always include that I would like to get an MLS degree in my application and interview because it conveys why I want the position as well as that I am serious about the position. Apparently, this is the wrong thing to do. How would you suggest I explain why I want a library paraprofessional position without mentioning that I want to do this professionally?
TA: Here’s the easy answer. Question: Why would you like to work here in this position? Answer: Because I’m really interested in getting experience working in a library; I find libraries an integral part of any community; and specifically because the work of this position as described in the job announcement seems interesting, challenging, engaging, and in line with my skills and experience.
If you’re finding that people aren’t responding well to your MLS-ambitions, then stop mentioning it. By your own statement, this has been something you’ve been considering for at least four years, so do not bring this up until it’s more imminent. During an interview, the employer wants to know that you are interested in their job, not as a stepping stone to somewhere else. If you’re asked directly about pursuing the MLS, you can always say that it’s something you’re interested in, but that you want to gain some valuable experience in libraries to reaffirm this interest and to supplement the education you’ll be getting in the classroom. During the interview, keep your focus on the job, your ability to do the work, and the skills and experience you’ll bring to the position that make you the best qualified applicant.