Q: How can a part-time librarian get the right experience for career advancement?

Q: How can a part-time librarian get the right experience for career advancement?

Q: I am, and have been a part-time librarian for four years. In my department, the part-timer’s do not get the experience the full-timer’s get. When I interview for full-time positions, I often do not get these positions, because I do not have the experience they are looking for. How can I get the experience I need? I feel like I am not advancing in my career. It is upsetting to me because I truly love what I do. Because many of these libraries are downsizing, they are looking for librarians with experience that I do not have, and I’m afraid I never will.

CNW: Many part-time jobs are created to fill a particular need that falls outside of the responsibility of full-time staff. It sounds like you are getting interviews, which is a good sign that your cover letter and resume match the experience that prospective employers are looking for. Before you put time into acquiring specific experience, it’s worth asking yourself whether you aren’t defining your own experience too narrowly. Employers aren’t going to think broadly about your transferrable skills if you don’t help them see your qualifications in the best possible light.

If a lack of experience truly is the problem, you have several avenues to gain the experience you need. You can:

  • Approach your current employer with a request to take on a specific responsibility. You’ll be most successful if you first consider how your request fits into your employer’s needs. You might identify a gap area, or start by reviewing the organization’s strategic plan.
  • Look for volunteer or internship opportunities. You will need to be objective in evaluating the position to be sure you will actually get the experience you want. The goal is not simply to provide unpaid labor to downsizing libraries! Both parties should gain something from an internship or volunteer role.
  • Get involved in local or national professional organizations. In addition to being an effective networking opportunity,  professional groups often have specific projects they need help with. Raising your hand can help you gain the experience you need quickly.

Any – or all – of these paths can be effective. As you look for the experience you need to advance in your career, carefully evaluate the marketability of the experience you seek. If you are looking for a very niche role, you could be waiting years for a full-time job to become available. If you truly want to advance your career, focus on growth areas – and keep in mind that for some newly created jobs, directly applicable experience may not yet exist.

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