Interviewer: Ellen Mehling
EM: What was your first professional position?
NC: I was a Librarian Trainee at New York Public Library, promoted to Librarian on completion of my MLS.
EM: How did you get it? To what do you attribute your job search success?
NC: After I graduated college, I continued working in my college library for a year, considering next steps. I liked the idea of becoming a librarian but had zero desire to go to graduate school. Then one day there was an ad in The New York Times. New York Public Library was holding a job fair and advertising a Librarian Trainee position in my hometown of Staten Island. For someone who had spent four years commuting from S.I. to the Upper East Side, this was a dream. To top it off, NYPL offered 75% tuition reimbursement for me to get my MLS. I knew I’d be a fool not to go for the opportunity. The job fair was overwhelming, with a line of candidates around the block. After a five minute HR interview, my resume was dumped into a cardboard box with hundreds of others. I asked if there was someone in attendance from Staten Island. Sure enough, the Borough Coordinator was there and I introduced myself. I think the introduction was the only reason my resume got plucked from the massive pile. I was offered the job soon thereafter.
EM: What advice do you have for librarian/info-pro job hunters?
NC: I’ve worked in public, academic, and corporate libraries. There’s a misconception that our skills are not transferrable between settings. I was told public librarians were never hired for special libraries and vice versa. Don’t believe it. If there’s something you want to do, you just have to convince someone you can do it. I left NYPL without another job and traveled for the first time in my life. I came back after two months in Europe and saw an ad in the Times for an Information Specialist at Forbes Magazine. I knew I wanted that job. SIBL had recently opened and I went there to practice searching LexisNexis software (these were the days of dot commands, before Nexis.com). I knew it was an important part of the job and I had no experience. Years later, I asked my boss (Anne Mintz, to whom I am forever indebted for taking a chance on me) why she hired me, someone from a public library with little experience searching databases, and she said it was the confidence I displayed on my interview. I spent 8 years at Forbes. That job taught me how to be a business researcher and continues to open doors for me.
Natalie Cannestra is a Senior Librarian at Brooklyn Public Library’s Business & Career Library.