Interviewed by Ellen Mehling
EM: What was your first professional position?
MR: My undergraduate degree was in Biology and Secondary Education. After teaching high school biology for a year, I decided teaching was not for me so I leveraged my biology degree and found a job in the pharmaceutical industry. Six years in a corporate job reminded me of why I wanted to be a teacher – I loved doing research and helping others learn new things so I decided to go back for my MLIS. My first professional position was as a Reference / Technical Services Librarian at a private boarding school.
EM: How did you get it?
MR: I saw the job listed on the Rutgers University SC&I job listings page and I immediately applied. I was offered the job partly because of my subject specialty in science, along with my prior teaching and work experience. However, I also believe that I was hired because I expressed an intense enthusiasm for learning. As a new librarian, I felt that it was extremely important to be highly adaptable. I now know that this is a skill that every librarian needs, whether or not we are early in our careers.
EM: To what do you attribute your job search success?
MR: When I decided to go back for my MLIS, my dream was to one day become a Science Librarian so I could combine my love for science, research, and learning. However, I knew without prior experience as a professional librarian or a second Master’s Degree, that it would be difficult to find the exact position that I had in mind. As a result, I routinely searched the various online job postings for a job that I was qualified for that would put me on that path to the job that I had envisioned. Since I was still working at my full-time job in pharma, I had the luxury of waiting until the perfect opportunity arose. My job as a Reference / Technical Services Librarian at the boarding school gave me invaluable experience in reference, instruction, and various library technologies. I also had the opportunity to work with a wonderful group of librarians who provided me with immeasurable support and mentoring. Thus, when the perfect position became available at the American Museum of Natural History, I was uniquely qualified because of my past experiences. Had it not been for my first job, I literally would not be where I am today.
EM: What advice do you have for librarian/info-pro job hunters?
MR: It’s always good to have a career goal in mind but don’t be afraid to seize any opportunity that may push you outside your comfort zone. Every opportunity is a chance to gain invaluable experience and make connections that could lead you to your perfect job.
Mai Reitmeyer is Sr. Research Services Librarian at the American Museum of Natural History. She provides research assistance and instruction to the Museum’s staff, students, researchers and the general public using the Museum’s main and rare collections and extensive archives.