Q: I provided an incorrect phone number on my cover letter. Should I contact all the potential employers to correct my mistake?

Q: I provided an incorrect phone number on my cover letter. Should I contact all the potential employers to correct my mistake?

Q: Hi, I’m relocating in a few weeks and have been applying for jobs for the last few months. I realized today that on many of my cover letters I provided an incorrect cell phone number (I rarely use mine and so, of course, I transposed the digits) along with my home number and email address. Should I contact all the potential employers to correct my mistake or should I hope they will use the other methods to contact me? Thanks for your advice.

A: We think that you should not contact all the potential employers to correct your mistake and hope that they will use either your email or your home phone if they want to contact you. A couple of exceptions to this might be if a.) you know someone at a particular place and you could send a friendly email that explains what happened, or b.) one (or two) of these jobs epitomizes your dream job and you feel like you have a good chance at getting an interview and you won’t sleep at night thinking that they are trying to contact you but cannot reach you. If these scenarios are untrue, then don’t waste your time and energy contacting potential employers for a minor error that they probably won’t notice.

Also, keep in mind that (from our experiences) employers/search committees/hiring managers/etc. will typically contact a candidate by email, first, and if they want to setup a phone interview, they will ask you what number is the best for you — and it may not be one of the numbers you provided on your cover letter. It is common for job candidates to be in the midst of moving and phone numbers (and voicemail) can change or get disconnected or just don’t work for whatever reason, so don’t sweat this one. There are much bigger mistakes you could have made. Best of luck to you!

Q: Can you help me find a mentor and someone to review my resume?

Q: Can you help me find a mentor and someone to review my resume?

Q: Hello, I am a fairly new librarian with some professional experience, but not much. I got a job quickly out of school, but I was laid off and I am now starting a serious full time job hunt. I am looking for a mentor, someone to help me in my search and guide me to where I need to be to get a job. I also would like someone in the field to give me a critique of my cover letter and resume. Can I send you my cover letter and resume to you for review?  Thanks for your time.

SM: Finding a mentor is a great idea for any new librarian (whether you have a job or not), and for those who are looking to switch career paths or move into different roles. Mentors can provide invaluable advice and much needed encouragement, and they can help to mold your career. We wrote a post about mentoring a few years ago that talks about the benefits of the mentor/mentee relationship and offers links to additional resources.

To find a mentor, you should look in your area for local library organizations that you can join. Some of these might have formal mentoring programs, and some might have members that are interested in taking on the role of mentor. Look for a local SLA, PLA, or ACRL group, or your state library association, and find out what programs and services they have for new librarians. You can also look at national organizations, such as ALA, that sponsor mentoring programs like the New Member’s Round Table Mentoring Program (some state library associations have these as well).

As for reviewing cover letters and resumes, unfortunately we cannot offer that service in the context of this site. However, in your search for mentoring programs, you will most likely find that many of them offer resume and cover letter reviewing services to their members. And, a mentor will be able to review your cover letter and resume. As good practice, we recommend that you always have someone review your cover letter and resume before you send them out. Another option is to find a librarian that you know and respect, ideally someone who is in a role you desire, and ask that person to be your mentor. Before you approach him/her, write down your expectations for the mentor/mentee relationship (e.g., how long should the “relationship” last? what parts of her job do you want her to show you? how do you expect her to help you in your job search? etc.) and your career goals, so you can share them with your mentor.

Also, look into your library school’s Career Services Office. Their services are typically designed for current students, but as an alumnus you might be able to take advantage of their services (which may include resume and cover letter reviewing, mentoring programs, and job search and job transitioning assistance). In addition, we can recommend the following:

ALA’s New Member’s Round Table Resume Review Service (for NMRT members)

LIScareer.com’s Consulting Services (fee service)

Music Library Association’s Resume Review Service (for MLA members)

North Carolina Library Association’s Resume and Cover Letter Review Service and Mentoring Program (for NC NMRT librarians)

Texas Library Association NRMT Mentor Program (for TLA NMRT members)

University of Texas School of Information’s Career Services Office (for students and alumni)

Q: What can I do to improve my chances of getting hired?

Q: What can I do to improve my chances of getting hired?

This answer is provided by our guest author, Rachel Kuhn Stinehelfer.

Q: In the summer of 2010, I applied for massage therapy jobs and librarian jobs. I discovered with my simple 1-page massage therapy resume that I could get an interview and even the job. Most of the job opportunities were found using one information resource: Chicago Craigslist. The interview process included a practical portion: I had to give a massage to a colleague. The job opportunities were at respectable salons: Asha SalonSpa, the largest collection of Aveda salons in the Chicago area; Heavenly Massage with 11 locations in the Chicagoland area; Massage Envy, the biggest massage franchise in the country; and Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa, a luxury spa on Michigan Avenue.

But when I applied for librarian jobs, I didn’t even receive a call back for interviews. It’s not like I didn’t do a deep search. I used nine different information resources: Chicago Department of Human Resources, USA jobs, LISjobs, Metropolitan Library System, American Library Association, Illinois Library Association, CareerBuilder, my alma matter’s career database, and The Chronicle of Higher Education.  My 1-page resume was not getting the response that I was hoping for. One rejection after the other reminded me of something else…my experience searching for jobs after graduating from Dominican University in 2007.

There must be a problem. Even though I was primarily looking for an entry-level position, I clearly am competing with candidates who look better on paper. The biggest issue could be that I am transitioning from an entirely different field. What’s the solution? My library resume and references could be improved if I acquired more experience; this would give my prospective employers more confidence.  But, by definition, I am a Librarian, since a Librarian is someone who completes a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science. Moreover, I already did two internships while in school: one was at the American Library Association and one was at St. Scholastica High School. What can I do to improve my chances of getting hired? 

RKS: You make some great points about the differences in looking for a salon type position and a professional librarian position.  Having been on the other end of reading those letters and resumes I can say that there is A LOT of competition out there.   There may even be fifty candidates for an entry-level job.  Try not to be discouraged, but do look at your resume and cover letter with a closer eye.  I would also recommend having a friend (especially one who is already in a professional librarian position) edit your resume and cover letter.

First things first – do not confine your resume to one page if you have more relevant experience than that.  The non-library work is somewhat relevant however you need to make sure it does not look like you are too heavy on the salon work.  I would briefly describe the salon work including the years you worked there and a two-sentence description for each job.  Mostly to show you have been working during those years.  You can bring together the public services/working with people aspects of the two types of jobs in the cover letter. 

The internships and your coursework at Dominican should be the bulk of the resume.  Describe the specifics of your internships and list any websites or databases where the committee can go and review your work. 

Do limit the cover letter not necessarily to only one page, but for an entry-level position not much more than one and a half.  The cover letter is the personal connection you can make with a search committee so be sure to tailor it to the job for which you are applying.  Know that this is your chance to express why you are making a career change and how the work you have done in a salon will help you in libraries. 

Who you list as your referees is also very important.  Do list library folks – I find it useful to list your relationship in parentheses or italics – Professor or Internship Supervisor.  I would only list one salon referee probably your current employer or if you are not comfortable with the current supervisor until you are further in the process you can simply say Current supervisor contact information upon request.

Finally make sure you are qualified for the position.  If you do not meet the basic qualifications which may include a specific major or years of experience then you do not need to apply.  

Good luck to you in your job search and new career as a librarian!

Q: How do I switch to being a catalog librarian without having any real formal cataloging experience?

Q: How do I switch to being a catalog librarian without having any real formal cataloging experience?

Q: I have been a librarian for over 20 years, mainly working in archives and small special libraries.  My question is, how do I switch to being a catalog librarian without having any real formal cataloging experience?  I considered looking for a copy catalog position, but have not found any openings.  I think people look at my resume and see archives and reference work, and never consider me for a cataloging position.  Also, I have only worked part-time during the last 10 years while raising my kids, mostly in para-professional positions, so I feel almost like I should start all over and go back to library school (although I can’t afford to)!

TA:  There are a number of areas that need to be addressed here: switching specializations from archives to cataloging; moving from part time to full time; and moving from a paraprofessional to professional position after 10 years.

My first suggestion is to dust off the old cover letter and resume and make sure it’s up to date in terms of both your experience and in formatting.  Styles change over a decade, so make sure you put some work into your application materials.  Make them look and feel polished and up to date.

Your cover letter will be especially important because it will be how you address all three questions (specialization, part time/ full time, para- to professional).  We’ve talked many times about the value of transferable skills, so you may want to refer to some of our other articles from the “Career Change” category of the column: http://www.lisjobs.com/CareerQA_blog/?cat=23

You should make a compelling case in your cover letter (supported by the work listed on your resume) about the parallels between your experience and the position for which you’ve applied.  For example, if you have experience processing archival collections and applying descriptive metadata using a standardized, controlled vocabulary, these are pretty similar in nature to traditional cataloging.  Describe how your experience will be an asset to the position.  Also include descriptive words that will appeal to the hiring supervisor, such as “detail oriented”, “works well independently as well as collaboratively”, or “self motivated and eager to learn”.  You’ll also need to explain in your letter that you’re in a position now to seek a full time, professional position, and that you’re eager to apply your knowledge, skills, and talents in that level of position.

In addition to your updating your application materials, if possible, you may want to seek opportunities to volunteer.  It’s a great way to gain experience, build skills, and add to a resume.  You will also build contacts in the profession, some of whom may serve as references for future cataloging positions.

A final idea to consider would be exploring the Certificate of Advanced Study (CAS) at Library and Information Science programs.  Wikipedia defines the Certificate of Advanced Study as:

A Certificate of Advanced Study (CAS), also called a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study (CAGS) or a Certificate of Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS), is a post-Master’s academic certificate designed for practitioners who seek a continuing education program to enhance their professional development in areas such as education and library science.

Many library schools, including the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, offer the CAS, and it might be a way for you to develop or further enhance your cataloging expertise.  Drexel University offers an online CAS program for Information Studies and Technology.  Many of the CAS programs are self-directed and allow you to select courses with a faculty advisor to customize your experience.  If you have the time and desire to supplement your educational background, the CAS may be the additional support you need to switch specializations within the profession.

In closing, I wish you the best.  Start with your application materials and put your time and energy there.  Move next to the volunteer experience, and down the road, if you’re so inclined, think about additional educational opportunities that may help you secure the position you’re seeking.

Q: Am I overqualified for library positions?

Q: Am I overqualified for library positions?

Q: I am a 40-something communications/PR professional with a degree from a well-known university. I am embarking on a mid-life career change and applying to MLS programs with the hopes of starting school in January. The problem is that I have never worked in a library and would like to work part-time as I get my degree. I’ve applied for about 20 different positions in the last two months that don’t require an MLS and have received no interviews. I’m applying for jobs in the $8-$15 hour range, which is a big pay cut for me, but I’m more than willing to start at the bottom. I know that some may feel that I’m overqualified, but I clearly explain my motivations in my cover letter. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

SM: I applaud your efforts to get a taste of the profession and its day-to-day work before you begin library school, and admire your willingness to take a pay cut to get (much needed) experience. Many people are unable to do just that. We have stated many times in this column that any library experience you get before or during your time in library school can be crucial to finding a job once you get your degree. Also, working in the profession while getting your library degree will only enhance your studies and help you to decide on an area of specialization.

Since I do not know what kind of positions you are applying for, and I have not read your cover letters, I can only guess as to the reasons why you are not getting interviews. As you mentioned, potential employers probably do see you as overqualified for the position because of your extensive work experience and knowing that you would be taking a severe pay cut (e.g., does this make you seem desperate?). However, other applicants may have previous library experience, which (in some cases) would make them more qualified for that particular position.

Also, potential employers, knowing that you are going to start library school, might see you as a transitory — as someone who is not all that serious about the position at hand, seeking any experience in order to bide time while getting a degree. Employers don’t like to fill positions with people they know are going to leave quickly, and they often do not like to fill paraprofessional positions with professionals. Even though you do not have the degree, they might view you as a “librarian,” since you are on your way to becoming one.

To get past these obstacles, write your cover letter carefully. Stating that you are interested in the profession and plan on getting your library degree is not enough to get you the job — or even an interview (as you’re finding out). I wouldn’t take that out of your cover letter; it is important to your motivation and addresses the larger context of the position, but doesn’t hold as much weight as you may think. Focus more heavily on the job description and your transferable skills. For example, if the position is in public services, your communications background will come in handy. Use concrete examples of how you might excel at a given position because of your prior work experience. This helps potential employers see you as the right person for the position and your interest in the profession then becomes an added bonus.

If you’re focusing on one type of position (reference, circulation), or one type of library (academic), maybe you need to widen your search. Even if you know you want to be an academic librarian, it won’t hurt you at this point to work in a public library, or a special library. Any experience will be beneficial to you as you begin library school, and any library job will be a stepping stone to that next position, and the next, and so on.

Many library positions in both academic libraries and public libraries require you to fill out applications (some online) and/or take civil service exams. Find out if this is the case with positions you are interested in. If you want to work in an academic library, you might want to wait until you are enrolled in classes, so that you can apply for student jobs at your school. Also, think about volunteering at a library, which could lead to a job; or doing an internship, which could be arranged through your library school. If you haven’t done so yet, talk to someone at the career development office at your school. They might be able to help you find something, or provide you with job leads in your area.

Don’t give up hope, you will find a position. I started from the bottom up, and my diverse experiences along the way have provided me with invaluable skills and knowledge. I have become a better, and more well-rounded, librarian than if I would have started somewhere in the middle.

Helpful Articles

“Getting Started: Employment Opportunities for Graduate Students in Library and Information Programs” by Charlie Potter and Shelly Franklin

“Reasons Why People Don’t Get the Job” by Sean Duffy

“Making Your Cover Letter Work For You” by Tiffany Eatman Allen and Richard A. Murray

Q: I’m qualified. Why can’t I get a job?

Q: I’m qualified. Why can’t I get a job?

Q: I am progressive, a risk taker, and a change agent. I embrace technology and believe that libraries of all types have to provide access to it for the “have nots” of our society. As librarians, we have to dedicate ourselves to lifelong literacy. I have mentored four individuals who have become successful librarians – more so than me, actually.

I have made career decisions based on the needs of my family. As a result, I look horrible on paper. I am currently employed in a Michigan school district. The last two districts that employed me eliminated my library media position because of budget cuts. My current employer is also facing a deficit for 2006/2007, so I am only 50% certain that I have a job again in September.

I am willing and able to relocate to anywhere in the Southwest or Pacific Northwest. I have applied for countless numbers of positions but get no responses and no interviews. What am I doing wrong? I know other qualified, competent, and experienced colleagues who are also applying for positions and they are not getting interviews either. We are beginning to think that this whole shortage thing is joke.

TA: It sounds like there’s a lot going on here. Personal factors (family-based job decisions, potential layoff) as well as professional topics (impending shortage of librarians – fact or fiction?) make this a pretty complicated question. Since there is considerable debate about the librarian shortage – I’ve included several articles representing both sides of the topic below – let’s focus on your personal search.

It definitely sounds like you have covered all the buzzwords most employers are looking for in their perfect candidate: progressive, change agent, risk taker, embracing technology, dedicated to lifelong literacy. It’s easy enough to espouse these virtues, but you’re going to have to back this up in your application materials. If you say in your cover letter that you have a dedication to lifelong learning, be sure to also mention a specific example – for instance, a course you’ve taken recently on web page design, and a practical application in the workplace.

Additionally, a few of the comments in your question may be interpreted as a bit negative. Try to stay positive, not only in attitude, but in tone. In her article “Cover Letter Etiquette,” Kim Isaacs calls a cover letter “your resume’s cheerleading section.” She goes on further to say: “While a resume is generally a formal document, cover letters give you a chance to reveal your personality. Not only do you want to show that you’re a good fit for the position, but you also want the reader to like you. Appropriate use of humor, combined with a friendly and professional tone, can help endear you to the hiring manager.” For the full article, see: http://resume.monster.com/articles/letteretiquette/. (You should also take a look at her article “Resume Dilemma: Employment Gaps and Job-Hopping” at http://resume.monster.com/articles/weaknesses/.)

You mentioned having applied for “countless numbers of positions.” I would recommend being more targeted and selective when applying for jobs. You don’t win the game by sending out the most applications, and employers certainly don’t like to hear that they’re just one in a hundred. People want to know you want their job – not just a job, their job. Be mindful of the job you want, and of the requirements of the job for which you are applying.

If you are applying for jobs that you aren’t really interested in, or if you don’t really meet the minimum requirements, you’re wasting a lot of time and energy. By being selective, you can put your effort, time, and energy into a position that is truly a good fit. You will feel better, perhaps even excited, about applying, and that energy and enthusiasm will come through in your letter and resume. You will also not be wasting time and effort on jobs that don’t spark your interest or that you don’t really qualify for.

Lastly, you said you were interested and able to relocate to the Southwest or Pacific Northwest. I would encourage you, if you haven’t already, to take a look at the Pacific Northwest Library Association (PNLA)’s web site, at http://www.pnla.org. Find job announcements, info on their annual conference, and an e-mail list with a policy of encouraging regional libraries to advertise job openings. You can also check out specific state chapters in the Southwest via ALA’s State and Regional Chapters page.

Other suggested articles:

“Reaching 65: Lots of Librarians Will Be There Soon,” American Libraries, March 2002: 55-6

“Start a Corps, Not a Corpse,” Library Journal, May 1 2006: 131

The Entry Level Gap

The Age Demographics of Academic Librarians