Q: Do I need to relocate to get a job?
We’ve been following a recent discussion on the NEWLIB-L list about the necessity to relocate for jobs. Relocation can certainly enhance your chances of getting a job, because it allows you to apply for more positions. We wrote a similar post a while back on the benefits of geographic mobility when job searching. However, relocation is not possible for some and not desirable for others who want to stay where they are. We have been on both sides of this “debate” and want to share some advice on this topic.
TA: Having moved around a lot when I was growing up, I would have never predicted that my perspective in this debate would be from the side of “staying where you are.” Of course, maybe some would argue that’s precisely why, but psychoanalyzing my childhood is a whole other discussion. Anyway, here I am, sharing my thoughts with you about finding a job without relocating.
As we’ve said a number of times in our column posts, experience is a key factor to your “employability”. The more experience you have that relates to the job you’re applying for, the better position you’ll be in during the initial review of applications. There are a few approaches to gaining this experience, but the first four that come to mind are:
Get a library job while you’re in school—be sure to supplement your academic education with some real world, practical library experience. You’ll be surprised at how different these two can actually be!
- Take advantage of internships, practicums, field experiences — whatever your school calls them, be sure to make use of the programs where you are assigned to work on a real-life project, while earning classroom credit. Even though it’s not paid work, it still counts as experience and it is something you can draw on and discuss in your cover letter, resume and interview.
- If you are fortunate enough to work in a library position while also attending school, be sure to take advantage of professional relationships to build a professional network; remember that your experience on teams, committees, and other library work groups are all opportunities for you to demonstrate leadership, and effective interpersonal, communication, and project management skills, etc.
- Don’t undervalue any experience you may have had prior to library school just because you weren’t working in a library, doesn’t make the skills you’ve gained any less relevant. Managing (people, resources, budgets, etc.) in one setting can oftentimes easily translate to managing in a library context.
Personally, I tried to take advantage of all of the above, as well as the personal connections I built before, during and after the MLS. Undergraduate student library experience led to a support staff job in a corporate library after getting my BS. I then took a job back on campus that had tuition support as a benefit so that I could work full time and take classes toward the MLS (half of which were paid for by my employer). After graduating with the MLS, I applied for and was hired in a permanent librarian position, in large part because of all of the library experience I had as well as the professional network I had established through my employment and education. I had the good fortune to serve on library-wide committees, work with others throughout several library departments, and the opportunity to establish a strong and positive professional reputation.
If you’re planning on staying in a geographic area, be sure to remember that as you chart your course, every step builds on the next. The library profession is small, and we have good memories. A favorable impression from the beginning will only serve you well as you progress in your career.
SM: I did not move at all as a child and maybe that’s why I crave it as an adult. I relocated shortly after getting my MLS, which was always my intention. I had the advantage of being mobile, and better yet, I was working as a librarian in a temporary professional status which allowed me more time in my job search. I was able to get this position because I worked my way through library school –mainly in reference assistant positions, and even prolonged library school to work full time in order to advance within my (academic) library system.
I am a wanderer at heart. I moved to a different state the day after I got my BA. A few years later I moved across the country to pursue my MLS and to experience a completely different lifestyle in the South. However, it had always been a dream of mine to live in New York City and so, once I had my MLS, I knew exactly where I wanted to go.
Here is my advice to those who are eager to relocate, and to those who are perhaps slightly less eager, but willing and able to relocate:
Before you begin:
Be choosy! Just because you are mobile doesn’t mean you should take any job anywhere. Do your research on places before you go there. Make sure you can live in an area before you agree to move there. If you are not happy living in a particular city or region, then you probably won’t be happy in your job for too long. If you are mobile, you can focus your search on any city you want. It might be tempting to send out resumes to every open job, in every state (or province), and see who wants you. I would recommend focusing your efforts on one or two locations. Interviewers will want to know why you want to move and you need to have a better answer than I’ll go where the job is. Show that you are committed to moving to that area, and talk about why. I know you are thinking “Now, now, I need a job now!” but try to envision the future, and picture yourself living there in 5 or 10 years.
While looking for jobs:
Use your current connections. As Tiffany mentioned above, it is important to be involved in the profession as much as you can while in library school. Once you know that you want to relocate, ask around to see if your employer, professor, colleague, or friend, knows anyone or knows of any libraries and/or library organizations in your target region. Ask advice from others who have relocated.
When you get the interview:
Find out about travel expenses for interviewing before agreeing to interview. If a place is not willing to reimburse you for coming in for an interview, how much do they really want you? Think hard before you spend your own money. I have turned down interviews because they did not reimburse for travel expenses.
When they offer you the job:
Find out about relocation money. Will they provide you with any money that will cover part or all of your relocation expenses (moving companies, rental vehicles, storage, etc.). Many places do not offer money or assistance for relocating, but it can’t hurt to ask. I know of places that were not in the habit of providing money for this purpose, but did so anyway after a candidate asked for it. Just as you might negotiate your starting salary, you can (at least attempt to) negotiate moving expenses. If they really want you, they will at least try to get you something. Relocation is a difficult and expensive process.
Finally, don’t rush into moving and don’t uproot yourself (and potentially your family) until you have done your homework on the area, have visited at least once, and have given a lot of thought to what the future might hold in a new setting.
So, after eight years, I am still in the New York City area, although no longer living in the city. I didn’t think that I would stay this long, but life happens whether you’re standing still or moving. Two kids and two jobs later, I am still thinking, or dreaming, of my next move.
If you’re looking for information on cities across America, check out these sites: