Our guest blogger series on surviving - and succeeding in - the job search continues with Megan Good, Director of the J. Welles Henderson Archives and Library at the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia.
I’ve been asked to write a guest spot about my experience searching for librarian/archivist jobs in the vast ocean that it is. Since many of you probably haven’t met me, I thought that I would give some background information about myself and then jump into what worked for me, what didn’t and some tips that I’ve picked up along the way.
First off, I’m a recent graduate (March 2011) of the iSchool with a concentration in Archival Studies. I went through the program full-time, which gave me a decent amount of time to work on my studies and intern at many of the Philly area archival repositories. Before coming to Drexel, and Philadelphia, I graduated from a women’s college in Baltimore, Maryland with a degree in history, along with minors in classical studies and political science. As you can see, I have a pretty extensive history background, which helped immensely with the archival track.
Currently, I am the Director of Archives and Library at Independence Seaport Museum right here in Philadelphia. How did I get a job so fast out of school, you may ask? Well the position actually dropped into my lap when I was least expecting it. However, I know that my experience and job tips I picked up definitely got me past the interview and now into the chair that I’m currently typing from.
Get a variety of experience in a variety of places, even if it’s just for a few months.
If you have work experience that is directly related to positions you are applying for, great! If you don’t, I would highly recommend you to volunteer, intern or work in a library or archives to gain experience that you would like to ultimately do, whether that is cataloging, reference, processing collections, whatever. Without current, relevant experience, employers just look the other way. There are too many LIS grads competing for the same jobs, which makes it intensely harder to get an interview, or even a call back, even if you do have the experience.
Look everywhere for job postings!
When I was searching for jobs, I took an hour or so out of every day to check the internet for job postings. Most of the open positions are not listed publicly so I mostly checked libraries’ websites that I wanted to work at and visited the PhilaCulture job listings website, along with the iSchool job listings website. While many places might not list jobs with national clearinghouses, they will post openings on their Facebook or Twitter accounts. For job searching, I specifically created a Twitter account that followed every library or archives I could think of. It really helped because all I had to do was check my Twitter feed once a day to see if any new postings were related to jobs.
Don’t ignore the importance of networking!
Everyone groans when "networking" is mentioned but it is so true. While it may be awkward and uncomfortable, you can get great contacts that might be able to help land you a job, or email you when they have an opening. You may not want to name drop in a cover letter, email or phone call but believe me, it will make a difference. As long as you had a nice conversation before with the name droppee, the contact will not only remember you but also think of how nice you are to remember them too.
Don’t give up!
My luck always seems to be that when I least expect something to happen, I will get that phone call or interview. From my experience, the more a person gets stressed out about the process, the least likely they have success. The job search process, especially today, is overwhelming and frightening but it is manageable. Don’t waste your time applying to jobs that you aren’t really qualified for and don’t get overly proud by not applying to jobs "below" you. The bitter fact is that most jobs that you are applying to as a new grad are also being applied to by seasoned librarians. The fact that a job requires "x" amount of experience doesn’t mean much these days; apply for jobs that you like the description and then later worry about other things.
Never turn down an interview!
Even if you have already been offered a position or if you think the job is not what you are looking for, just go and interview! I have been on terrible interviews and great interviews, both of which helped me to get to a more comfortable level now. It may be a hassle and not worth your time but in the long run, think of it as an investment. Plus, it is always a great pick-me-up to know that someone feels you are qualified enough for an interview in a sea of no call backs.
Pay attention to the details!
If I can add one last tip, it would be to make sure you tailor each cover letter to the job you are applying for. I have two standard cover letters for either a librarian or archivist position but I updated it each time I applied to a job. Now that I’m an employer, I can say that applying to a position here, but calling us the Philadelphia Museum of Art in your cover letter, probably will get your application tossed. Make sure every document you submit has been edited and cross-checked down to every little detail. Believe me, it makes a difference!
Overall, my advice is to stay calm and carry on, just like the obnoxious posters that are everywhere. It’s a cliché but it is true; try not to get too stressed and you will find that job! Good luck!