5 steps to getting your first LIS job

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Getting ready to find your first LIS/MLIS job? Although job-hunting is always a bit of an adventure, it’s also a skill you can and should master as an important career competency.

The following 5 steps should help the process go more smoothly not only for your first LIS job but for all those that follow.

  1. Decide which potential job opportunities and/or career paths might interest you. As you’ve probably discovered, the universe of potential jobs that align with your LIS skills is large and diverse.  According to Brad Rogers, Director of Recruiting for LibGig, this first step will be critical to your job-hunting success.

One of the great things about LIS skills is that they open up a wide range of career choices,” he points out, “but sometimes that can also be one of the biggest challenges.

To frame your possibilities, starting thinking through:

  • What industry you might want to work in (for example, education, healthcare, retail, telecommunications, pharmaceuticals)
  • What type of organization settings interest you (public library, for-profit company, nonprofit, association, government agency, are just a few of the choices here)
  • Which department(s) you might want to work for (possibilities: public services, marketing, product development, the business information center, other)
  • What work you might do (the options are almost endless here)

  1. Research relevant jobs. Depending on the type of jobs and employers you’re interested in, you’ll want to monitor several job opening resources to figure out what specific roles are called, what skills they require, and how many job opportunities there are in your areas of interest (both professional and geographic). Depending on the type of jobs and employers you’re interested in, you may want to monitor several job sources.

One of your best sources will be the job postings on LibGig, because of the diversity of job types, LIS activities, and employment environments they describe. And since it’s dedicated to library and information science skills and experience and part of LAC Group, the LibGig job board gives an opportunity to gain valuable experience, try out different roles, or even make a career in outsourcing, contracting or “virtual” services. While these options have a negative perception for some people, the truth ends of being a much different experience. And, economic realities and operational priorities mean that many employers looking for LIS credentials are increasingly looking to companies like LAC Group to fulfill their needs. As parent of LibSource, providers of Library as a Service®, and LAC Federal, a leader in federal government contracting, LAC Group can give you a long, interesting career path. You can learn more from Jocelyn McNamara, MLIS University of Maryland and Deputy Director of LAC Federal, including a bit of her personal story.

Other sources include general job aggregators like Monster.com, which have the largest number of openings.  Consider also job postings from your grad school, your professional associations, and/or your state library association as well as social media platforms such as LinkedIn Jobs.

As you research relevant jobs, keep in mind that many LIS positions won’t mention the terms library or librarian.  Consequently, you’ll want to consider other potential keywords that reflect your areas of interest. Examples might include business researcher, information manager (or supervisor, director, coordinator, specialist, etc.), digital asset manager, data curator, competitive intelligence lead, and similar alternatives.

  1. mastering-resumePolish your job-hunting tools. As a job-seeker, you’ll want to have several marketing pieces to use in your job-hunting process. These include online examples of your work (including your best student projects if you don’t have other LIS professional-level work to reference), a master resume, and a master cover letter.

A good LinkedIn profile and/or e-portfolio can be excellent online marketing pieces for you, but your resume will be your primary job-application tool. Given how many different ways you may want to deploy your skills, assume you’ll need to tailor your resume to reflect specific skills and accomplishments relevant to the jobs for which you’re applying. (To learn how to do that quickly and easily, see Your Master Resume – Create Once, Repurpose on Demand.)

Remember that both your cover letter and resume will focus on how you meet a specific need for the organization, so you’ll also want to tailor the details of each to reflect the job for which you’re applying.

  1. Build your professional brand online before applying for jobs. Social media can be a great tool for job-hunting, but it’s also a must-do for creating an easily accessible way for potential employers to check you out and get a good sense of your value and strengths. How important is your professional visibility? Very. These days, almost no hiring manager considers interviewing an applicant without first taking a look at the applicant’s online presence.

What you want them to see is indicators and evidence of your substantial professional worth, which means that you’ve got to build an online presence that speaks to your strengths. Roughly translated: put up a killer profile on LinkedIn; think about creating a blog, e-portfolio, and/or career-focused Facebook page; explore Pinterest and Instagram as platforms for sharing your professional interests and skills; and consider tweeting on LIS topics that engage you. A solid online presence that showcases your unique strengths will help convince potential hiring managers of your potential value to their organization.

On the flip side, sharing inappropriate or potentially damaging personal information online can haunt your career opportunities for years – essentially for as long as that information is available in an online search.

  1. Invest in your network. There is no career asset more valuable than a broad and deep network of professional connections. Have you ever heard the phrase, “It’s not what you know but who you know?” Although this may seem a bit cynical, it’s increasingly the case that people find and land many, many jobs through their personal community of colleagues, i.e., their network.

The best kinds of networks are built by creating genuine relationships with people, both online and in-person. They’re also made up of all sorts of connections, including co-workers (past and present), bosses, teachers, mentors, people with whom you’ve done informational interviews, and fellow association members, among others. But also keep in mind that individuals not in the LIS environment can also prove very valuable, especially if you’re considering nontraditional LIS career paths.

Under either circumstance, however, the reality is that employers generally prefer to hire someone who’s been recommended by someone else they trust (for example, an employee or colleague).  The more people who know you and how terrific you are, the greater the number of people who will be able to recommend you to their employers.

Hit the ground running!

You’re ready to launch – you’ve done your research, identified your targets, and prepped your materials. It’s time to start applying for jobs. But is there one more thing that will help you land a job? Yep!

This last piece of advice comes from the personal experience of LibGig Director of Recruiting Brad Rogers.

Help people help you. Let everyone in your network know that you’re job-hunting, what sorts of jobs you’re looking for, and any information or introductions that would be helpful.

The more specific you can be, the more others will be able to take action on your behalf.

Ready to go?

Good luck and good hunting!

Kim Dority

Kim Dority

Kim Dority is a library and information science (LIS) career adviser and consultant. As Adjunct Faculty at the University of Denver's Library/Information Sciences Program, she teaches graduate courses on alternative MLIS career options. Special Libraries Association (SLA) has awarded Ms. Dority the Rose L. Vormelker Award for her commitment to teaching and professional development.
Kim Dority
Kim Dority

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