How do I make myself more marketable as an information scientist? What skills should I polish or learn to be competitive in the current job market?
All burgeoning information professionals have asked themselves these and other questions about their competence in the field of library and information science.
Playing up your strengths of organization, collection gathering, presentation, database management, computer programming and information retrieval can be difficult when it seems everyone in the discipline has these skills. With an open mind and some strategic planning, it is possible to put these worries to rest as you build your information professional skills in a way that allows you to stand out and get noticed. The following are a few suggestions to help you accomplish that important goal.
Join professional knowledge and information associations
Those involved in information-related disciplines tend to be familiar with library and archival related professional associations such as the Special Libraries Association, the American Association of Law Libraries and of course the American Library Association. You may be less familiar with organizations like The Association of Independent Information Professionals, Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals and the Knowledge & Information Professional Association.
Seeking out associations that focus on skills and employer needs as opposed to a job title may open you up to networks that have an array of employment opportunities that you were not aware existed. At the very least, you will meet people who may end up being mentors or possible co-workers in the future.
Professional associations sponsor webinars, training sessions, classes and conferences that will allow you to make connections and strengthen your skill sets, in addition to members-only job-boards. A number of organizations have dues on a payment scale to accommodate students and young professionals, so joining one may be more affordable than you think. Associations are also a great way to network with like-minded individuals all over the globe who can answer any questions you may have about the profession and introduce you to different people.
Volunteer, freelance or take on a side gig
Volunteering puts you in the wonderful position of getting hands-on experience as well as the opportunity to give the people you’re working with the chance to experience your work ethic and capabilities. If done well, you will likely get an edge on the competition if a paid position becomes available. Volunteering also gives you the freedom to try a new task or environment to determine if it is something you would like to commit to.
Besides volunteering at local libraries, you can reach out to schools and businesses that may need your professional assistance. Online vendors may need some assistance with their web presence, blogging or newsletters. Market your strengths and utilize them in a non-traditional fashion. Volunteering on a committee is a great way to get leadership skills and looks great on resumes, as does volunteering to write or edit for professional publications. It makes you visible and can lead to your next professional opportunity.
Freelancing or taking on a side gig will help you hone your skills and get your name out there to hiring authorities. It assists with building your portfolio and online presence, allowing you to market your various talents and develops strong communication and interpersonal skills. Choosing projects that interest you to get the most you can out of the assignment and prompt good professional reviews and references. In addition, you will gain confidence and expertise which will come across in subsequent job interviews.
Request an informational interview or take a hiring manager out for coffee
If your heart is set on a particular employer or job field, learn as much as you can about it and identify some hiring managers near you. Then send a personal note or place a phone call to introduce yourself, convey your interest and see if that individual would be willing to grant you 30 minutes for an informational interview. If you feel it would be appropriate, invite him or her for a cup of coffee to discuss your interests and capabilities, relative to their needs. Even if your offer is refused, you will have made a valuable connection and a strong first impression.
Invest in relevant certifications
Information professionals and technology go hand-in-hand these days, so it makes sense to grab a tech certification or two to strengthen your resume. Beyond the stereotypical information profession titles of librarian, archivist or museum technician, we need more IT managers, information architects, web developers, system integrators, project managers and the like. Hopefully, the coursework for your degree gave you the opportunity to get some practice in these fields, but if not, you can do a bevy of things to gain enough competency in these areas to credibly add it to your resume.
Make professional development an ongoing priority
The great thing about professional development is that you can tailor it to your interests. You don’t have to wait until you are employed within your desired profession, and it should never have a stopping point. Continually developing your professional and technical skills are a great way to make yourself a more desirable candidate while you are on the job search, and it will make you more attractive to recruiters. Conferences, training programs (internal and external), informational interviews, shadowing and mentoring can give you new insights into any knowledge and information science profession and put you on the path to gainful employment and a rewarding career.
For more information science career help:
Review our career guides for librarians and information professionals.
Sign up for our monthly Career Connection newsletter.
Check out and apply to current openings of interest on the LibGig job board.