So you say you wanna job, huh?

By Tahirah Akbar-Williams 

Job hunting is tough, but if you develop a plan it can become a lot easier and, at the same time, help you take stock of your successes and underline your accomplishments.  This article will give you a few tips to help you prepare and work through the process.

Ready, set, go!

Give yourself two to four months to research and prepare for your job search.  Studying job ads will help you identify the types of skills and training you need for the position you desire.  Go online to sites such as the American Library Association's Joblist or LibraryGig to identify the types of positions that interest you.  These job announcements usually list the required and desired qualifications.  Read through these sections to get an idea of the types of skills and experience employers want.  

Get a book!

Go to your public or university library (you can also go online) and check out a few books on résumés and cover letters.   These books will help you craft your style, locate templates and identify useful action words.   By the way, you may want to consider constructing an online profile (  OR with your cover letter and resume.  Employers like to discover talent this way.


Your résumé should be a clear and descriptive chronology of your work history, but it should also be visually attractive.  Find a resume template that allows you to highlight your skills and is easy on reviewers' eyes.  For instance, try not to use too many italics, use serif fonts (Times New Roman or Cambria), and watch your bolding and bullet points.

Cover Letter

Your cover letter should complement your resume but provide more details about the projects you have worked on.  Talk about projects that demonstrate your skill set.  Remember, you can use the Background Action Results (B.A.R.) method (see the end of this article) for more effective and succinct descriptions.

Edit, Edit, did I say edit?

Have a friend (who is a good editor), along with someone you don't know well, read your résumé and cover letter.  Ask a few friends to look it over; they can help you identify problems and help you  improve your documents.

OK, so she went there! 

Using your revamped résumé as a guide, make a list of your experience and skills.   Then make a list of the reoccurring skills/experience/training the job ads are listing in the qualifications section.  How did you measure up?  Are you missing some core skills?  Develop a plan to get the training and skills you need.  For example, sign up for a practicum or internship that will allow you to cultivate some hands-on experience.  If you can, design your own projects: create a website, or volunteer to teach classes.  
Go to your public or university library to find out what type of technologies they offer, like Blackboard, Adobe Captivate or Camtasia.  Start a project and post it online.  You can list these projects in your cover letter to help illustrate your initiative and newly developed skills.

It's all in the details, my friend!

Write a detailed list of all the projects you have worked on, particularly those you played an important role in creating.  This list will help you sell yourself in your cover letter and at your interview.   For instance, when you are asked to talk about a challenging project or an assignment, you will have an answer at your fingertips.   Making this detailed list will also help you effectively illustrate and communicate your talents to search committees. 

Hey, how did you get THAT JOB?

Talk to people who have recently interviewed and ask them about the questions they were asked, and how they answered.  This will prepare you for interview scenarios.

What, did you ax me a question?

Type out and answer the top 25-30 regularly asked interview questions.  Before you interview, make sure to review your responses.  It always helps to be prepared.  

Let's go to the BAR

Background Action Results (B.A.R) terminology will help you prepare to talk about the tasks you have worked on.  In an interview, it helps to be succinct and precise about what kind of work you have done and the B.A.R. system can help you focus.   B is for Background.  Describe your role in the task: "I was the lead person on a project to develop an online tutorial" or "I helped create an information literacy course for undergraduate students."   A is for Action.  Describe what you did, e.g., "I used Adobe Captivate to record the online tutorial called 'Searching Academic Search Complete'."  Now you are illustrating the type of knowledge and skills you have.  (R) is for Results.  State the outcome of what you did: "The online tutorial we developed will be used in all English 102 courses starting in fall 2012."
I hope these brief tips were helpful to you.  And remember--research and preparation will always save the day!