Know Thyself and Thy Audience
By Anne Larrivee
Applying for jobs can feel like a daunting, full-time job, especially for new, unemployed LIS graduates who are eager to break into the profession. Kim Parker of the Pew Research Center says that 29% of young adults in the United States aged 25-34 are living at home with their parents; most claim they do so in order to cut back on expenses. Many new LIS graduates may move back in with their parents to save money, which is often a strong incentive to find a job quickly. One of the most important lessons a new graduate can learn is patience. The applicant-review process can take several months and only the most qualified applicants’ cover letters receive a second glance.
According to the Bureau of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, the average rate of growth and change in the profession of librarianship is slower than average at 7% for 2010-2020. This is one of the many reasons why new LIS graduates should highlight and strengthen their existing skills for positions that align with their specific skillset. Volunteering and attending training workshops are some examples of how new librarians can strengthen and enhance their curriculum vitae (CV). Family and friends may encourage a new graduate to over-apply, by sending out CVs to positions that may fall outside of the graduate's range of expertise. However, this method cuts into the time that could be invested applying for jobs that seem to better fit the skills and experiences of the new graduate.
When a search committee shuffles through numerous cover letters and CVs, rubrics are likely used to reduce the applicant pool. Applicants that do not at least possess the required qualifications will automatically be shuffled out of the mix. If the applicant knows they possess all the required skills and can highlight how their experiences align with the preferred skills, they should devote most of their energy toward writing up a polished cover letter applicable to that specific job. It is better to send out one quality cover letter per week than to send out 10 cover letters per day, which could lead to sloppiness.
Knowing one’s assets is essential, and knowing the assets of the hiring institution is just as important. Providing evidence of reading the library’s newsletters, reviewing their website, and gaining insight about institutional interests will impress the seach committee. For the lucky individuals who are an invited for an interview, showing proof of instutional research during the interview could show abundant value. Including screenshots of the library’s website or claiming recognition of some of their resources can go a long way during a job interview. It affirms to the library that the candidate is genuinely interested in working with them. Inevitably, someone will ask, “Why do you want to work at this specific place?” One of the worst responses is to say, “Because I need a job and this position looked interesting.” If the candidate can prove that he or she has invested time learning about the library, then the library will want to learn more about him or her.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. “Librarians.” Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012. Web. 29 March 2012 http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Education-Training-and-Library/Librarians.htm.
Parker, Kim. “The Boomerang Generation: Feeling OK about Living with Mom and Dad”. Pew Social and Demographic Trends. Pew Research Center, 2012. Web. 15 March 2012 http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/files/2012/03/PewSocialTrends-2012-BoomerangGeneration.pdf.