By Angie Kelleher
Okay, we all know there’s an “elephant in the room” when it comes to the issue of unemployed librarians, so let’s just acknowledge it. There are lots of people out there looking for jobs, and I know that many of you are feeling like the library market is saturated. It probably is, in certain areas of the country. If you are looking only to find a library job in your city/county/region, most of you know that your options are limited, and there’s not a lot that you can do to change that. You could be a perfect, ideal candidate, but if there are no openings, you’re out of luck. (I know that some want ALA to stop recruiting new librarians to the profession, in order to decrease the glut in certain markets, but that is a whole different issue which I can’t address here.)
However, I know that some job seekers are willing to relocate for a job, and I think those are the ones that I typically see when I volunteer at the NMRT Resume Review Service at the ALA conferences. I’ve volunteered at the booth quite a few times. There are a few things I’ve learned from watching the job seekers and their interactions with the people reviewing their resumes.
1. Many of the people who review resumes have been in the field a long time and hold administrative positions at their respective libraries. As a job seeker, you may not be there to network, but that’s what you’re doing when you meet with a librarian from another place. The man or woman reviewing your resume may actually be able to tell you about a job opening, recommend that you apply somewhere, or put in a good word for you with his or her colleague who is conducting a search. I’ve seen it happen more than once. A reviewer who is impressed with a job seeker may ask for a business card and let you know about future job opportunities that he or she thinks may be a good fit. (Or, even better, you could take the initiative by offering your card without being asked, and request that the reviewer keep you in mind for future jobs.) If you cannot make it to the Resume Review Service, you can mention your job search to any librarian you encounter who seems friendly, open, and knowledgeable.
2. Following from #1, if there’s time, you should feel free to “pick the brain” of your reviewer. Ask those questions that have been bothering you. Tell them about that time you interviewed for a job and never heard back from the prospective employer. Ask them whether they think you should call back after a promising interview, how long you should wait before you call, and what you should say. Ask them what it’s like to work in their particular type of library and what you should expect if you interview in that type of library. Ask them for cover letter tips. Ask them for examples of tough questions they’ve asked prospective employees during interviews. If you feel really brave, ask them if there’s anything about your appearance, mannerisms, or presentation that could put people off, or prevent them from wanting to hire you.
3. This might seem blatantly obvious, but don’t be late for your appointment with your reviewer. This looks really bad and automatically makes them think that you are disorganized or don’t respect their time. They will then be that much less likely to recommend you for a job.
Bring copies of your resume with you, business cards, and cover letters, if you have them. Now, you generally shouldn’t use a generic cover letter, but you can bring one that you’ve prepared for a specific posting. You could even bring the posting with you. Your reviewer can probably give you really good tips about how to sell yourself and highlight your strengths in your cover letter.
The Resume Review Service is one place where it’s okay for you to appear unsure or ignorant while you’re talking to a potential employer. Almost all of the reviewers are there because they like to help people, and they genuinely want to help librarians find jobs. If the reviewers agree you’re doing everything right, they’ll be able to ease your mind that maybe that job just wasn’t a good fit for you, or perhaps there was an internal candidate. If you are really open to their feedback and ask some good questions, you could gain real insight into a job search that’s been unsuccessful so far. There are lots of people out there willing to help you find a job – take advantage of them!