Seeking Library Employment in 2021


By: Joanna Tine, Community Engagement Specialist at K12, Joyner Library at East Carolina University

The modern job hunt is considerably different than it was ten years ago. What I mean by that is, the modern job hunt is considerably different than it was last year. Despite a changing marketplace, it’s important to become familiar with the unchanged expectations and considerations of the processes of seeking employment.

Before the Search

If you’re starting out on the journey towards a new job, you most likely have a few interests and preferences in mind. Before diving into applications, it’s important that your resume and cover letter are up to date. Depending on whether you are applying for one specific type of job or a variety of jobs, you may need multiple versions of your resume and cover letter. For example, if you’re interested in applying for a position at a university library, you might include different experiences on your resume than those on the resume you want to submit to a photography studio. Additionally, every cover letter needs to be tailored directly toward the organization you’re applying to, but it’s helpful to have a general version written out and ready for customization before you start submitting applications.

In order to get started, you may want to entirely revamp your portfolio (this includes your resume, cover letter, and websites). Microsoft Office, Outlook, and Google have outstanding templates for professional documents. All you have to do is open the Word or Docs program, click “New”, and select that you’d like to begin with a template. There you can find both resume and cover letter templates in a variety of styles; you can customize one that best fits your profession and experiences. Templates come with premade sections, so remember to add or eliminate any that do or do not boost value to your work. For example, if you are interested in an academic library position, you might want to edit an originally established “communications” section and alter it into a historical list of presentations and publications and add a “software skills” section. Finally, sure to include bulleted specifics under any past positions that will be relevant to your applications.

Flatlay image of an open laptop with papers on the bottom right of the laptop. These items are all sitting on a table.

Best Practices for Applications

Once you have your professional documents ready to go, you’ll start on the elusive job hunt journey. Applications vary website-to-website, company-to-company, but they will all ask for your resume, education, references, and usually why you’d make a good candidate (carefully read the job description and reflect it in your response). Cover letters tend to be optional, but if there’s a place to attach one, do it. Customize the cover letter to that organization and specific job position, adding in tidbits you learned about the company by researching their website. It’s more personal and it shows that you spent additional time on their application and their background. Note, it’s also a great preparation method for the job interview.

There are many beneficial websites to start your search for employment. This includes your local online newspaper or county website, Monster, Indeed, and LinkedIn. Another idea is to search under “Jobs” or “Careers” directly on an organization’s website. You can either do a web search of “Careers” + [the organization’s name], or they tend to have a link at the very bottom of their website.

Speaking of websites, let’s take a moment to cover social media. It’s always a good idea to hide your personal profiles and posts. Whatever you share or post will be a reflection of their organization, so it’s important to take this into account not only during the job hunt but also once you secure a position. If you have a professional social media or website, link it in your application! It’s a great way to share a portfolio highlighting your accomplishments, endeavors, and specialized outreach.

Outdoor sign that reads "We Like You Too," with an emoji smiley face

Interviews and Beyond

In 2021, it’s really difficult to say what kind of interview you’ll get, whether it’s a phone call, video call, or an in-person meeting. Whatever the setting though, make sure you “dress for success” - wear head-to-toe professional attire (yes, even if it’s a video call; you never know if you might need to stand up!), and have a set of questions for when the interviewer inevitably asks, “Do you have any questions for me?” It’s impressive when the potential hire asks specifics about the job position, the team, the organization, etc. It’s better not to end the interview without any questions, it could presume disinterest.

Video calls are popular now more than ever, so let’s consider a few crucial things. Be aware of your background; make sure it’s decluttered and doesn’t distract viewers away from you (the star!). Pre-check your video call settings! You don’t want to log in with a cat filter on your face and spend the first few minutes of your interview trying to turn it off. You also don’t want your actual cat walking in front of the camera during the call; secure a quiet location where you know you won’t be distracted (the same goes for phone interviews). You don’t want to be where someone might come up to you, or where a plane will storm the skies overhead, or where you’ll need to leave to find a charger for your dying laptop. As for the rest of your computer, set up a professional wallpaper and check file names on your desktop and in any folders that might show up if they ask you to share your screen (which most likely won’t happen, but you might refer to something on your website or resume), or, in case you accidentally share your screen. Have your phone on silent, eat a healthy meal beforehand, and keep some water and your notes at the ready.

If you don’t hear anything two weeks after the interview, don’t hesitate to follow up. It’s not necessary, but you can call or email the interviewer(s) kindly thanking them for their time, mentioning that you’re still interested in the position, and highlighting anything you forgot to reference during the initial meeting. If you decide on this, keep it short and sweet - they don’t want to read a novel about an applicant and job they’re already familiar with.

White woman with red hair sitting at a desktop computer smiling

Seeking employment in 2021 isn’t any more or less difficult than it was years ago, it’s just different. Research the organizations you’re looking into, keep up the persistence, and apply, apply, apply. You won’t hear from them all, but all it takes is to hear back from that one.