by Claire Schmieder, Head Editor, INALJ New Jersey
How to Embrace Being an Emerging Professional
So, you’ve got that brand-new degree. Hooray! Except…how are you going to use it? I know, because I am one, that being an emerging professional can be just a little scary and frustrating. That old catch-22 kicks in: you can’t get a job without experience, but you can’t get experience without a job. And let’s face it, not having a job isn’t just hard on our bank accounts, it’s also a very powerful enthusiasm drainer. Chin up, all! Each and every one of you will find your way, but not without some hard work. Here are a few ways we emerging professionals can stay engaged in the community of librarians, maintain positive attitudes, and keep our resumes current and interesting.
1. Join the NJLA. I just love our state’s library association. I volunteered there about a year ago and got to know executive director Pat Tumulty. She loves emerging professionals and wants us to get involved! The annual dues are affordable, especially when you take into account what an amazing resource the NJLA is. Become active in one of NJLA’s many committees and sections. You’ll meet accomplished and seasoned professionals, stay on top of recent developments in librarianship across the state, and have opportunities to participate in conferences, workshops, and lots of other events.
2. Actively seek out ways to get involved in libraries. You might not get paid, but you’ll keep your resume current and develop professional relationships through networking. For example:
- Join your community’s historical society. Often, these groups are small, but with amazing collections that need cataloging and maintaining.
- How about a county archive? Archives love volunteers and you can get great hands-on experience in them.
- School library media specialists can volunteer at local private and public schools. As a parent, I am constantly getting asked to volunteer at my sons’ elementary school library. Call individual schools and speak with the principals to find out their policies on adult volunteers.
- Public libraries also appreciate volunteers. Contact your local branch and inquire about their volunteering opportunities.
3. Say yes! As you volunteer, pay attention to all the ways you can help. Someone to take minutes at a meeting? Yes! Someone to stuff envelopes? Yes! Someone to help set up a local event? Yes! Your enthusiasm and commitment will get noticed and will be appreciated. And, you never know who you’ll impress with your hard work and positive attitude.
4. Be Tech Savvy. Brush up on your technology know-how or learn a new skill. One amazing organization for the ladies (sorry, guys!) is Girl Develop It. Join the Philadelphia chapter (free!) and register for their classes (not free, but affordable) on HTML, CSS, SQL, and open-source software, just to name a few.
5. Create a professional online presence. LinkedIn is one of the best and most valuable tools to accomplish this – it’s your resume…on steroids. Connect with other professionals whom you admire. I’ve found that, most of the time, folks will accept connection requests, even if they don’t know you. It’s the ultimate online networking tool. Twitter is another way to establish an online presence. But, don’t use your personal account if you already have one. Create an additional Twitter account that’s only for your tweets about librarianship and make it public. And, double-check your privacy settings on your personal accounts. Potential employers often search for their job applicants in social media so make sure you show up in the best light possible!
While following these steps won’t guarantee that you land your dream job, you will certainly stay involved, actively network, and grow as an emerging professional. And that, as they say, is half the battle!