by Matthew Tansek, Head Editor, INALJ Rhode Island
What to do while you’re looking for a library job…
As many of you browsing this blog are aware, finding a good LIS job can be quite difficult and time consuming. Recent grads struggle to find low level positions, and those that are employed often are on the lookout for positions closer to what they really want. I feel that I can speak with a bit of authority as I have been through the process myself and have watched my colleagues and classmates struggle to find solid footing. What I’ve been told and have found out is that making good use of your time while on the search can make a world of difference. The biggest and best way I spent my time? Volunteering.
First and foremost lets talk about what the benefits are to what might otherwise seem as an unpaid waste of time. To start off, volunteering is a great way to connect with others in the field you are trying to get into. Because you are offering your services at such a bargain you have much more of a choice where to spend your time and how much of it to spend. Giving up a handful of hours every couple of weeks is usually not an unreasonable demand on your regular schedule and because there is verily little pressure in volunteer work it can be a bit of fun to boot. Who knows who you might meet, the people you get to know and network with have the potential to really help you out. I got my foot in the door a couple of times simply on the basis of having met and interacted with the employees of an institution before hand. Making new friends and contacts in the LIS world is worth its weight in gold. It may not seem like it from the outside, but ours is a tight knit very interconnected community where keeping up relationships matter. Additionally the experience and job skills that you may gather can be a real bonus. Gaining experience with a particular database, or learning a new ILS from the back instead of the front can put you ahead of a lot of other potential employees.
Have trouble connecting with people? Your charisma and social skills will grow the more you use them! Leaving an interview feeling awkward is the worst. By regularly interacting with other LIS professionals you greatly reduce the risk of putting your foot into your mouth the next time you’re put under the spotlight.
Volunteering can have physical benefits too. By regularly going out and working towards achieving your career you can help fight off depression. Blaming yourself for not landing a job is quite common, but in truth an unfair response. Without knowing the exact criteria the employer is looking for or the variables involved one can never be sure why things didn’t work out. But one thing is certain, getting bent out of shape about it is neither helpful or healthy. No one can say when your big break will come, but making sure that you have a constructive way to better yourself can make the defeats a lot less painful. By volunteering you’ll be even more ready the next time!
Lastly make sure that you are actually getting something out of it. Actively seek out those that know more than you and ask them what they can teach you, or better yet identify a tool you want to become proficient with and request to be taught a bit about it. Above all make sure that you ask questions, there are a lot of menial tasks out there and you don’t want to be stuck in some corner performing some monotonous task. Every so often take an assessment of what could be learned, and compare it to what you have learned.
I sincerely hope that all of you out there looking for your dream LIS job indeed find it, but perhaps in the interim you might consider going out and doing a bit of pro bono work, it could really be a benefit to your career down the road.