Non-Library Positions on Your Resume

by Diana La Femina, Head Editor, INALJ South Carolina

Non-Library Positions on Your Resume

0508081839aLet’s talk a bit about looking outside the field for job experience. I know as well as anyone else just how hard it can be to get a professional position without a good deal of experience first (it’s a Catch-22, and it sucks). When all else fails, finding a volunteer position is fantastic; it lets you network, gain experience, and try out different areas of librarianship and different libraries to see how you like the environment. But a volunteer position is, by its nature, unpaid and not an option for many people.

My suggestion? Get a position outside the field that will help build up your skills and which will allow you the ability to volunteer.

Sounds like a pipe dream, right? What skills could an outside position possibly give you? Quite a bit, actually. Reference work, and indeed quite a bit of librarianship, requires customer service skills. I grew up on Long Island, Land of Retail, so I have a strong history in retail/customer service positions. That summer you spent working in a shoe store? Customer service experience. That reception position where all you did was answer phones? Customer service at the highest level. You can spin these experiences to fit any customer service skills mentioned in the job description.

Looking for cataloging work? Cataloging is essentially (very complex) data entry. Any data entry experiences you have can be applied here, though you’ll also need experience with AACR2 and now RDA. This can be done! Study up, take an online course (I took a very good, intensive one last summer; email me if you’d like more information). But the bottom line is that data entry positions will give you invaluable experience and skills for a cataloguing job.

Want to be a children’s librarian? Find a job where you work and interact with children. I know all of this seems obvious when spelled out, but I feel so many job seekers out of their MLS programs are searching for practical experience (as well they should) that they sometimes fail to see the benefits and relevance of other experiences, and how those experiences can be of benefit. I’ve only scratched the surface here to succinctly show a point, which is to think of all experiences as possibly relevant.

No job is ever too big or too small, and no experience is ever wasted if you’ve learned something from it.

  5 comments for “Non-Library Positions on Your Resume

  1. Puerto Rico to Wyoming editors
    June 13, 2013 at 10:21 pm

    Diana here.

    Didn’t mean to make it seem like cataloging is data entry. What I was trying to say was, when applying for an entry-level cataloging position, being able to explain learned data-entry skills could give one leverage. There’s much more to cataloging than merely inputting data (as anyone who’s taken a cataloging course knows), but I think too many people discount skill sets. I also said that someone who want’s to be a children’s librarian should get experience interacting with children. There’s so much more to Children’s librarianship than just interacting with kids, It’s the same as arguing that understanding and speaking French will help you in a position that requires you to learn Italian; they’re not the same language at all, but by learning French you picked up skills that could help you learn Italian faster than someone who’s never learned a second language.

    I hope I’m explaining myself well. Cataloging is data entry only in the very loosest of terms, but it might be enough to make someone confident enough to apply for and argue their ability to learn, or even to take a chance with an online course like I did.

    • June 14, 2013 at 12:04 am

      Lovely response Diana! Thanks for clarifying and being so creative :) Love all the suggestions in the article and in comments!

  2. Meron
    June 13, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    I would not compare data entry to cataloging. Cataloging entails a high level, specific skill set. Data entry is merely keying in data into a system. It is like saying because I know how to use a computer, I can spin that to illustrate my ability to program computers.

    • June 13, 2013 at 7:57 pm

      Agreed that cataloging is much more highly skilled and related to taxonomy and metadata as opposed to data entry.

      • Illinois to Missouri editors
        June 14, 2013 at 3:03 am

        Kristen in Maine here. I think data entry can help keep your mind detail-oriented and can be good practice for copy cataloging, which is the bulk of what my small library actually does for cataloging. I worked in data entry for nine months and in one important way, it actually was the bookloving introvert’s real dream job…the elusive job where I actually *did* get to “read books all day”…I got to listen to audio books while I typed, that is. And I was very caught up on talk radio and all the then-current political issues. I also listened to the Legally Blonde : The Musical Soundtrack from start to finish a billion times, which for what it’s worth, did inspire me to keep being plucky in my job search and in my life (back then I was in the throes of a quarter life crisis, so whatever worked). I don’t know if all data entry workplaces allow workers to amuse themselves in such a manner, but it was certainly a nice perk :)

        If I somehow ever did find myself in a situation again where I couldn’t readily find library work in my geographic area due to layoffs and scarcity of openings, and mobility wasn’t an option, I would totally consider passing the time with data entry work and volunteering again. It increasingly seems like part of taking charge of today’s library career is being creative, continuing to put yourself out there, and being willing to fearlessly and optimistically market tangentially relevant work so that any time you do spend outside of working in libraries is not wasted. For that reason, I loved Diana’s and Shelley’s recently published articles on the value of non-library work.

Comments are closed.