I Found my Dream Job but I’m Not Qualified

by Courtney Baron, former Head Editor, INALJ Georgia
ormerly published 7/26/13

I Found my Dream Job but I’m Not Qualified

courtneybaronSound familiar? As Head Editor of the INALJ Georgia page, I post jobs in the LIS field on a daily basis. Of course, many catch my eye. It can be difficult to see these amazing jobs pop up and know that I do not qualify. It’s no surprise, considering that I just started my MLIS in January and I’m brand new to the field. But, rather than wallow and feel frustrated that even applying for these jobs is far off, I recently started printing out job ads that interest me. Sure, these jobs will be long gone when I start looking for professional positions in a few years, but studying job descriptions is an amazing way to 1) discover what kinds of jobs catch my eye and 2) what qualifications my dream jobs are looking for.

So far I’ve discovered that I’m personally drawn to archivist, visual materials, metadata, museum, and similar positions. Once you have an idea of the kinds of positions you are interested in, study the job ads to see what skills they require. Hopefully, there will be a pattern! For example, here are some of the skills that visual materials archivist positions require: MARC, EAD, RDA, VRA Core, Archon, Abode Photoshop, Adobe Bridge, and DACS. I know a little MARC and RDA so far but the rest are unfamiliar to me. Now that I know what to work on, I make sure to look out for courses in my program that involve learning some of these metadata standards and skills. So, I know that I’m better off taking a metadata class than a course on multicultural youth literature. I hear a lot of librarians complain about how useless their MLIS degree is, but I think you get what you put into it. I’m carefully planning my coursework and may take an extra semester or two to graduate because I know what skills I need to qualify for my dream job.

Once you know the skills you need, I recommend setting aside an hour or two each week to work on them. You could also break your training into a few 30-minute sessions over the week. Pressed for time? Get up earlier! You can learn a new metadata schema while enjoying your morning coffee. Once you know what positions you are interested in, get involved with the appropriate organizations. We all know about ALA and our state library associations, but why not branch out? For example, ARLIS/NA (Art Libraries Society of North America) or the SAA (Society of American Archivists) are great organizations to join if your dream job is similar to mine. See what webinars, Facebook groups, Twitter chats, etc. are happening and get involved. For example, ARLIS/NA has lunchtime chats (with archived transcripts!) and webinars (yup, archived again!). This will help you reach out to others who have your dream job so you can network and get advice on how to break into that branch of librarianship.

Focusing on the bigger picture has really helped my confidence and enthusiasm in my program. I feel like I’m not just merely going through the motions of coursework, but really cultivating my career.

  6 comments for “I Found my Dream Job but I’m Not Qualified

  1. Dan Robinson
    May 15, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    Be sure to check back on those jobs after you get the qualifications. On one hand, they may not seem so ‘dreamy’, or, on the other hand, they may have an opening and you feel the need to move up.

  2. Heather H.
    May 15, 2014 at 12:54 pm

    One tricky thing about library jobs is that you may be qualified, but due to the nature of your desired field, you may also need to be in a certain very narrow life situation in order to make it ‘in’ before your qualifications wane.

    In case that doesn’t make sense, an example: When I graduated with my MSLIS, two of my internships and a great deal of my coursework were in archives and preservation. It was my passion at that time, like many of us. However, jobs in that area are typically grant-funded and either temporary, part-time or both – so one must be willing and able to hop from one job to the other (and from one place to another) every year or two, and/or somehow work more than one at once to make a living while one climbed the ladder. I would have had to get a job in that field right out of school in order to keep the momentum going in terms of experience. But by then, the life in this city that I’d carved out for myself painstakingly over the grad school years was very important to me, and I didn’t want to up and ditch my partner to jump across the country for a job (he already had one) – so there really weren’t any opportunities for me to work in that field and I simply had to aim for a different type of job. Now, three years out of school, I no longer have the experience I need to get back into it, and internships are of course mostly just for current students. I’m good and out of the loop.

    It’s not the end of the world, but it can be a bummer. ‘Qualified’ doesn’t necessarily just depend on the skills you have.

  3. August 1, 2013 at 5:31 pm

    This was an interesting post, thanks!

    I’m currently in my first full time library job post-MLISc; it’s a fixed term traineeship so will be working in a variety of academic library teams doing different things during the year. I’m still subscribed to various LIS job mailing lists though, and am finding it useful to keep an eye out for any I particularly like the look of. It helps me focus my experience I think, and find the know how/experience needed for these sort of posts for when am next looking properly.

  4. Raquel Mendelow
    July 26, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    Do you plan on doing any practica or internships in the duration of you program? Because that is what I did. I did a practicum in archiving. For any questions, feel free to e-mail me at raquelme@buffalo.edu.

  5. Crystal Bauer
    July 26, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    I really appreciate your article. I also just started my graduate degree in January and I have been drooling over jobs that I am in no way qualified for. You make a good point about looking for the qualifications and working towards those qualifications independently. Thanks for the advice, you made my day.

  6. Veda
    July 26, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    This is great advice. I have similar information science aspirations. Learning a lot of the skills required is actually fun. For example, taking up a hobby like digital photography is a great way to learn Photoshop and Bridge.

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