From Flight Attendant to Librarian: Making Your Non-Library Work Experience Work for You

by Ashley Crace, former Head Editor, INALJ West Virginia
previously published 8/20/13

From Flight Attendant to Librarian: Making Your Non-Library Work Experience Work for You

AshleyCrace1I worked as a flight attendant for five years. During this time, I earned a Master’s degree in Library and Information Studies. I volunteered, interned, and polished my skills. But, I still did not have those valuable few years of library work experience on my resume. I wanted to get a foot in the door to the library world, but it seemed that every job description required at least two years of library experience. It was certainly frustrating.  I did not have paid library work experience, but I saw my five years as a flight attendant as relevant experience, that would definitely make me a plausible candidate.

The difficulty would be convincing potential employers that my non-library work experience was valuable and applicable to a public library. What exactly did the experience of being a flight attendant do for me? I had refined my customer service skills with passengers, who were from all over the world, spoke many languages, and came from all walks of life. I was flexible in my work hours, transitioning from evening shifts, to morning shifts, and between time zones.I learned to work as a team member with an ever-changing group of people. I also learned CPR and self-defense; seriously, you just never know when and where this could come in handy. Most of all, I learned to be proactive, positive, and to be a leader. These skills, to me, were priceless.  I just had to show my potential employers this value.

So, I used my cover letter to specifically and concisely express the skills that I had learned in my five years of flying the skies. I still was met with blank and confused faces when interviewed. It was entirely on me to explain my enthusiasm for librarianship, customer service, and exactly how my skill set made me, not only perfect for the job, but uniquely qualified.

My point is, no matter what your non-library work experience, it has given you experience and skills that will translate to the library world. However, a potential employer is not going to see this until you show it to him or her. Use the tools you have: your resume, cover letter, and interview preparation to precisely highlight why your experience applies. Most importantly, you have to be confident in your experience, even if it isn’t in a library.

  6 comments for “From Flight Attendant to Librarian: Making Your Non-Library Work Experience Work for You

  1. Leni
    August 19, 2014 at 9:45 am

    I am a bit confused… did you get a job in a library? If so I am impressed… I am wondering if this approach might also work for people who had to leave the library world to get a job to support themselves, but are now trying to get back to it. There are so many folks applying for library jobs (over 400 for the last one I tried for) that I think they can be so particular.

    • LMS
      August 19, 2014 at 7:49 pm

      Recently a youth services manager told me she gets between 30 to 300 applications for every open position. I have just about given up on public libraries, and instead am looking at special libraries and other niche positions, as well as less popular jobs like cataloging. Library science is now like teaching, with an overabundance of candidates.

    • August 21, 2014 at 2:59 pm

      She did!

  2. LMS
    August 18, 2014 at 3:39 pm

    I agree that this is a huge problem. In my case, I worked for many years as an instructional assistant with elementary school children, but these years of experience don’t seem to “count” when it comes to children’s services positions. Why? Are children somehow completely different in a library than they are in school? Don’t they still need help with homework assignments or free reading selections? Do they behave completely different in libraries than they do in school? Wouldn’t working in schools be an asset as a librarian trying to connect with teachers?

  3. Danielle
    August 18, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    Thanks for this! Sometimes I feel at a loss to validate my ten years in service management. I am starting my Masters in the spring, and now have a few years of part-time library work under my belt while still working in Service. I always feel I have two resumes– one for the job I want as a Librarian, and one for service to earn money until then. I know all the years of long hours, face time with clients, connecting people to their needs (anticipating those needs), etc. can apply to librarianship. I am just never sure how to validate my experience. It is reassuring to hear others go through this as well.

  4. Matt
    September 16, 2013 at 9:11 am

    Glad to see you found a fitting career and still just as beautiful as i remember.

Comments are closed.