Should You Leave the MLS off Your Resume?

by Sarah Roark Schott, Head Editor, INALJ Arizona

Should You Leave the MLS off Your Resume?

SarahRoarkSchottINALJI recently left my job in Arizona and moved to another state. The move is slightly temporary; I only plan on living here for a year unless my partner or I find amazing positions here. Unfortunately library or archive type jobs are difficult to find in my new state, so I have made the decision to apply for jobs that do not require an MLS or even a graduate degree. For the first couple of weeks I used a condensed and simplified version of my resume to apply for a wide variety of jobs, anything from Starbucks, to entry level part time public library jobs, to data entry. I have yet to hear back from any of the non-library employers, and that got me thinking, and then talking with a few friends who are in similar situations. Should we leave our degrees off the resume when we apply for entry level jobs, part time positions in libraries that do not require an MLS, or unrelated positions? Should we rely only on our past work and volunteer experience to catch an employer’s eye?

We have all been told not to lie on resumes or cover letters, but what about leaving the graduate degree off to appear a little less overqualified? A while ago I read an article on Vice about this very topic, and I’ve had conversations with friends and family members about it during the past couple of years. Leaving graduate degrees off resumes seems to work for some people. I think I am going to drop the MLS when I apply for non-library/archive positions for a week, and see what results I get. I’ll report back to you next month. INALJ is a great site to discuss this issue, I hope you will comment and help start an interesting and well balanced conversation.

  28 comments for “Should You Leave the MLS off Your Resume?

  1. Melanie Masserant
    September 3, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    I had a conversation with a friend a few weeks ago regarding this topic. I’ve decided to leave it off my resume for non-library jobs. It seems that the word ‘library’ in the degree title has a stigma associated with it. I want to say Masters of Information Science instead. If the job isn’t in a library but is in the information field it’s valued, but if you’re looking for anything and everything it confuses people. They see the word library and automatically assume you check out books. It’s terrible that most of us have a debt due to this degree, but there’s ways to make it work in our favor. If that means leaving off your masters than so be it.

  2. LL
    August 21, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    This business about having my MLIS on my resume worries me constantly as I apply for jobs. I didn’t have any real library experience when I started library school, and frankly I didn’t totally understand the field until I started classes. I am not a quitter, however, so I stayed in library school even when I realized that I was receiving training for a higher-level job than I wanted. Now, even though I would prefer to check out books and issue library cards, I find myself overqualified for non-librarian jobs and underqualified for entry-level librarian jobs. At this point, I almost wish I could give back my MLIS and the thousands of dollars of student loans that came with it.

    • August 21, 2013 at 10:28 pm

      I think you bring up a great point about expectations 🙂 fingers crossed a position in Circ is in your future.

    • August 21, 2013 at 10:29 pm

      Oh and check this out too for jobs you might prefer to tradition MLS jobs.

      • LL
        August 22, 2013 at 2:04 pm

        Thanks, Naomi! Sorry my comment was a bit venty. It’s easy to get frustrated in this job search. I actually am looking for entry level librarian jobs, but I would also be happy to take a lower-level position and be committed to doing the job well. Thanks for the link to possible alternatives!

  3. Riley
    August 21, 2013 at 4:38 pm

    I’m so confused when I hear about people being told they’re overqualified after an interview. They obviously attracted attention through their resume, which had their MLS on it! Isn’t it possible they just didn’t present themselves well during the interview? If the position doesn’t specifically ask for an MLS, interviewees must make it clear they’re passionate and interested in the position. If you’re passionate about libraries and you’re interviewing for a non-library position, it could be quite obvious to everyone else that your heart isn’t in it.

  4. A friend
    August 21, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    I have tried every combination of removing my Master’s, using only my BA, or having no degree and I am still unemployed! I have a lead in one state agency, and they’re considering me because of my potential of being promoted to supervisory positions. It’s frustrating getting into the job market regardless of what your education is, from what I can tell it is all about who you know and that makes it tricky for those of us new to a state. Keep your chin up, something is bound to come around!

    • Sarah Roark Schott
      August 21, 2013 at 3:48 pm

      Thank you for posting, lady! I’m glad to hear you have a lead finally! My fingers are crossed for you.

  5. Gergely
    August 21, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    I think the general sentiment is right. When someone is overqualified for a position, it’s basically a guarantee that they are not looking to stay for a long time or will have rapidly increasing salary demands. It’s unfortunate that interviews can’t just be a place where both people lay all their cards on the table, but it’s really a lot like dating where you’re also trying to catch their eye in more intangible ways. Even if all the cards could just be laid out, there’s no guarantee both sides know exactly what they want, etc. Long story short, I’d try a version with your undergrad degree and work experience on it. If it comes up, I’d tell them how long you stay is tied to your spouse’s situation. Likely it’d be a year, but in that year they’d have someone great who could help replace themselves as their time winds down? Maybe that’s too honest 🙂

    • Sarah Roark Schott
      August 21, 2013 at 2:39 pm

      I knew you would have solid advice, Gergely. Who knows, maybe I’ll actually like whatever job I get here, and end up sticking with it for longer. I would like to be an archivist/librarian, but I don’t need to be either to be happy. If the job seems like a good fit for me and the employer that should be enough.

  6. Nyia
    August 21, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    I recently spoke to a dear friend of mine who was an employee in Human Resources and she suggested removing my MLS from my resume because I appear overqualified. I recently relocated to North Carolina from Philadelphia and have an extensive background in administrative work but has not been contacted for a position (even a temp position!). Iam going to try a different approach with my resume and see how far it gets me. I have been searching for a year for an entry level position as a librarian. I hadn’t realize how competitive this field was when I was in school. Good luck to everyone!

    • Sarah Roark Schott
      August 21, 2013 at 2:34 pm

      Good luck, Nyia! I hope you will let us know what happens over the next couple of weeks/months!

  7. Lisa
    August 21, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    I have considered doing the same thing. I just had an interview last week for a paraprofessional library position and it was really discouraging. I drove 2 hours to the interview only to be told by the director that I was way too overqualified. She actually asked me if I understood that it was entry level and low pay. She asked what the job market was like for librarians and it was apparent that she had no idea. It was also obvious she hadn’t even glanced at my resume until I was sitting down in front of her. Since I wasn’t going to get the job anyway, I told her what I honestly thought. I made it a point that no one stays in the same position for their whole career. I still don’t know about the legality of leaving off part of my education, however, I have a non-MLS friend who left off her master’s degree and she got a job much faster. It is a difficult decision to wrestle with because part of me really hates to do it just because I worked so hard to complete my MLS.

    • Sarah Roark Schott
      August 21, 2013 at 2:33 pm

      I know how you feel about traveling to an interview only to realize the interviewers are not prepared to meet with you, and have someone else in mind already. It is very discouraging. And I feel the exact same way you do about leaving the MLS off my resume. I worked for almost two years to get that degree, why do I have to leave it off just to be considered for a job?

  8. Rachel
    August 21, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    I recently experienced this applying for a library director job at a small rural library. They were all very impressed with my credentials but for some reason, which I still don’t understand, ended up hiring a non-MLIS for the position. After talking to the previous director she told me that I may be “too qualified.” Which just seems silly to me, especially for a director job. I have a feeling there was some nepotism and cronyism going on, but I am not sure.

    • Sarah Roark Schott
      August 21, 2013 at 2:31 pm

      Oh my goodness, Rachel. What a terrible story. A Library Director position you are too qualified for? I got an email from a position that said I was not qualified enough for an entry level library position last week and I was really insulted, being too qualified for a high level position is insulting and confusing!

  9. Geoffrey
    August 21, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    I have heard that in some states it is a crime to misrepresent educational credentials. I do not know if that works both ways or just upward.

    • Sarah Roark Schott
      August 21, 2013 at 1:18 pm

      I have also heard that, Geoffery. Usually the case is someone claiming to have a higher degree in the field they work in, not the other way around like you said. I wonder if my Masters will show up in a background check, which might throw me out of the running any way.

  10. Shockwave
    August 21, 2013 at 11:46 am

    A similar thing happened to my wife (who has a Masters degree in Accounting). She was told she was over qualified. I don’t know the answer because I imagine what blocks you from one job (The Masters degree), might be the edge that actually gets you an interview in the next.

    • Sarah Roark Schott
      August 21, 2013 at 1:25 pm

      Good point. You never know who is reviewing applications, and what that person is looking for or willing to look past (and take a chance on someone with a Masters degree). Makes me wish I could apply twice for the same job!

  11. Jaime
    August 21, 2013 at 11:41 am

    I have often considered doing the same thing, especially with ‘Entry Level’ library positions. I always thought having an MLS would be a boost to the job hunt but, after 3 years looking for a library job, I am finding that is not the case. Hiring managers need to realize most of us just want to get our foot in the door and are clearly capable to complete the tasks the job requires. Also, we realize that we are ‘overqualified’ for a position when we apply for it. That shouldn’t take us out of the running, completely!

    • Sarah Roark Schott
      August 21, 2013 at 1:31 pm

      Agreed, Jamie! I have started stating pretty much just that in my cover letters. Not exactly that, but something to the effect of “I’m looking for more experience in a ___ library (usually public library), and the (entry level position here) blah, blah, blah.” Hopefully they at least read my letter 🙂

    • Deborah Donovan
      August 26, 2013 at 10:49 am

      This is my situation. I have two-part-time jobs, one at a library and am trying to get a second part-time library job. This is a second career for me, and I am willing to take low-paying and in some cases para-professional jobs (If they offer interesting tasks). Unless the job turned out to be truly dreadful, I would plan to quit looking after landing any second library job. I do wonder though what hiring folks think when the add says “high school diploma required,” and my resume flies in.

  12. August 21, 2013 at 11:35 am

    I cannot speak for other jobs, but I know it has been a concern at the major coffee shop where I work. There have been a few people who have applied with Master’s degrees and there was concern about what kind of position the interviewee would expect to have, as well as the their longevity as an employee. I don’t know if all stores are like that, but I know that they are reluctant to train people who won’t be there longer than six months. Good luck in your job search; I am interested in seeing how it all turns out.

    • Sarah Roark Schott
      August 21, 2013 at 1:38 pm

      I always told myself my backup would be Starbucks because I have almost 7 years of previous barista experience, but I wonder if that happened when I applied and left my Masters on my resume. I totally understand the concern about a new hire leaving after 6 months, but I’m pretty sure your comment just solidified everyone’s fears. No backup safety at a coffee shop! Thanks for your well wishes!

  13. Seiferth
    August 21, 2013 at 10:34 am

    I was flat out told during an interview for a non-librarian library job that I wouldn’t be offered the job because I had my MLIS. They were worried that I would pack up and leave after just a few years in the position. Silliness. We aren’t living in the 1950s where you accepted a job and had it until you retired.

    • Sarah Roark Schott
      August 21, 2013 at 1:42 pm

      The same thing has happened twice to a friend of mine! Granted, she has 2 Masters degrees, but the positions she was interviewing for paid well and she probably would have stayed with them for a couple of years at least. I’m also not sure why employers are so scared of their employees moving on. Especially in an entry level position.

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