by Diana La Femina, Head Editor, INALJ South Carolina
Non-Library Positions on Your Resume
Let’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.