by Naomi House, MLIS, INALJ Founder and Editor
Strategizing for the Job Hunt
In October 2013 I was not only furloughed but also lost my job in the great and tremendously wasteful federal government shutdown. I wrote an article Furloughed & Job Hunting: why strategizing 1st is the key to success, with advice about what to do and soon after, thankfully, was rehired along with the rest of the librarians. While out of work due to the shutdown and being let go I suffered a miscarriage, my first of two in the coming months. This was an incredibly difficult time and I am forever grateful for the supportive INALJ community then and as always.
I was re-reading this article and realized that so much of the advice really isn’t specific to being furloughed or even let go, but can be practically applied in other situations.
Job hunting stinks.
It can be brutal.
There is no one-size-fits-all advice or magic pill. These are some ideas that might get you started and have worked well for me, but in all cases building a support network of people you can lean on and ask for advice is helpful. I have found those I trust most not only in person but also on Twitter and social media. These people will be as key in a successful job hunt if not more than any online advice. But I still share here in the hopes that some of this applies and can be used by you successfully. Good luck and here is my advice for job hunters: (note: this is almost word for word what my previous article advised minus the emphasis on government work).
It is easy to let panic set in when you know you will have either no paycheck, or less of a paycheck or even a delayed paycheck coming in. You might rush to INALJ Jobs or other websites and instantly become overwhelmed at what is (or in some states) what is not out there/ dismayed. It helps having a plan in order to use your time efficiently. Ask friends to be on the lookout for you. Join and follow like-minded people and groups on social media. Chat with LIS friends about what is available.
WHAT am I looking for?
Usually I encourage job hunters to approach their job hunting strategy with ‘where’ they want to live or ‘where’ they are willing to relocate to as a way of weeding down the options. For job hunters looking in a limited geographic area you may need to look in other sectors such as government, non-LIS jobs within universities like prospect research positions or see our list of Keywords on the left sidebar on INALJ. But if you are seriously considering a new career then the first thing you need to do if figure out not only what types of jobs would make you happy but what types of jobs could you really contribute to. This isn’t something that can be figured out in a day so really brainstorm and give it some thought. Informational interviews can help.
WHAT do I want BEYOND the Job
Also remember that work life balance might be something to evaluate. What benefits or flexibilities are you seeking? Really think these through as well. Know what you will and will not be able to compromise on. The catch is that sometimes this is something you negotiate after being offered a position- so it isn’t something you can always have nailed down when applying to jobs.
One lucky thing for me about formerly being in the metro DC area is that many of my friends were in the same boat as me. We used those days off to come together either in person or through social media like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Find out how your colleagues perceive you and what skill-sets they think are your key ones. This can help you as you strategize what types of jobs you should be looking for. Also reach out to friends outside of government (like universities, etc) who are in your same geographic area for their advice and opinions on the pros and cons of their sectors.
NICHE and KNOWNS
We all know that there are library jobs in universities and colleges, special libraries and public libraries. Finding those job on SLA and ALAJobList as well as INALJ and local listservs are great places to start. But what about the jobs that librarians can do because of our skill-sets but are non-traditional and harder to find? Some LIS grads, students and current staff may be interested in non-library jobs as well. This is why I put a list called “Keywords for Job Searching” on the left sidebar of each page of INALJ.com, so that you can use these as a spring board. These job titles are some of the ones you can use when using job scrapers like LinkUp and Indeed to look for jobs. Also remember that many startups and fab businesses list their jobs on the Daily Muse. Niche sites can include association sites as well. One of my favorite competitive intelligence job searching sites is the SCiP jobs page, the strategic and competitive intelligence association site. Definitely worth checking out.
RESUMES (not just one)
Remember that you need to make multiple resumes for multiple types of jobs you apply to. The government standard of including everything and the bare bones structure that we are used to does not fly in the private sector. For librarians like me it is good not only to update our resumes (see mine here) but also check out Open Cover Letters for tips on crafting a good cover letter based on the various sectors.
ASSOCIATIONS and Volunteering
If you aren’t already volunteering with your local or national associations, or anywhere frankly, it can help. Many job hunters (though certainly not all) have a few hours in the week they can give and this type of networking also helps keep you in front of potential employers or at least people who know of job openings. Giving of your time strategically does not mean that you expect that you are giving just to get a reward or potential job, rather I think of giving in a strategic way as showing your best face and helping potential employers, but in DC even in a tight market there were more jobs than elsewhere.
Nothing can guarantee you that finding a job will be easy but it is wasting time mass mailing resumes for everything out there and spending time on cover letters if you haven’t first considered what your needs and wants are first. It is inefficient. Job hunting requires taking the time so you can be your most efficient. If you are thinking about other possibilities then you owe it to yourself to do a good job of planning and researching, or having others help you with this stage. After all, as anyone who has worked in government is aware of; moving slowly is often the choice we make so we understand the risks and rewards. You work hard for a career you can be good at and that means taking time to consider everything and make a plan first about how to best use your time applying.
* updated 8/22/2022 replacing an ableist term (st*pid) with the word “wasteful