Preparing for the Job Search

It’s that time of the year. The weather is cooler, the nights are shorter, and that thing I’ve been most nervous about is looming just around the corner: the job search.

I will be applying to a variety of jobs, but my current focus is on reference and instruction positions in academic libraries. Having watched former colleagues go through the job application process last year, and after speaking to librarians working in academia, I know that December and January are when the majority of academic library positions are posted. So with a little help along the way, I’m preparing for my job search journey.

As many of you are starting your job seeking process as well or will start thinking about it in the upcoming months, I wanted to share what the beginning of my job search looks like. Everyone’s process looks different, but I think it’s helpful to see what others are doing and what resources they are using. 

Here’s what I’ve been doing to prepare:

Prepare a CV/Resume

I’ve written a resume before, but writing a curriculum vitae (CV) is brand new to me. I wasn’t sure what sections to include or what might be relevant to a job posting. To find more information about librarian CVs, I’ve started looking up people I know, especially people who have recently entered the profession, to get an idea of how their CV is structured and what content it includes. Some librarians have their own websites or make their CV publicly available online. It might feel a bit creepy, but Googling someone’s name and CV or simply searching “librarian cv” has been a helpful way to figure out what I need in my own CV. Dylan Burns also has some great tips for creating a CV in a previous HLS post

Asking a current professional for help can also ease some of the stress of job hunting. Librarians I know are more than happy to send their own CV/resume as a resource. In addition, if you have a mentor, professor, or friend who works in libraries, asking them to review your materials can help you improve your resume or CV. Since they’ve landed a job and have been through the job hunt before, current professionals can provide great insight and tips to help your materials get noticed and land you job interviews.

Create a practice cover letter

Because librarians are awesome, there is a website called LIS Open Cover Letters,  which is an  archive of cover letters from professionals who received jobs. I’ve been using this website as a resource to create my own cover letters. It’s easy to find a position similar to one you are applying for and see what others are including in their letters to secure a job.

My supervisor also advised me to mock apply for a job posting. Meaning, I found a job posting for a position I’d be interested in applying for, created a cover letter tailored towards that position, but did not actually apply. This was good practice for creating a cover letter for a real job posting without any of the additional stress and pressure of actually applying. I was able to think about my own skills and experience in relation to a real job I might apply for in the future.

Ask a mentor/trusted professional for feedback

I would have no idea where to begin with the library job search if it weren’t for library professionals who are willing to help. I’ve never applied for academic library jobs before, so I would not have known that the process can take several months. Conversely, public library positions and careers outside of libraries have a shorter process, so I will not have to apply for those jobs until a few months before graduation. I am so thankful for any library professional who is willing to give advice, demystify the hiring process, and review my materials. I would highly recommend reaching out to someone you know who will give you honest feedback and advice. Someone who has just gone through the job process and has recently graduated from your program can also provide realistic insight into the job hunt.

Create spreadsheets/get organized

I like spreadsheets and having information in one, easily accessible space. I keep a list of job websites, companies I may want to apply to in the future, and keywords and titles I can use to search for information jobs outside of libraries. When I begin applying for jobs, I also plan to keep track of places I’ve applied to in a spreadsheet as well. Searching for jobs is overwhelming, but staying organized can help. I hope that tracking my information and progress will make the search more manageable.

Tell yourself it’s going to be okay

I have to keep reminding myself that finding a job can be a marathon, not a sprint. Will there be a lot of rejection? Probably, but that has no bearing on who I am as a person or all of the awesome skills that I have learned. Positive self-talk and self-care are going to be an important aspect of this process, which is something I’ll do my best to remember.

To everyone who is currently searching for a job or just beginning their search, I wish you the best of luck. We’ve got this.

Additional Resources

Job websites:

ALA Joblist posts library positions for all sorts of jobs

Higher Ed Jobs for jobs postings in higher education

Government Jobs for public library positions or anything government-related.

USA Jobs is similar to government jobs.

LibraryJobline typically posts jobs in Colorado, but there are posts from other states as well.

AngelList or Built in Colorado if the startup world is your jam

LIS Career Options a LinkedIn group, run by Kim Dority, that sometimes posts jobs outside of libraries.

Indeed for a variety of job posts. (Hint, if looking for careers outside of libraries, type in your job title + MLIS. This will find jobs with that title that are also asking for MLIS degrees).

Articles and compilations

Mr. Library Dude has compiled a list of job hunting tips and links that are useful for job seekers.

In The Library With The Lead Pipe has a great editorial titled, “What Not to Do When Applying For Library Jobs.” There’s some good advice from several different professionals for every aspect of the job search process.

Why Women Don’t Apply for Jobs Unless They’re Qualified is an interesting blog post about gender application discrepancies.

Cover photo: “Job search” by Kate Hiscock. Licensed under CC BY 2.0

Melissa DeWitt is an MLIS student at the University of Denver. You can find her on Twitter

11 replies

  1. I was just looking at jobs, and was starting to feel overwhelmed! As a soon to be graduate, job searching is what I have been stressing the most about. Thank you for posting this, I feel much better knowing that I’m not alone, and that there are more resources out there than I thought.


    • You’re definitely not alone! This is the kind of thing that keeps me up at night. I’m glad the resources helped. I’m sure there are many more out there that I’m unfamiliar with.


  2. Great article. If you are required to list references be sure to keep them apprised. Today many employers use demanding automated systems and often the reference writer has no information and may not respond. It is up to you to alert people you want to write for you.

    Liked by 1 person

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