As the job search process continues, I’m finding myself relying heavily on others for support and advice. Navigating things like how to find an internship, how to handle a phone interview, and what’s expected in a job talk can be tricky. I’ve found that having a variety of people to turn to for support has helped. Here are some places you can go to foster these types of connections.
I’ve participated in mentoring programs offered by both ACRL and APALA, and these have been the most useful for helping with my job search process. The great thing about participating in a formal mentoring program is that your assigned mentor signed up to be a mentor. They’re there to help you because they want to be there! As someone who worries about inconveniencing others, the knowledge that my mentor is there to help me has made me feel a lot more comfortable reaching out as questions come up.
I heard about ACRL’s mentoring program through a scholarship and about APALA’s when I attended ALA, so my advice here is to look into professional organizations that interest you and see what they have to offer. And if you see an email come by advertising a mentoring program, sign up!
This may seem obvious, but who’s a better source of advice about being a librarian than the people who are librarians right now? I’ve found that current librarians have been very happy to provide me with advice and support. They’re generally excited to see new people entering the field and are very willing to have conversations about what the landscape looks like, how they landed their jobs, and even what they look for in a job interview.
In my experience, it is helpful to cultivate relationships with more than one librarian. Well-established librarians have a good sense of the history of the profession and major things to look out for. My boss, for example, was the one who suggested I attend the Association for Asian Studies conference, where I found my summer internship. Her knowledge is very subject based and luckily aligns well with my own interests.
Finding other librarians to talk to besides her has also been very important. Especially because I’m just starting out, I’m trying to cultivate skills across the board, so having discussions with instruction librarians or scholarly communications librarians is also extremely helpful.
And don’t overlook librarians who are just starting out! These are the people who can give you the on-the-ground advice about getting jobs and getting started, because they have just been there themselves. Librarianship has changed a lot over the years, so it’s important to get perspectives from multiple different people.
You’re in library school, which means you have a huge resource right there at your fingertips: your professors. Worried about overburdening someone? That’s what office hours are there for! I have definitely used office hours as a time to bring up librarianship questions that weren’t directly related to the professor’s class. Professors are a wonderful resource because they see many, many students go through your same program and can therefore speak from that experience.
As with librarians, it’s important to keep in mind the perspective that any one professor might be coming from. Maybe they’ve worked in libraries for a long time and only recently switched over to academia. Maybe they’re more of a theorist and can offer you insights on how the field is growing and changing. Maybe their research is on community archives and they can help you sort through your thoughts on diversity in archives and libraries. Know what you hope to get out of the conversation and definitely don’t feel bad about talking to more than one of your professors.
For career-related questions, your career center is the obvious first stop. It can be helpful to learn if the staff in your career center have certain specialties. For example, some may be well-versed in giving advice on interviews while others may be better suited to helping you plan for salary negotiation. Your professors or your classmates can be helpful in offering suggestions about who to meet in your career center, but it also doesn’t hurt to go in and ask!
If you’re into social media, Twitter can be a useful tool to connect with librarians who might not be in your geographic area who are doing interesting things. I follow a lot of librarians just so I can keep up on conversations on developing issues in the field and learn how librarians talk to one another.
As for getting advice on Twitter, I’ve attend a few Twitter chats that have been especially helpful for learning more about the job search process, the most recent being one hosted by LISprochat. Twitter chats can also be a great way to connect with other librarians and to share your own ideas, so definitely keep an eye out for them if Twitter is something you want to explore.
Do you have other ideas for how to get advice and support in the library community? Feel free to share them in the comments!
Zoë McLaughlin is a Master’s student at the University of Michigan’s School of Information. Find her on Twitter, LinkedIn, or at her personal blog.
Featured image by haru__q under a Creative Commons license.
Categories: networking, Professional Life
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