Many of us have probably heard a similar line before: “You NEED a LinkedIn page if you’re job hunting.” While LinkedIn is not a one-size-fits-all platform for job hunters, it can certainly be useful. As a student who has been using LinkedIn on and off since undergrad, I regularly scroll through my feed, add connections, and update my job description as needed.
In an April 2012 article, former contributing writer Kevin Coleman pondered if LinkedIn was worth the effort for library school students. Although he mentioned that the platform seemed to gear more towards business and tech jobs, he found the site to be useful for networking with classmates and sharing projects. As I quickly approach the job-hunting portion of my MLIS over the next few months, I’ve been considering how to effectively use all that LinkedIn has to offer. In addition to Kevin’s observations in 2012, I believe that LinkedIn can be an incredibly useful tool for all library students.
To echo Kevin, LinkedIn opens the doors for networking opportunities. Adding classmates and peers to your connections is a good starting point, but in my personal experiences, LinkedIn is also great for finding folks already working in the library and information science field. And, more importantly, many of these people are very willing to chat with current students about their educational and career experiences. One example occurred when I was applying to library school; I found a few folks who graduated from me undergraduate school and worked in libraries. To gain a better understanding of library school, I decided to connect and message each person a couple of questions about their current and previous experiences. Although this is a great tactic, it can feel intimidating to cold-message someone online. To ease the anxiety – and increase my chances of making the connection – I made sure to include a brief message explaining who I was and asked if they would be willing to answer a few questions for me. In the end, I not only got some questions answered, but I gained a new connection and took a step forward in networking with other LIS professionals.
In addition to networking, one of the main reasons we’re told to create a LinkedIn profile is to find a job. Even for students who are not on the job market just yet, simply browsing through current job listings is beneficial. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, I would see various library jobs all over the United States ranging anywhere from academic libraries to government offices to public libraries. Now that we are six months into the pandemic (with a relatively bleak job market), such librarian jobs are few and far between. But as library-specific jobs have dropped off, I noticed other jobs being listed more frequently, especially some of the non-traditional jobs that Lauren previously wrote about: information management, social media, programming, user experience research, and data and budget analysis are just a handful of the jobs I’ve seen recently. If any of these jobs sound interesting, now may be the time to look around see how an MLIS can take you into fields outside of libraries.
To follow the previous point, browsing job listings on LinkedIn can help students tailor their degrees. See a job that sounds amazing, but requires the candidate to be proficient in Python or familiar with specific metadata schema? If this is a type of job you would consider applying for after graduation, try taking any classes your university offers related to those requirements. If you’re short on time or elective space, Kerri referenced several resources for students to take on outside of class. Further, if your school provides students access to LinkedIn Learning, take advantage of it! In addition to skill-based courses like Python and Excel, LinkedIn Learning also offers courses on project management, basics of accounting and finance, and personal development. Once you have experience in specific skills, be sure to add them to your LinkedIn profile. Not only will this help filter your interests and job search, but your connections may notice your skills and could lead you to a job. You never know who could look at your profile!
Like Kevin mentioned in 2012, your LinkedIn profile may or may not help you nail a job. But as COVID-19 continues to guide students to virtual spaces, at the very least, the site opens opportunities for networking and seeing what is available to students.
Sarah McKenna is a second year MLIS student at the University of Maryland. When she isn’t trying to figure out her post-grad life, she can be found binge reading books and devouring coffee. Feel free to add her as a connection on LinkedIn!