Feast or Freeze: Preparing for Post-MLIS Job Hunting During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Out of everything I know I will have to manage this semester in addition to my culminating project and my internship, job hunting is one task that, at times, has me feeling a little bit of errand paralysis on top of all the feelings associated with graduation. Not only do I and every other person in our field have to continue to navigate our current pandemic; but, for those of us looking for work right now, we likely have to also, among other things, figure out how to get hiring bots to work in our favor if we do not already know someone at a potential place of employment, educate ourselves on the basics of mentorship and how to potentially find a mentor before or after we are hired to help us grow our careers, if we have not already done so; and, above all, compete for a limited number of job and internship openings as some employers continue to institute hiring freezes as we all collectively try to determine how the rest of 2021 will unfold.

     This time last year, if you had told me that not only was the world going to endure a pandemic throughout the remainder of 2020, but that said pandemic was going to last into my final semester of my MLIS program, I would have been in disbelief, but not totally unprepared. Like many others, I have lived through many economic crises and seen first-hand how it can affect the job market as a high school, undergraduate, and, now, graduate student and almost MLIS graduate. So, there is more than enough precedent for me to draw from in terms of practicing resiliency and patience while completing applications for openings that I may not get based on the sheer volume of applicants with similar levels of experience and backgrounds vying for the same position. But, that wealth of experience aside, the COVID-19 pandemic has further complicated the job market as it has introduced a host of new factors to consider, including, but not limited to, how potential employers have protected their employees during the pandemic to date to ensure their health and safety, as well as job security and income.

     Thus, through my experience job hunting so far, these are a handful of lessons I have learned that I want to share that have and will continue to shape how I seek out job and internship openings for after I graduate and my degree is conferred by my university:

     First, start searching early and do your homework, and I am not just talking about your coursework in your last semester of library school. As we have become an increasingly digitized world, information on potential employers can very easily be one quick search away on your search engine of choice. You can also rely on your classmates, professors, friends, family members, roommates, significant others, other peers like those you will likely connect with on #librarytwitter, and anyone else in your environment for information for input as something I have learned over time is that everyone you know likely knows something that you do not. In turn, do not be hesitant to provide the same support and direct people you know to job or internship openings that may not work for you as that could inspire them to do the same for you.

     So, it is essential to keep your ears and eyes open so you can learn absolutely everything you can about any potential employer that may be hiring to determine if they would be a good fit for you overall. From their dress code to the environment they cultivate and beyond, there is a lot of unbiased research to be done that will more than shape how you will approach applying for any job or internship openings that come your way; and #librarytwitter is a great resource in this case as you can receive different perspectives on a topic that you may not otherwise have access to; especially since everyone in the field is so spread out.

     Second, be sure to put forth your best self in your application materials so potential employers give you the chance you have worked so hard to deserve. Have someone you trust review your resumé, and cover letter if one is requested. Check your spelling and grammar in any written responses you have to complete, which is what I had to do quite a bit for my last job application, as those are one way in which you can better customize your application materials to you and subsequently stand out among the pool of applicants you will be included in. Read through the fine print of the instructions for every job and internship application to ensure that you have everything you need; or can weed out any openings that, upon reading through the application instructions, do not ultimately sync up with your skills, qualifications, and values, which has happened a handful of times for me already as I have further refined my professional interests.

     Since I acknowledge that time is often a scarce resource when you consider everything we all have to juggle daily, it is so important to do yourself the favor of not only defining your career objective early on in your job hunt, but also being organized and thorough while searching for work and completing the corresponding applications to help you better prioritize. If it works for you, utilize Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets to track job openings and application materials to streamline the process and alleviate some extra stress. Personally, I use a handwritten planner and a wall calendar as they help me keep track of my active applications alongside my other weekly obligations, so do what works best for you!

     Next, cultivate your LinkedIn profile and network to further establish yourself as a LIS professional. This is something that I will admit that I have not probably done as much as I should have to date; but I am working on nonetheless in the moments I am not devoting to my culminating project, internship, volunteer positions within my department and out, and personal obligations, and practicing self-care when time allows as one’s online presence is important to cultivate in our current day and age. Also, do not restrict yourself to field-specific job boards as more generally-oriented job boards may not only post the same openings field-specific job boards may post, but other related openings that these specialized job boards may omit from their listings. This is something I have encountered to date to some degree, which has been interesting.

Additionally, be sure to try different search terms across your searches to ensure that you are seeing all of the potential job and internship openings that are available as every job or internship opening may be coded differently by each potential employer depending on their focus (think library-related jobs versus LIS careers in other industries or settings); so it definitely pays to think outside of the box. Lastly, if you can, pursue student memberships in professional associations as they are one way you can connect with other networking opportunities, as well as volunteer opportunities if your school has active student chapters, that could help you connect with potential leads on job and internship openings. Also, it is worth mentioning from my own experience that, depending on the association, they could additionally provide you with professional development resources for you to utilize to further refine your skills before or after graduation.

     But, throughout your job hunting cycle, please do not forget to take time to take care of yourself, as I have emphasized in previous articles. Like library school, job hunting before and after graduation is a huge, emotionally- and physically-exhausting task, so you need to find time, regardless if it is just five to ten minutes to take a deep breath and step away from your work space to center yourself, to focus on your personal health and well-being to ensure you prevent yourself from getting burned out in the process. Every rejection letter you may receive will push you one step closer to the acceptance letter you have been working towards all this time. You will find the job that was meant for you, and you have come so far already. So, you should be confident in your ability to get that acceptance you have been working so hard towards and feel incredibly proud of your growth up to this point.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

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