Advice for Starting a New Job During Grad School

I’ve been very fortunate to have gotten a new full-time librarian job before I graduate from my MLIS program this May, but transitioning to a new job in the middle of a semester comes with its own challenges. Still, if you can swing it, I do recommend starting the job search process early, instead of limiting yourself to only jobs that are posted after you graduate. Whether you’re switching to a new full-time or part-time job during grad school, I’d like to share some advice on how to manage the transition, both from some of my peer students and from my personal experience.

I’m grateful that my advisor encouraged me to take a summer class, which allowed me to only have to take two, instead of three, courses during my final semester. Because my final two courses were offered asynchronously (meaning no in-person or Zoom classes!), I felt like I would be able to balance them while job searching or transitioning to full-time instead of part-time work.

I would also highly recommend that anyone try to carve out extra time during their last semester if they plan to job hunt before graduation, whether that’s reducing your course load, cutting back on volunteer or internship opportunities, or any other commitments. Don’t underestimate the time it takes to write quality applications, prepare for (and worry about) interviews, and to rest and recover from the stress of the search.

After I received my job offer in mid-February, I managed to give myself about five weeks before starting, not only to give leave for my two other part-time jobs, but also because I had to balance moving with my schoolwork. Obviously not every employer will be so generous, but it doesn’t hurt to ask for an extra week or so to ensure you can keep up with your classes.

Some of these tips might apply to managing courses with a busy schedule in general, while others are helpful advice to keep in mind when starting any new job!

Tips for staying on top of coursework:

  • Try to get ahead on your schoolwork before you start the new job. If that’s not feasible, at least develop a schedule to give yourself a bit of wiggle room as you acclimate to a new position! My brain was useless after the first week on my new job, so I’m glad I had already completed assignments for that week and gotten ahead on other longer-term projects.
  • As a student, you already know you need to schedule, set deadlines, determine times to work on your classes, etc. All of these things still apply, but I want to emphasize the importance of being flexible with yourself during your job transition. Ask for an extension if you need to, don’t stress if you don’t make it through all of the readings for the week, etc. Remember that you’re probably learning just as much—or more—on the job, so it’s okay to go easier on your classwork for a while.
  • Prioritize what you need to do to get the grade you want and what you think is most applicable to your new job and future. Try to tailor certain assignments to what you think might be most helpful in your new position. For instance, I had to write and record a presentation about a metadata schema just before I started my new job. Instead of picking a standard that’s totally new to me, I chose MARC, which was a nice refresher before having to catalog in a library again.

Tips for starting a new job:

  • Bring a notebook and pen to take notes during onboarding/training. Fortunately, my library has excellent documentation that I can look up, but I also found it helpful to take notes just to remind myself of the processes I was learning through physically writing it down.
  • Ask questions and don’t be afraid to ask repeat questions. No one expects you to remember everything all at once, so I promise it’s okay to ask the same questions or to ask for clarifications! Whenever someone asks if I learned about something before, I always ask them to remind me because it typically doesn’t hurt to go over something twice—plus, people often have different ways of doing something that can be helpful to learn.
  • Take your breaks. Don’t try to work through breaks that are given to you, even if that’s what you see other people doing. Ask for short breaks if you’re getting overwhelmed by all of the new information being thrown at you, which can help you digest everything you’ve gone over to remember it better.
  • Admit you’re new! I’ve told many patrons that I’m new and still learning things about the library and area so far, which helps ease their concerns and frustrations if I don’t know something right away. Most people will be gracious and patient with you!

Do you have any advice to add for those transitioning between jobs during school? Leave them in the comments below!

Paige Szmodis is an online, second-year MLIS student at Simmons University in the Cultural Heritage Informatics concentration. You can find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Featured image courtesy of SurveyHacks.com on Flickr.

2 replies

  1. And for employers – please, please, please make sure you have a strong onboarding process. Make sure you have lots of documentation for library policies and procedures. Make sure the new hire is comfortable asking questions, and never make them feel bad for doing so. If your institution offers any job hunting help for spouses or partners, make sure your new hire is aware of this. If you can, assign a mentor to them – someone not their direct supervisor who is tasked with being a point person for questions. I could go on, but you get the picture. People who are reasonably happy at work are much more likely to stay, and we all put a lot of energy and time into searches and training new folks. It’s a shame to waste it.

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