Apply Yourself

by Joanna June

When I tell people what I am doing in Florence, Italy, for a year, I am invariably asked one question: “How did you land such a position?!” To which I smile broadly, often chuckle a little and answer simply and honestly: “I applied.” This, my LIS, MLIS, and MSIT friends is one of my best hacks for library school and life.

You have to show up. For most positions and roles that you want to land, that means tossing your hat in the ring with an application.

If you have been following HLS’s new series “So What Do You Do?” you have heard about a number of great internships and programs to round out your LIS education. In none of them (at least so far) does the hacker say: Well, I was just standing around on a street corner and someone said, “Come do this thing.” Whether it’s getting into library school, volunteering, taking a leadership position in the club which eventually leads to the internship which then leads to a job with your dream organization… all the steps start with some sort of applying yourself — even if it is as simple as showing up.

I am additionally reminded of the “showing up” truism as I have recently been interviewing students for library assistant positions. Last semester, four students applied. Guess what? Those four people were hired. None of them seemed to be unstable or problematic in an interview so selection was easy. Those that tried and submitted their applications — a simple Google form — on time, got hired.

I was then shocked at how many more students came to me after the hires were made and work had started and said “Oh, I wanted to apply but ___(forgot/was unsure/put it off/was busy/etc)____, can I still work for the library?” or “Are you going to open the process again?” No. No, I am not.

First, it doesn’t speak well to interest nor a solid work ethic that the deadline was missed. (Takeaway: Send early, send often, and follow the directions for the application to the letter.)

Second, it would be blatantly unfair. (Takeaway: Don’t ask for special consideration or worst of all, an extension.)

Third, why – as a manager – would I think that the next time would be any different? I was pleased with the work of the students that were hired and the two that came back to Florence were assured jobs against a much larger applicant pool this semester.

Those returning students that missed the deadline last time and asked about it later? Not one applied this time. A number of others who expressed interest didn’t either. Which is sad because I’m sure they would be great additions to the library but I can’t hire them because they didn’t apply. (Takeaway: Apply!)

If you limit yourself by not even applying you are 100% assured of not getting the gig.

If you make the attempt, even if it is an outside chance, you at least have some chance. Sure, you shouldn’t waste your energies by applying for things you aren’t interested in. Do your research and be somewhat selective (our time is limited) but err on the side of over-shooting. What an incredible position to be in that you turn down a role that you decide isn’t such a great fit! Even if you don’t land the job, if nothing else you get cover letter writing and interviewing practice and you know that your digital resume is up to date for when the really great thing comes along.

You can go to amazing and unexpected places with your LIS degree, even while still in school. Don’t limit your options by not even trying. It can be scary to ask for the informational interview, press “send” on your cover letter and resume email, put in to lead a seminar at that conference, or press “submit” on your application. The information is out there to help guide you (see all those links) but you — YES YOU! — have to take the leap and do it.

Don’t procrastinate. Don’t over-think it. Don’t self-limit by indecision. It gets just a little easier with practice and every other person applying is likely feeling the exact same way. You’re not a fraud! If you have the interest and take the time to submit an application, you — yes you! — deserve to at least be considered.

Put yourself out there and go for it. You truly never know until you apply yourself!