by Rebecca Halpern
For those of us preparing to graduate in the next several months, it’s time. Time to get ready to job search. Or, as I’m known to do, it’s time to prepare to get ready to job search because, hey, you can’t be overly prepared, right? This piece isn’t about applying for jobs themselves–for that, turn to Heidi’s post from earlier this year– but the few weeks or months of preparation before you start: the “holy crap where do I even begin to look or know what I’m looking for?” stage, if you will.
I am by no means a job-seeking expert, but I do have a running joke with my family that I collect part-time jobs, so I’ve been friendly with my resume and cover letters for a while. Spending time tweaking and polishing your official application materials is important, but I’ve found that the job search preparation process is just as important. What am I talking about? Here’s a few tips to make your search a little more organized.
Face the facts
For the last semester, I’ve subscribed to just about every relevant job-seeking listserv out there. Among my favorites are Lib Gig Jobs because I don’t have to sort through dozens of non-relevant job openings, ALA Job List because even though they have a lot of intermediate and upper-level jobs I get a sense of where my career could be headed, and ILI-L, ALA’s Information Literacy and Instruction listserv because that’s the type of job I’m looking for.
The benefit of subscribing to listservs is 2-fold: first, you can get a sense of what’s out there now. Do you really want to move back home to Ohio but in 4 days you only ever see 1 job opening? You might want to consider another location, at least temporarily. Do you have your heart set on cataloging in a special library? In a few days, you’ll see how many positions are out there. It’s a good reality check. And don’t forget: ain’t nothing wrong with part-time (for now)! Second, you can see where your skill sets are useful and what needs to be improved on. For me, after reading dozens and dozens of job descriptions, I have a pretty clear understanding where my shortcomings are, and because I still have several months until I graduate, I can start working on them now.
Be warned: subscribe to the digest version if you can! Because the last thing I want to do is get distracted by potential jobs during finals, I have a listserv folder in Gmail, subdivided into the specific listserv, and I have all the emails directly routed to the folder. That way I can look at them when I’m ready. Check out Lauren’s post on special libraries and Annie’s post about art libraries for resources.
Get the word out
If you’re going to ask people to be your professional references, which, by the way, you should always ask, give them plenty of notice. Some people want to be notified of every job you’re applying to so they can be prepared to be specific, others just want a sense of the types of positions you’re looking for, and others still might want to write you a stock letter of recommendation. The point is, now’s the time to figure out who will be your references for what kinds of positions and to give those people a heads up. Many academic positions want letters from your references and the more time you can give them to write it, the better the letter will be and the more your reference will like you (no one wants a 1 week deadline). It’ll also open the conversation for your professional mentors to talk to you about their job search, what skill sets they see in you, and any tips they might have.
I have a Google Calendar to keep track of deadlines, required application materials, and an estimation of how long the whole application will take me to put together (overkill? That’s my middle name). Point is, figure out what works for you to keep up with deadlines and whatnot. Now’s the time to nail down an organizational structure. For example, I have a “job search” folder on my hard drive, and within that folder, I have folders for every position I apply for that includes the job description, any research I might have done on the organization, my resume, cover letter, references, and any supplemental materials they require. I like to group them by type: academic, public, instruction, outreach, etc., but that’s just me. Again, think about what works for you.