by Nicole Helregel
One piece of advice that multiple people gave me around the time I started library school is: it is never too early to start reading library job ads (especially if you’ve already started library school). Of course the library hiring process is not so lengthy that you need to start actually seeking jobs if you aren’t within a few months of graduation. Rather, looking at job ads is a great way to discover a lot of things about yourself, your library school, your career goals, the job market, and the field that you have entered. While it can sometimes be disheartening (because you’re still far away from graduation) or strangely inspiring (because of the totally amazing opportunities and positions that are waiting for you) or even confusing (why would I need to know how to do that), reading library job ads will almost always prove to be an enlightening and worthwhile use of your time.
Here are some of the key reasons you should be reading library job ads now and how you can use them to shape your path:
Developing your long term goals/career path
Reading job descriptions in the field is one way to narrow down your interests and goals. A lot of us come into library school with an undecided/generalist feeling. We know we love information, people, access, and technology, but we’re unsure of how exactly that manifests into a career. By reading about the requirements and duties surrounding LIS jobs, you will be able to hone in on what exactly you want to do once you graduate!
Shaping your degree
Once you have a clearer sense of your long term goals, you can use them to shape your LIS educational experience. This seems very basic, and is probably something you’re trying to do already. But using job ads specifically has helped me in a number of practical ways. Look at the ads for the jobs you want most: what kinds of experiences will you need? Use these to shape your course choices and practicum/internship ideas. What kinds of tech skills are required? Use these to shape what kinds of tech courses you take. Don’t get too hung up on individual programs or languages, but rather focus on learning the basics of and theories behind things like database and web design.
Gaining valuable experience
The sooner you figure out what kind of practical experience you need, the sooner you can seek it out. Many students finish their MLIS in two years. That’s two years of time you can spend getting in-library experience (whether paid, volunteer, internship, or practicum). Don’t wait until the month before graduation to find out that the job you want requires a year or more of in-library experience! Read those job ads and figure it out; the sooner, the better!
Sometimes it can feel like your MLIS is dragging on forever. Other times you can get bogged down by the negativity of peers or coworkers. Perusing job ads can be an uplifting, inspirational experience, if you let it. Yes, it can be distressing to think about how much more you have to do before you’re on the job market. And, yes, sometimes reading job descriptions can seem daunting. But, you can choose to use it as a positive exercise: read over your dream job descriptions and think positive thoughts about graduation, your career possibilities, and the dynamic, engaging field that you have chosen to enter. Trust me, reading job ads can actually be an uplifting bright spot during rough times.
It’s a good habit to make!
It’s never too early to start figuring out some good areas and sites to look for potential employment. If you’ve been using said sites to do all of the aforementioned things, you’ll already be well-versed in the language, terms, and requirements when it comes time to search in earnest for a post-graduation job!