Tag Archives: Job Skills

Interview Time!

23 Feb

Last year, when I was still but a lowly first year MLIS student, I watched with keen interest as a few of my friends in second year succeeded to secure interesting library jobs before their last semester of the MLIS program was even finished. This year, it is (I’m keeping my fingers crossed) going to be my turn. For the past year, I have been checking out job postings through Library Job ListServs as well as consulting the websites of various professional associations to see what type of positions are posted and how often. It has been very valuable for me to get a sense for what type of job market is available for recent MLIS graduates and the qualifications required for various advertised positions. In January, I started to see a few positions that really interested me and although I only finish my MLIS in April, I hoped that it wouldn’t be too soon to start applying. In order to revamp my C.V., I made an appointment with a consultant at the McGill Career Planning Service Center. Although, I was disappointed by her general lack of knowledge regarding the variety of career opportunities for this degree, she did provide me with basic formatting tips to create a more eye-catching C.V. I also had a friend and my professional partner from the CLA Student Chapter’s Professional Partnering Program read my C.V. and my cover letters to give me concrete feedback on whether they were well written and of potential interest to future employers. I am happy to say that the hard work I put into job applications has paid off and I have been offered three interviews for different positions.

Yesterday morning, I experienced for the first time an hour long phone interview. Phone interviews are difficult because you cannot read the body language of the people who are interviewing you. You cannot tell if they are smiling or scowling at your answers! Because I had no visual cues, once I finished giving an answer that I thought was of an appropriate length, I asked them to confirm if I had provided them with enough details. I did not do this for every question because that might have come across as insecure, however, sometimes I felt that I needed a verbal confirmation that my answer had not been off-track from the type of answer they were looking for!

My phone interview was fairly straight forward. They asked me typical questions about my experience “Name a time when you had a conflict with a supervisor and how did you deal with it?” as well as hypothetical questions of how I would deal with certain situations, ex. “A patron complains to you regarding a certain book that they feel is inappropriate for a public library. What would you do?”. This type of questioning does not bother me; I thank my mom for signing me up for acting classes when I was young because having a background in Improv acting really helps you learn how to think on your feet during an interview! However, interviews are not always that straight forward. In the past, I had an interview where I needed to write beforehand a 3 page paper on the Google Book Library Project, I’ve had to write a test with both short-answer and a longer essay question, and I know that it is common for librarians to prepare in advance a short presentation on an assigned topic. All of these additional requirements can add stress to an already stressful situation! I’ve already been warned that I will need to write a test for Friday’s interview so we’ll see how that goes… but I’m really interested in the job I was interviewed for yesterday so I hope that I hear back from them soon!

Ikea Job Interview Comic

Advice on how to get a part-time job while completing a MLIS

16 Jan

You asked me for advice on how to find a part-time job in libraries while completing an MLIS and here it is! I discussed in a previous blog post How Valuable is Library Experience to MLIS student? the advantages of gaining important experience while still in school. I hope the advice from that post along with the tips listed here will be useful for those of you confident enough to take on both studies and a job. Good luck!

Talk to people about your job search

This may seem extremely self-explanatory but I cannot emphasize the importance of discussing your job search with other people. This begins with other students in your classes who perhaps already have a part-time job and know that their boss is looking to hire more staff. This also includes your professors who might need students as research assistants or know of other job possibilities. Even though working as a research assistant is not specific library experience, it will demonstrate that you have strong research skills, which looks great on a librarian’s C.V.!

Talk about your passions

If you are passionate about a particular area of librarianship, let people know! If you can establish your reputation as being an expert in an area then people will want to tell you about available positions that would interest to you. This is how I got my job at the Montreal Children’s Library last year. I am so obsessed with children’s literature and everyone in my program knew that about me from almost Day 1 of the program. When a paid part-time position at the Children’s Library was advertised, I had several people email me with the information encouraging me to apply for the job saying that it sounded perfect for me.

Subscribe to Job ListServs

McGill’s School of Information Studies has an extremely active Job ListServ for students and graduates. Every week I receive emails regarding job postings for libraries looking to hire. Although most of these postings are for full-time positions for which I am not yet eligible, from time to time, we do receive part-time job postings that are suitable for students. Some people wait until they are closer to graduating before subscribing to the Job ListServ because they figure that the job postings are all addressed to candidates who already have obtained their MLIS, This is a mistake because in the meantime they are missing out on part-time postings that would provide them with valuable experience.

Get Involved

Employers are impressed with students who are involved in extra-curricular activities. Getting involved in various associations and the planning of events also allows you to meet a larger circle of professionals who could become valuable contacts. My job at Westmount Public Library is a perfect example of how getting involved is the best way to impress employers and find a job. Last year, I applied for a part-time position at the library and although I thought I’d put together a convincing cover letter and professional-looking C.V., I lost hope when I didn’t get called for an interview even after I performed a “friendly follow-up call”. However, things changed in my favour when I co-organized Web 2.You 2009, a conference on the implications of Web 2.0 technologies in libraries, and the entire professional staff of Westmount attended the event. My boss remembered my application and at lunch time asked me to sit down and talk with her. Although I had an official interview afterward, I know that our lunch time discussion at the conference was the real interview and that I impressed my boss by being having organized of such a successful event.

Attend Job talks and Career Fairs

The most obvious place to find a job is at a Career Fair. However, it is not as easy as it seems. You must know how to talk to the right people and to be able to sell yourself a necessary asset to their library. Last year, at the McGill Career Fair very few of the libraries there actually had vacant positions to fill, but if you managed to impress the right person, it was well worth the exhausting afternoon of going around introducing yourself to everyone you met. It was at the Career Fair last March that I met Maya, a liaison librarian from McGill’s Education Library, and we talked about my previous experience working with teachers. Although there was no open position at the Education Library at the time, she thought that I would be a great addition to their team and I was hired on in September to work at the Reference Desk.

Never be afraid to sell yourself

If you want to be hired, people need to know what you have accomplished in the past as well as your strong qualities. Even if you are by nature a humble person, learn to speak up about your strengths! In this economy it is unlikely that anyone simply hand you a job on a silver platter. You will have to demonstrate that you are the best candidate for the position, so learn to speak with confidence about why you should be hired!

Good luck, I hope this is useful!

Thoughts on “Back to School” for MLIS students

12 Sep

Back in School

Another school year has started and this time as a MLIS II, I feel myself sharing a lot of advice with the incoming first-year students.  Their biggest concern seems to stem from the fact that they are feeling overwhelmed and that they do not know what level of time commitment will be expected of them for their classes and assignments. If I learned anything over the past year it is that “you get what you give”.  In other words, you get out of your library school experience whatever you put into it. I would argue that it’s fairly easy to float through Library school without too much effort, but really, how boring does that sound?  Many professors have told me that grades will not be important once I am looking for a full-time librarian position. What will be important will be that I can demonstrate how I spent my time in the MLIS program developing skills that are vital to working in the library field.

This year, I am the president of the McGill student chapter of the ABQLA, I have two part-time jobs in two different types of libraries (public and academic), I am planning on doing a practicum and I have submitted a proposal to conduct a 6-credit research project.  I’m also planning on posting regularly on the BiblioBlond blog! There is no doubt that I will be a very busy person this year and so I might not have time to get through all of the books that I want to read or catch up to my friends who are on the third season of Mad Men.  But I will be learning the whole time and hopefully getting the most possible out of my experience as a student so that I will be a well-rounded, skilled librarian once I get out into the real world.

Being a MLIS student can be whatever you make of it, so I encourage all the new MLIS students to decide early on how you want to live your experience at library school. Good luck with this new stage in your life!

Top 5 tips for incoming students:

1)      Make friends with your fellow classmates!

– You will have more fun, trust me!

2)      Learn how to work in groups!

– There is a lot of group work which can be challenging so brush up on your team management skills! Check out books like Group Genius by Keith Sawyer or Time management for teams by Merrill E. Douglass.

3)      Remember why you wanted to be a librarian in the first place!

– It is easy to become disenchanted with classes and assignments. In order to not lose your passion, stay focused on the reason that first motivated to become a librarian.

4)      Attend visits by guest speakers!

-Throughout the year there will be many opportunities to hear information professionals speak about their experiences in the field. Attend these mini-conferences, ask questions and don’t be afraid to introduce yourself afterwards- These guest speakers could become valuable contacts!

5)      Get a part-time job in the field!

–  If you manage your time properly, the MLIS course load allows you the option of working part-time during your studies. Use your new contacts or subscribe to a  library job ListServ to find opportunities for part-time work. You will gain valuable experience and contacts in the library field and it might end up being more beneficial than what you learn in class!