Library School Grads: 11 Obstacles Standing Between You and Your First New Job

by Ellen Mehling, Carer Development Consultant, METRO

Unrealistic expectations or Obstacles can cause frustration and disappointment for job seekers. Even worse, they may actually prolong your unemployment. Are your expectations realistic? I talk to new grads and those nearing graduation all the time, and I have noticed that the Obstacles of these job hunters have changed and don’t always match the way things work.

Here are some common obstacles or unrealistic expectations that may unintentionally hamper your job search:

Obstacle No. 1: Internships should end with a job offer.

Think again! The purpose of an internship is to give the student practical real-life experience; it is not meant to be an effortless segue into employment.

Obstacle No. 2: I’ve never had trouble finding work in the past; I shouldn’t have any difficulty now./The state of the economy shouldn’t affect MY job search.

Not so fast! Right now the economy is every job seeker’s biggest obstacle. In every field, including library and information science, there are many more job seekers than jobs to be found.

Obstacle No. 3: My resume is great; I should get interviews/job offers on the strength of the information in the resume alone.

In actuality, a resume is a tool for job hunting. Even an excellent resume is far from all you’ll need. For example, more jobs are filled via networking than by submitting a resume or any other method; that is one fact of job hunting that is not new (though you’ll still need a good resume).

The job interview is crucial; you must be prepared, confident, and able to establish rapport with the interviewer(s) and sell yourself for that specific job. Your reputation and online presence (and not just LinkedIn) are also very important – employers will Google you!

Obstacle No. 4: Each time I apply for a position I should get some kind of response from the employer.

In a perfect world, each application would receive a response. Many employers are overwhelmed with applicants, though, and don’t respond in any way. It is not personal. Don’t expect a response and you won’t feel disrespected or disappointed. 

Obstacle No. 5: Assertiveness will help me to stand out from the competition and/or impress upon the employer how interested I am in the position.

Repeatedly calling or contacting a hiring manager or someone in your network is likely to have a negative rather than a positive effect on your job hunt and career. It is annoying and conveys desperation. Follow up once, then let it go. 

Obstacle No. 6: I can skip the thank you letters; they are a waste of time and unnecessary anyway.

In reality, thank you notes and letters sent via snail mail are expected following an informational meeting or a job interview; you’ll be doing harm to your reputation by neglecting to send them. In other situations, a sincere ‘thank you’ can be a great way to show respect and appreciation to those in your network. Plus it is simply good manners. 

Obstacle No. 7: Employers should only offer positions that are full time, with benefits.

Employers will do what works for them, and that now often includes contract, consulting, project, or other part-time positions without benefits. This may continue after the economy improves; many people may have to work multiple part-time jobs long-term and pay for their own medical insurance. 

Obstacle No. 8: If I connect with the right person, he or she will help me get a job right away.

Networking is crucial to job-hunting success, but it does not work instantly, nor should you assume that anyone in your network is ever obligated to help you. It can take years to build up a strong, healthy network of contacts who know you and are willing and eager to recommend or even hire you.

If you only take and never offer or give to those in your network, you will soon wear out your welcome. Always treat your contacts with respect, never make demands and only make (gentle) requests of those you know well. Ideally, you should give, give, give, and have some time pass before asking for anything. 

Obstacle No. 9: Volunteering is a waste of time and/or a scam to get work done for free; I want/need/deserve to get paid now. Volunteering should result in a job offer.

Many libraries are short-staffed due to budget cuts and need assistance, but are not hiring right now. Volunteering is a great way of serving and expanding your network, gaining experience, building your reputation, and banking good will among those you volunteer for; all these things will benefit your career down the road.

Obstacle No. 10: My previous career and/or additional degree(s) make me more valuable to any employer: I should be paid accordingly. / I can expect to be paid in accordance with what I was making in a former career.

Employers pay according to the current rate for the position they have to fill. They may not have any use for the (additional) skills or degree(s) you have from a previous career, particularly if the job in question is an entry level position.

Always read the job description carefully and use that as a basis for determining what a reasonable salary is for the position. 

Obstacle No. 11: Older librarians/info pros should retire to make room for new professionals.

For a number of reasons, including financial ones, many experienced librarians are remaining in the workforce. Libraries serve diverse patrons, and this requires diversity among library staff, including diversity of age and experience.

Remember, It takes effort, patience, and flexibility to find a position in today’s very tough job market. Having realistic expectations while job hunting means less stress for you, the job seeker.

Good luck!

Ellen Mehling
Author: Ellen Mehling
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