You've Got the Degree. Now What?

by Ellen Mehling, Career Development Consultant


You've Got Your Degree! Now What>Congratulations LIS graduates! You now have your degree, a significant milestone in your career. While the credential is necessary, it is not all that you need in order to get a job and have a lasting career.

Here are some other things you’ll want to pack for your journey ahead: 


Skills that are in demand

Investigate the range of skills you'll need to perform well within the profession. To get started, take a look at these competencies for the library field from WebJunction and IMLS.

It may also help to examine job postings to see what specific skills employers are asking for right now in relation to the kind of information work you want to do.


An effective resume and cover letter

...tailored to each job for which you apply. Know what it is that sets you apart from other applicants. Whether you apply through traditional means or have a chance at a job through someone in your network, you’ll need application documents that communicate your skills and experience.  

It may also be helpful to update your application materials as you go; keeping track of your professional successes will pay off as you sit down to craft your resume when new opportunities arise.


Experience

Some LIS programs require an internship; other programs don't. Some LIS students work in libraries full- or part-time during their studies. Simply put, you will be competing with others who have experience. The more library-related experience you have, the better chance you have of getting a library job.

That said, there are a number of ways to get experience, including a post-graduate paid internship, a fellowship or residency, or a volunteering gig with organizations that are primarily made up of other volunteers.

Gaining experience also means more opportunities to network, which brings us to the next necessity...


A strong, diverse, supportive network

You’ll need to know people who are willing to recommend or refer you for a job or other opportunities. Ideally, you’ve already started building your network while in school (classmates and professors count!). But it doesn’t end here -- building and maintaining your network is an ongoing task that will continue throughout your career.

Networking will also help you build a group of folks to indicate as references for opportunities of all types. (Quick note: don't forget to alert your contacts that they've been named!) Employers usually ask for three, and you should have at least five or six strong options. Remember that hiring managers prefer supervisors to others when it comes to references.


An online presence with professional content

(And not just LinkedIn!) If a hiring manager is considering hiring you, s/he is highly likely to Google your name. Make sure that what others find is flattering, professional, and accurate. This can include articles you’ve written, slides of presentations you’ve given, assignments for classes, re-caps of events, postings on forums/discussion groups/listservs, a blog or portfolio, etc.  

But be very careful of what you say and share on Facebook and elsewhere. Check your privacy settings and be mindful of professional contacts that you have friended; for many of us, there is an overlap between Facebook friends and LinkedIn contacts.  


Patience, perseverance, and an understanding of how hiring works

The economy and the job market are a bit better than they were, but it still might take a while to find a position. Unrealistic expectations will only make your job search more difficult. Be patient and positive and mindful when setting expectations for yourself.


An understanding that professional development and education must be ongoing

You’ll need to keep your skills up to date and remain flexible regarding changes at your workplace and in the field in general. These days, it is easy to keep abreast on things through discussion lists, social media networks, and in-person classes and meet-ups.


These are highly recommended for job search and career success:

Flexibility and open mindedness

Look beyond traditional titles and workplaces. Opportunities may be offered to you that are not at all what you had in mind; don't say "no" automatically. You never know where you might end up or what you might enjoy.


Service to the profession

Service is highly regarded by employers, as it shows you are well-connected and dedicated. Actively participating in professional organizations also helps with experience, networking, and references.


Soft skills, especially enthusiasm

Employers want to know that you’ll fit in with the culture at that workplace. They'll be interested to see how you handle the aspects of your work that go beyond the job description.

Remind yourself why you chose this profession and how hard you worked to get the degree. Use the passion that first attracted you to keep your spirits up during the journey ahead.

Good luck with your endeavors, library-related or otherwise!

 

Want more advice?  Check out these 7 tips for New MLS Grads from Library Career People.