I have my dream job and sometimes people ask how I was able to get it. I can't tell you exactly what made the difference, because I can't read the minds of the people who hired me, but here are the things that I did to try to put myself above the rest and get a job, in no particular order.
I'm guessing I did something right!
- Start a blog. It may feel like you have nothing worth saying - especially if you've never worked in librarianship before, but it's a good idea for many reasons. I did it, mostly because the New Jersey Association of School Librarians suggested it in an article. At first I thought it was stupid, but eventually I realized that I did have a lot of opinions. Sure they were entirely theoretical, but I've found they haven't changed much even though I've been working for four years now in the field. So don't discount your untested philosophies! Having a blog also gives you practice for what to say when you do get that interview, as well as putting your name out there.
- Get a website. This website should serve as your online portfolio. By visiting said site, potential employers should get a great snapshot of who you are and what you believe. Include a vision statement if you can as well as any examples of work you did in grad school or ideas you would implement if you could. Videos of you talking about your passions are a plus as well as links to all of your social software handles, which I'll get to next. And don't worry if you're not a techie. There are tons of free AND EASY programs that allow you to put together a beautiful website without having to know any coding at all. My three favorites that I recommend are Google Sites, Wix, and Weebly. I have used all three, so if you need help, don't hesitate to ask.
- Get on social software. A website is web 1.0. People have to go to it in order to get information about you. But social software is web 2.0. It takes two. Social software allows you to seek out others and have a conversation with them. It is a great way to connect and network with people. Get on Twitter, Linked In, and Google + and follow not only fellow librarians but innovative supervisors and education pundits. With luck, they'll follow you back and all of a sudden you'll have friends in high places.
- Get experience. Most of us (myself included) didn't have the option of volunteering since I had to work full-time while hunting for a job. But if you have the ability, try to get some experience working with and around the kind of job you really want. Because there are so many out of work librarians, it is easy for employers to require 3, 5, or even 10 years experience of their applicants. Getting experience when no one will hire you is incredibly frustrating. I know, I've been there. I ended up volunteering at a local public library who was trying to put together an after-school program on gaming for teens. I knew I wanted to be a high school library media specialist - and happen to be an avid gamer - so it was a great fit for me. Also be willing to accept a job that you might not like. This one is hard to swallow, but nothing beats real full-time experience in the field. My first year as a school library media specialist was at the elementary level. It was a bad fit for me, but that one year of experience opened many doors that weren't there before and led to my dream job.
- Lurk on school websites. As I said, competition is fierce for getting a job as a librarian these days. One way that school districts have tried to cull the overwhelming number of applicants is by NOT posting their employment opportunities on aggregate sites or newspapers. Instead, they post their jobs exclusively on their websites hoping to get local talent that is presumably so excited to work for their particular district that they hang out around their site all the time. It means more work for you, but I recommend creating a gigantic list of links. Do a radius search of how far you're willing to travel, find out the names of each of those individual schools and/or districts, and then check each of those individual links once a week. I won't lie; it's a lot of work to set up. But once it's set up, it takes about an hour a week to click through and see if any new positions have been posted. MOST of the jobs I applied to were found this way!
- Sign up on job hunting sites. There are many and most are state specific (like NJ.com or njschooljobs.com) but I'd say the most comprehensive for our field is probably INALJ.com (I need a library job). When I was job hunting they were still in their infancy, but they've really grown to be a respected go-to resource for information professionals looking for work. As time progressed I rarely bumped in to a job posting that INALJ hadn't found first.
- Make a list of interview questions. Included in this list should both be questions that they might ask you AND questions you'll want to ask them. You never want to go in to an interview seeming desperate, so interview them just as they're interviewing you. You want a job, but they want a good fit. Asking questions assures them that you are trying to make sure that you ARE the best choice for them. I still have my list of interview questions in an online Google Doc, so if you'd like them, follow this link: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1SS4ZeU8OZw-geJ81MUUjAp-e3-JKHInGElZhFl5CuOc/edit?usp=sharing.
- Join organizations and attend conferences. This one can be tough because membership feeds are expensive. It seems counter intuitive to pay for an organization to get a job when you don't have a job that will afford you the money you need to join the organization. But it's a good investment. Once again, it's all about networking, especially when you attend the conferences. And there are conferences that are free like EdCamps which are popping up all around the country. Many conferences will also waive entry fees if you're willing to present. Many new librarians are terrified of presenting to veterans, but most organizations are very encouraging of new member involvement. You'll be pleasantly surprised by how warmly your new ideas will be welcomed, and you get to network while not breaking the bank.
- Listen to podcasts. Podcasting wasn't as big when I was job hunting, but I now find it one of my top sources for networking and professional contacts to follow. Not only do they provide great professional development but they are a community that is big on sharing. It's a great way to learn about up and coming people and concepts in your field.
- Learn how to use an RSS feed reader. An RSS (real simple sindication) reader is a program that follows blogs and websites for you. Instead of visiting the blogs of interesting people and having to keep track of them all, a feed reader does all of that work for you. It sounds complicated, but is actually very easy. Feedly is my reader of choice and if you need help setting it up, just contact me and I'll be happy to walk you through it.
And finally, here are a list of blog posts that I wrote that either help with job hunting, or journaled my own personal trials and tribulations. Hopefully they'll not only give you ideas, but remind you that all of us with jobs were once just like you.
Because School Library Journal Told Me To
I Have An Interview!
Job Hunting Tips
We Don't Need Roads
Waiting By the Phone
Just Be Yourself
What NOT To Wear on an Interview
I Got a Job!
Reading in the Deep End