Librarians hold the necessary skills and knowledge to transition between library jobs, career paths, and sectors. We have a number of transferable skills, traits, and knowledge that are valuable inside and outside of the world of libraries. Your greatest strategy for career success may be using what you already know.
Transferable skills are your greatest asset
Transferable skills are innate skills acquired throughout life and can be applied to a new job or work environment. They can be skills such as communication, critical thinking, teamwork, writing, and integrity. Take a look at this Transferable Skills Checklist to help you discover your natural skills and begin to think about how these skills can be applied in various career paths.
These skills can also be transferred from one type of library to another. For example, take a look at the internships you have done through your library school training and let’s say you did an internship at a library in technical services. Think about what skills you gained from your experience. While you learned the basics of MARC, XML and an ILS, you have also learned other skills – great organization, eye for detail, technical skills. These are traits that can be passed on to many worlds including metadata, asset and knowledge management, document management.
Always consider your other work experience besides library and information centers. Even retail experience can transfer into a library setting – Rachael, for example, notes:
“One of my most memorable jobs was working at a local baseball field in high school. I started working in the concession stand, popping popcorn and making hotdogs. They needed official score keepers, which sounded more interesting and paid more money. I asked my Dad to teach me how to keep baseball stats. It was cool because I was the only girl – but I also learned valuable lessons, such as how to pay attention to details, the power of data, and that I could do anything I put my mind to.
Market yourself, network, show the world who you are
You’ve probably heard the importance of networking in the library profession, but how do you successful accomplish this? Set a goal of attending a specific amount of networking events per year. If you’re job searching, you might want to add more networking to your plate. If not, perhaps you can scale back to stay fresh and meet new people. Never say no to networking because you never know who you will meet or what you will learn. After the event, be sure to follow up and keep in touch with those you met.
LinkedIn is another great tool to use for marketing yourself. It creates opportunities to reach out to people for informational interviews and potential job opportunities. Send messages to people in your network, get introduced to new contacts, and, if you can afford the additional fee, it may be worth it to join LinkedIn Premium, which allows you to send InMail to people who are not in your network.
LinkedIn profiles are simple to keep up to date, and it is important to identify the themes that connect your professional and personal experiences. Think about your brand – do you have one? What personal and professional traits make you unique? Think about the most exciting projects you’ve accomplished at your jobs. Do you knit, make jewelry, play hockey, or teach yoga? Developing a compelling narrative will not only help people understand you and your career path, but it will make you think about how you want to get to where you want to go.
Locking down your first job, or your dream job
For library jobs you can look for postings through library associations, individual library websites, and, of course, the iSchool. For non-traditional jobs, places like Indeed, CareerBuilder.com, Glassdoor, LinkedIn and Monster are great places to start. You can also check company websites to find related postings for information professionals. Searching in non-library places may require you to use different keywords, but it will expand your job hunting possibilities.
For example, if you’re interested in an academic library position, realize that one of your strong transferable skills is researching. Using keywords like “researcher” or “research analyst or assistant” on places like Indeed.com will let you discover many other job prospects doing essentially the same tasks: searching databases and online sources for relevant and crucial information for a specific group of people.
In order to be successful on the job hunt, it helps to know your strengths and weaknesses, passions, what you want, and why you’re doing what you do. Be flexible, bold and focused when searching for open positions. Find out what type of job functions interest you and think about your short and long term goals.
Having a great resume and cover letter will get you in the interview door. Try not to regurgitate your resume and always start with a fresh cover letter. Most importantly, focus on what you can do for the company. More to come on resume and cover letter writing in an upcoming blog post!
Say ‘yes’ to opportunities that come your way on the job
So you landed your first professional library or information job – congratulations! Now, you’ll be set in this part of librarianship or information specialty for life, right? While it used to be the norm to find professionals staying in their jobs for decades, the average person now stays at a job for a bit shy of 5 years.
You will find your career path takes you in directions you never imagined. It’s essential to stay fresh, constantly learn and grow, and take advantage of opportunities that come your way. These opportunities could be taking a new class, a webinar, or following a newly discovered passion.
In a job, you may be asked to take on “other duties as assigned.” Sometimes they are not so glamourous and other times they lead to new experiences down the road. Maybe you’re a reference librarian at a special library and you’re being asked to take on some outreach projects. If you say yes, you could find yourself as a new outreach librarian at your next job. You may also find one sector isn’t working out for you, but you market yourself and know your true skillset to move onto another sector. In our profession, you can never be stagnant as it is ever evolving.
No matter where your career takes you, always remember to keep an open mind and don’t count anything out. Truly successful information professionals know their path is a result of fate and carefully calculated decisions.
Alternative LIS Careers Webinar
Rachael and Jill are hosting a webinar about alternative LIS careers on Thursday, March 22, 2018 at 2:00pm EST. Special Libraries Association (SLA) Illinois Chapter and Upstate New York Chapter, in conjunction with the Students and New Professionals Advisory Council and SLA HQ, are proud to present Not Your Everyday Career Advice: Alternate Careers in the Library and Information Field. Join us and listen to the panelists speak about their career trajectory, give real advice and share stories about what worked for them, and come away with a newfound appreciation for the highly adaptable and transferable skills we all possess. The audience is all – no matter where you are in your career!
Editor’s Note: SLA non-members can reach out to Rachael to discuss options for free or discounted registration for the webinar. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.