I guess you could say my job hunt began before I ever considered going back to college at all. My job at that time had become somewhat unstable. Even though I was still working I realised that at some point I would need to consider my next career move so I visited a career advisor. She administered various psychometric tests which gave me a (scarily) accurate assessment of my abilities, aptitudes and personality. The career advisor suggested that librarianship would be a good fit and explained my options for getting into the field.
The suggestion that I go back to college was a bit of a shock but having researched the profession, the MLIS course in UCD and discussed the financial and other implications with my husband I found myself back in a lecture theatre in September 2012. This was one of the single best decisions I have ever made in my entire life. I loved every minute of being back at college, being in a learning environment again and meeting new friends who shared my interests and passions.
The end goal of getting a new job in a new profession was always on my mind. I chose my modules carefully. Although I had a lot of relevant experience I had no specific library experience so I considered modules that fit well with my interests and existing skills. I found myself focussing on cataloguing and the more technical modules. There are lots of ‘types’ of librarians, so for me it was important to focus early-on on the type of job I wanted to get out of all this.
During the year I attended as many events as I could. This provided a great way to learn more about the profession but also a great way to get to know the professionals. I can’t overstate the importance of networking enough. I already knew I was interested in working as a cataloguer, in an academic library or with special collections so I attended events run by the Cataloguing and Metadata Group (CMG) and the Academic and Special Libraries Section (A&SL) of the Library Association of Ireland (LAI).
In terms of job hunting two groups in particular were incredibly useful. I’ve attended the two events organised by NPD Ireland so far and found both really useful in terms of meeting other new professionals, getting advice from seasoned professionals and getting a better understanding of the different flavours of librarianship.
The Career Development Group also held some really great events including their open day, Library Camp, AGM and a CV and cover letter workshop given by information professionals for information professionals. I took gems of information from each and every one of these events and they helped me to get to know librarians whose knowledge and experience I know I can tap into if needed. Librarians are the most generous people I’ve ever met; I am constantly blown away with how freely they give of their time to encourage new professionals.
The actual job hunt
So I hope I have shown that although I wasn’t always actively looking at job ads, job hunting was always at the back of my mind. Once our Capstone was safely submitted it was time to focus more closely on the actual application process.
The first thing I did was focus on my CV. I keep a master CV with all my experience listed so that when I read a job ad I can quickly assemble a CV with my relevant experience. I sent this CV to several information professionals that I’ve gotten to know as well as some family and friends whose opinion I value. I also visited UCD Career Development Centre (did you know you can access this service for two years after graduating?)
Using Libraryjobs.ie as my primary search source I started applying for jobs. For me it was important to be quite targeted about which jobs I applied for. I still have an end goal in mind so I need to build the relevant experience for when that dream job becomes available. Rather than apply for every library job going I focussed on those that held genuine interest for me. (Having said that, in the current jobs market beggars can’t be choosers either.)
My advice to those looking for a job is simple. Get involved, go to events, get to know people, ask questions. Use your contacts to ask about what their job entails so when you get to interview you can talk knowledgeably about the role. Also ask them who the HR manager is within the library as this information might not be otherwise obvious.
I’m currently working as a Library Intern for the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland. So let’s address the elephant in the job hunting room – internships. There has been huge debate over the value of internships in general as well as within our profession. I’m happy to be able to add my point of view to the debate.
As I already said I didn’t have any specific library so internships offered a great way for me to get some experience while looking for paid work. I’m also in the lucky position of being able to afford to live for a short time on the income provided JobBridge, it has to be acknowledged that not everyone can do this. I also want to acknowledge that not everyone has had the same positive experience with internships that I am having. For me, my internship is offering a great opportunity to gain some valuable, practical experience as a new graduate.
RCPI take the internship program very seriously. Myself and the other intern currently employed were given very clear job specs from the beginning. We have weekly meetings with our mentor and once a month we fill in Learning Logs to chart our progress. Our mentor is also regularly asks if there is any area we would like to gain experience in. For example when I expressed an interest in Systems Librarianship she organised for me to talk to the Systems Librarian at the National Library. RCPI have an archive as well as a library and when I asked to learn more about archives cataloguing our mentor gave us a tutorial and a number of archive items to catalogue. On a day to day basis we are cataloguing antiquarian books, carrying out genealogical research and providing reader services. And I am loving every minute of it.