Shona Thoma

As I had known for a couple of years before doing the MLIS that I wanted to be a librarian, searching for a job within the area (however broadly defined) imageshad been on the agenda for quite some time. However, before taking on the professional qualification, my approach was probably an innocent muddling through, armed with what librarianship meant to me and plenty of naïve enthusiasm – just enough to gain some pre-MLIS experience and a foot in the door!

ucd-sils-logo-medDue to the way the UCD calendar works, we had some time off at the beginning of January from the normal intensity of assignments. So this time last year, I set to work completely overhauling my CV. I had seen a fellowship advertised in America that really suited my interests, and a résumé was required as part of the application. The American résumé is normally no more than one page long, and it took a huge amount of discipline and consideration to cut my full two-page CV down to size. If you have worked for a number of years and are proud of all of your achievements it is quite a challenge and somewhat demoralising to only submit a brief highlight of these, but it has to be done. Having looked at some examples of résumé formats online, and adapting their layout for my own needs, it was time to get a second opinion.

CVAs Caroline discussed in her post, having someone to review your CV or application is really worthwhile for a number of reasons. Luckily UCD SILS has no shortage of patient and knowledgeable American staff, one of whom I approached for help with my CV-to-Résumé transformation. This was particularly useful for ensuring that different uses of terminology between American and Irish universities weren’t confused, for example the US use of ‘class’ or ‘course’ instead of ‘module’. The Fulbright Commission’s website lists more of these differences. Taking this opportunity to go through either a cover letter, CV, or other relevant part of your application (after you have done the hard work of course) with a member of the faculty also improves your visibility to them if you need to list them as an academic reference.

After this flurry of job search activity early in the year, my approach was less intense as I returned to focusing on course work fulltime, but it was useful to  have both an updated CV and résumé that needed minimal tweaking should an interesting opportunity arise. I found Twitter really useful for keeping an eye on the type of library jobs that were being advertised, following accounts such as @LibraryJobs, @UKLibraryJobs, @lisjobnet, and @LibJobsLondon. It is always interesting to see the types of job titles posted, and the extent of the requirements, but until fulltime lectures ended in May, applying for anything other than dream jobs was not a priority.

c431dab6078c82c2465f369bf136e659Once the summer was upon us it was time to turn my attention to the Capstone project and I wanted to give this important part of the MLIS as much attention as possible. However I didn’t feel I could justify putting off my job search for much longer, and with lectures finished it was possible to be more resourceful with the time available. I also knew from previous experience that some application processes could take months so it was no harm to get the ball rolling. LibraryJobs.ie advertised an entry level records management position with Aviva that I felt offered a realistic opportunity for me. The application process was straightforward, and having made my previous experience in a business environment obvious on my résumé, I was delighted to hear a couple of weeks later that I had secured an interview. Luckily I was a good fit for the job and after some elaborate exchanging of paperwork with HR in the UK I was ready to start my job in July, five weeks before finishing our Capstone projects.

On reflection – it was difficult at that time to balance the need for the ‘right’ job versus ‘any’ job, and I think this will be a problem for most graduates keen to either start or resume earning. Having the comfort of an income definitely afforded me the ability to prioritise what exactly I would like to be doing, which I wrote more about in my own blog back in September. As with so many jobs these days, the role with Aviva was a fixed term contract of 6months, so I never felt that my job search was completely over. I was in the fortunate position once again of just looking out for dream jobs and taking the time to apply for these over a couple of evenings and with great care.

40th-logoIt was at this point that my skills as an expert procrastinator started to pay off. I had spent quite a lot of time during my “job search” filling out my LinkedIn profile and looking at other profiles, convincing myself that I was being productive, and afterwards feeling guilty that I hadn’t just committed to writing another cover letter. I received a message from the Chief Information Officer at Trόcaire through LinkedIn, suggesting that I might be interested in a job currently available with them, and a link to the job advertisement. Having looked at the ad and the application form and realising that the role was very suited to my qualifications and experience, it took me some time to get over the surprise that LinkedIn had just served me in exactly the way it is supposed to. After this approach through LinkedIn, I still had to apply for the position following standard procedure, but being able to ask the CIO more questions about the role through LinkedIn messaging gave me greater confidence in completing the application. It is surprising that I hadn’t seen the role advertised before, but as I wasn’t being particularly vigilant in my job search, I had somehow overlooked it. As my LinkedIn profile is more comprehensive than any CV could possibly be, it included my experience of and commitment to Development, combined with the skills learnt from the MLIS, necessary for the Knowledge Management project at Trόcaire.  As my now manager points out when I talked to him about this “reaching out” through LinkedIn, it removes the reliance on coincidence of the right candidate seeing the right role at the right time.

LINKEDINYOUEven if it isn’t used as a direct source for a job, I still think LinkedIn (and your larger ‘digital footprint’) has a role to play in your job search. If I was busy manager with a list of five to ten candidates to interview, I’m pretty sure I would see if I could find out some background information on them, after all – interviews are a terrible way to get to know someone, and some say references are worse! Last April, at the SILS Career Breakfast (Check out #SILSBreakfast on Twitter) Holly Fawcett (@HollyFawcett) from Social Talent gave some tips on obtaining “All Star Status” on LinkedIn

·         Have a professional profile photo (7 times more likely to be clicked on)

·         Include ‘Current Title’ (even if that is: Full Time Student at…)

·         Include 3 previous roles

·         Include ‘Summary’ (employer will read this first – make interesting)

·         Details of education

·         Have 50+ connections (make sure you know them or write a friendly message, LinkedIn blocks people quite easily)

·         Follow organisations you’d like to work for

Finding a job is certainly not as straight forward as it used to be, and you never know where or how you might find your next role. I would definitely recommend staying positive and not selling yourself short – you never know who might be paying attention!

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One thought on “Shona Thoma

  1. Pingback: Job Searching | Information sauce - a trial and error recipe

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