In this first post in which I discuss how I landed my very first professional library job, I wanted to talk about preparation. The bottom line is this: research. If you happen to be looking to join my field, I can only assume you must have some research skills. It is, after all, one of the basic tenants of librarianship. It also happens to be one of my favorite parts of learning and one of the reasons I know that this field is for me.
I have only been on one job interview in my life. As a student worker, I merely turned in an application at my university library and basically had the job. For my first job out of undergrad, I called my internship supervisor to see if he had anything and he hired me without even asking for an resume. What’s weird is that I have very little recollection of my job interview for the job I held most recently. Which means that I pretty much have no interview experience. To bolster this weakness, I turned first to the blogosphere, browsing posts on inalj.com (inalj stands for “I Need A Library Job,” by the way) and Hiring Librarians. They have literally hundreds of great posts and probably thousands of tips, although many of them were repeated. Some of the top ones:
- Dress smart.
- Arrive early.
- Be prepared. (It’s alright if you heard Scar from The Lion King roar this one. I did, too!)
The most important, to me anyway, is to be prepared. One of the most interesting resources I found was a blog post exploring 50 common interview questions. Some didn’t apply (this wasn’t a management position, so knowing my management style would likely not matter to the interviewers) and some I really needed to think about (what are your weaknesses and what have you learned from your mistakes are two examples). But the final question is what I’ll spend the rest of this post talking about: Do you have any questions? Apparently this question stumps many an interviewee (I don’t recall asking any questions for my previous interview) and all it requires to answer is a little bit of research. These people might be your supervisors one day and they want to know that you will be a well-informed employee with an interest in what they do and ideas for what you might want to do.
So research I did. I started with the library’s website, reading through the “about us” page, news releases and taking note of any new initiatives that might be of interest. For example, the library just launched a reader recommendation initiative. I found that exciting, since it encourages patrons to really get involved at the library and build community. I was also happy to see that the library’s mission was in line with my own interests in lifelong learning, which is always a good thing to discover before going on an interview. Next I turned to Google, seeing if there had been any recent stories from news media. I found a small note from a city council story from 6 months ago stating the branch libraries were slated for closure. But nothing new had been reported since then, leaving me wondering if the job would be stable. So I went to the city’s website to explore the recent budget decision and see how the library might be affected. It turns out that a wave of community support had caused the city to save the branches, leaving the library relatively unscathed in the budgeting process. Again, I found it exciting to know that the community around the library was strong enough to prevent such a drastic measure.
Finally, drawing on my research and my journalism background, I gathered a list of questions to ask my interviewers. I’ll have another post up later discussing the questions I asked and those I was asked, as well as the answers to both. Suffice it to say that by being prepared for the interview, I felt completely at ease. With just a couple of hours of research, I was able to reduce my nervousness and reveal my worth to who would turn out to be my future supervisors.
If there is one thing I would recommend to job-seekers – no matter the field – it’s research, research, research. And write down several questions for your interviewers. And make sure you are interested in the answers. Even if you don’t get the job, you will have at least learned something, and that’s worth any stress an interview might cause.