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The Silverfish 2008 Alumni Survey

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Job Hunting Resources

After asking alumni about their current careers, job search histories, and levels of preparedness, we offered open-ended questions concerning their opinions of the iSchool, valuable coursework tips, and job hunting advice.  In the following analysis, we identified clusters of common opinions among our survey participants.  This is by no means a rigorous qualitative analysis, but we believe it's a helpful guide for current and graduating students.  All of the information appearing next to bullets in italics are direct quotations from alumni (except for the websites).


  • Try to build a relationship with a potential mentor while in school.
  • Networking between recent alumni and current students is a very good grapevine for information.
  • Talk with your teachers and advisers about the field and your aspirations. Ask them what they recommend on skills that are sought after.
  • Networking specifically amongst people you've worked with, worked for, or know well, is very effective at getting the right kind of contacts.


  • Join WLA or PNLA or ALA...and get involved.  Meet people and impress the heck out of them.
  • The ALA New Member Round Table is a great resource. It's for new librarians and only costs $10 above your ALA membership...Check the listserv for advice and job postings.
  • Subject-based, professional organizations, e.g. ARLIS, SLA.


  • iProJobs listserv has been my best resource. Others have many job listings (like Indeed) but iProJobs is the resource that has actually delivered - I have gotten several interviews and at least 2 jobs from that source.
  • Join the NMRT list-serve and the New Librarians Listserv.  If interested in Digital Reference, join the dig-ref listserv.  Looking for a diversity position, then diversity-l and dine.
  • LISJOBS, PUBYAC listserv

Library conferences

  • I got my full-time librarian job through the recruitment center at ALA midwinter...It allowed me to interview with 6-8 different public library systems located in different major cities over the course of 3 days.
  • Go to ALA conferences...the Job Service there is a good place to meet many prospective library employers without a large commitment of time or expense on the part of either the employees or employers.

Career services and writing centers

  • I suggest that students go to job and career counselors before embarking on the search for a job.
  • The writing center...get them to review your resume. That will save you so much trouble.


Additional job hunting advice for MLIS students

Here are the recurring themes from the alumni responses, along with quotations (in italics) that flesh out each piece of advice.

Practical experience is a must.

  • I've heard over and over from fellow students and found it true in my own case as well, that the directed fieldwork was the most valuable part of the degree.
  • Get as much real-world experience in your chosen field as you can, even if it's volunteer.
  • Also make sure to emphasize the experience you have besides your degree. Internships, GSA positions, part-time jobs, any actual experience in the library world is more practical and impressive to employers.

Network, network, network.

  • Mention that you are looking for a job to absolutely everyone, family, friends, etc.  You never know who might know of a position.
  • Networking with people in the profession is key - conferences, following blogs, listservs, etc.
  • It's not what you know, it's who you know.
  • Go to professional organization meetings, etc. and chat with as many people as possible. Don't always keep the conversation job related. A special interest may spark a connection with someone who will remember you in the future.

Craft your application materials with care.

  • For the love of all that is good and holy, proofread your resume and cover letter.
  • Hundreds of LIS students' apps get trashed after twenty seconds' consideration because they are misspelled, ungrammatical, or printed using a dying print cartridge. 
  • Spend the money to send apps on decent paper.
  • Don't skimp on customizing your application for each place.
  • Let your cover letter show some personality.  I've been on the hiring end several times now and we get an average of 80 qualified applicants for each position. 

Do an informational interview with a staff member.

  • Do a few of these while you are still in school.  Come with 4 or 5 strong questions, and also your resume.  Be prepared to answer questions about what you want to do after graduation, what you have done, etc.  Send a thank you.  People are usually more than happy to talk about their work, esp. librarians.  They will also introduce you to people they know in the field.
  • Always thank your interviewers!

Be willing to relocate.

  • Be willing to leave the Pacific Northwest.  You are a rare and exotic bird in some areas of the country.  Exploit this.  Be flexible and open to an adventure!
  • If you are willing to live in the Midwest you can probably get a library job instantly.
  • Be prepared to leave Seattle…the job market is not pretty there for new grads.  There are hundreds of jobs in the south - give that region a chance.  Also, remember that your first job is often just for 2 years…make the most of this time and don't be surprised if you find what you are truly looking for.

People skills matter.

  • I am often looking for more people skills not necessarily technical skills. I can always send someone for training on the technical skills. Being personable counts.

Aim high…but keep your expectations realistic.

  • Don't hold out for your first job to be the perfect job - get yourself in the door and gain experience while you're waiting for that perfect job.
  • Apply even if you think you might not be qualified (unless they specifically ask for a specific amount of experience).  My experience was, nothing ventured, nothing gained. 
  • I applied for a dozen jobs, interviewed for three, and received one offer. That's par for the course. Job hunting is hard work.

Be flexible.

  • Think outside the box and be creative if you are not interested in a traditional library setting.
  • Don't hesitate to take a temp position, or even part time, if that's all you can find immediately.  It can still gain you valuable experience and a good recommendation as well as an additional position to list on your resume.
  • If you can't relocate, you might need to open up to more types of libraries.

Remember that every interview is valuable practice.

  • Sometimes the worst interview can provide the best insights.
  • If you don't get the job, try to follow up and find out why. 


  • Keep a journal of your experiences so that you can refresh your memory before an interview.
  • Remember to interview the location as closely as they are interviewing you.
  • Slap down the credit card and spend some $$ on a good interview suit/outfit that makes you feel like a million bucks.
  • If you can, learn Spanish - especially if you want to work in a public library!

Finally, many of our alumni encouraged us to “never give up!”


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April 7, 2008
Vol. XII Issue 3

link to the iSchool blogroll

Find more at the Silverfish Blog

Ridiculous Library of Congress Subject Headings
139 Responses Received!

Where do they work?
- 37% academic library
- 28% public library
- 21% in non-library settings
- 11% in special libraries
- 3% school library

What do they have to say??

See the results..

Words NOT to use in your MLIS portfolioirregardless, succulent, manipulate, lackluster, Bacardi, synergy, poseur, bloodshot, technological muscle, litter box, existential, beleaguer, The Wiggles, importune, lascivious, America’s Next Top Model, baby penguin

Courtesy of Jamie Hancock and Katie Maynard