9

The One Cover Letter Trick That Will Get You Noticed

Image via scottkellum on Flickr - CC
Image via scottkellum on Flickr – CC

It’s that time of year when upcoming library school grads will be applying for jobs. And while gaining real world experience is extremely important, it is just as important to be able to sell yourself in your application materials. I’ve chaired and been a member of a number of search committees for both librarians and faculty and have read hundreds of resumes. Through this process I’ve learned one simple trick  to make your application stand out among others who might even be more qualified than you. It’s not really a secret, but so few people do it that it might as well be. The trick is similar to advice for a first date. In writing your cover letter:

Don’t talk about you, talk about them.

This might sound a bit backwards. The whole point of a cover letter is to talk about yourself, your experience, and let the search committee know who you are. But this is where just about everybody gets it wrong. The people doing the hiring don’t care about you (don’t take it personally). They care about themselves. How is this candidate going to benefit my organization? How are they going to help us become better? These are the real questions that search committees are asking. So when you focus on yourself and what you’ve done in the past it makes it that much more difficult for the search committee to picture you at your organization.

Of course they want to know about your experience, but put it in the context of them. Instead, just tell them what you working there would look like! Instead of saying “I’ve taught numerous information literacy sessions using active learning techniques,” say something like “My significant teaching experience using active learning in the classroom would be an asset as you’re trying to grow your information literacy curriculum.” Instead of saying, “As part of a class I created video tutorials for use in undergraduate instruction,” say “I’d love to bring my knowledge of creating engaging video tutorials to help enhance your instruction and web presence.” It’s only a slight shift but it makes all the difference.

Search committees are dense, lazy, and have dozens of applications to read through. Instead of making them work to imagine you at their institution, do the work for them. Instead of assuming they will make the mental leaps between your experience and their needs, make that connection for them. It will make their job easier and set you apart from everyone else. They’ll already be able to see how you fit because you’ll have told them.

If you focus your cover letter on them first and within that context discuss how your talents, experience, and attitude will enhance the work they’re trying to do, you’ll already be ahead of the game.

You can get other cover letter ideas at this awesome library cover letter project. Are there other tricks, tips or advice that you’d give to new grads and others preparing for the job search?

4

Technology and Public Services Librarian

champlain college under snow

view from the library balcony

We have a new position opening at our library! We have a great team already, but we need someone else to help with our teaching and technology related projects. If that sounds like you or someone you know, you can find out more and apply here.

Burlington is a really awesome city and Champlain is a great place to work. The two words I would use to describe Champlain are community and innovation. We are a fast moving institution and if you have an idea, you are able to run with it. And ideas can come from anyone, not just senior administrators or people who have been here for a while. There is a mutual respect and a lot of collegiality among both faculty and staff.

And to top it all off, our library has one of the best views in the city of Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks.

16

Library School To Do List

child's to do list

Photo by Carissa GoodNCrazy on Flickr

In getting my MLIS, there are things I’m glad that I did, and there are also things that I wish that I had done differently. To get a library job there are some important skills you need. If I had to do it over again I would make sure that I had all of these things checked off my list:

Real World Experience

You can’t expect to get hired out of library school unless you have some real experience to point to. The degree is important, but what really sets you apart is what you’ve done. There are plenty of ways to get experience. Get an assistantship, internship or graduate position at a library where you’re actually doing the job. Volunteer at a public, academic, or even jail library. Do a practicum as a part of a class. This doesn’t need to be full time professional experience, but you should show that you have something hands on that you can point to in your resume.

Some Technology Skills

Libraries and technology are integrally tied together. You have to make it a priority to develop some technology chops. I’m not going to enumerate specific skills you need (though I think some HTML is critical). You need to be comfortable with technology and the speed at which it changes. If your program doesn’t offer technology classes, do some outside work. Try something similar to the 23 things project. Start a tech in libraries club or get involved with the LITA chapter at school. You’re never done learning technology, so you have to learn how to play and evaluate technology and how/if it fits into your needs.

Professional Engagement

You need to show that you care about the profession and want to give back.  Join a professional organization like the ALA. Student memberships are often highly discounted. Besides an association there are tons of ways to be professionally engaged: publish an article or opinion piece, attend conferences, join a library club at school, volunteer at a library, give a presentation, join a professional committee. People like to see job-seekers who are passionate, engaged, and thoughtful about what they do.

Make Connections

Build and maintain connections with students, professors, and other professionals you meet. The library world is a pretty small one, and every connection is important. Make friendships with students and maintain them via social media. Connections that you make in library school can be lifelong and may be very helpful down the road, even if you don’t see it now. Besides librarians are some of the most fun people to hang out with anyway.

Get a Website

The benefits of getting a website is twofold. It helps you play with and learn technology, and it also is a place to show off things that may not come through in a paper resume. If you constructed a video tutorial you could highlight it on your website. If you gave an interesting presentation or Prezi you can embed it. It doesn’t need to be super flashy. You could just get a WordPress blog or create one in a couple hours using Weebly or Google sites.

Teaching Experience

This one I found very helpful personally. If you know for sure you never will be teaching this one might be optional, but this skill makes you so much more marketable. Volunteer to do workshops. If offered, take an instruction class. I took a practicum and it helped me immensely. Librarians are in the business of learning and information and that often means we need to be educators.