Whether you’re a student soon to graduate and getting ready to hit the job market, an employed professional seeking to make a job change, or a now-unemployed practitioner trying to identify or create new opportunities, LIS job hunting can be an adventure (feel free to substitute your preferred adjective here).
According to David E. Perry, co-author of Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 3.0: How to Stand Out from the Crowd and Tap into the Hidden Job Market Using Social Media and 999 Other Tactics Today (Jay Conrad Levinson, co-author, Wiley, 2011), “Every job search is a sales and marketing campaign.”
Although, generally speaking, sales and marketing don’t come naturally to LIS students and professionals, if you approach looking for the right job as a process to move you from point A to point B (okay, and include some sales and marketing), both the job search – and your spirits – may improve.
Decide What Might Interest You
As you’ve no doubt discovered, the universe of potential jobs that align with your skills and strengths is large and diverse, so the challenge becomes how to narrow things down a bit. To frame your possibilities, starting thinking through:
What industry/library environment you might want to work in. When you consider this question, two of the issues you want to think through are 1) does this industry have very many employers in areas where I’d like to live (or currently do live), and 2) is this a growing or contracting industry?
To research industries, their prospects, and some of the major employers, consider exploring the relevant entries for the Plunkett’s publications (check your local library), Hoover’s database, annual trend and forecast issues for the major professional publications, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Industries at a Glance overviews.
What type of organization you might want to work for. Each of these types of organizations offers very different working environments, opportunities for growth, job flexibility, and compensation. Also, think about whether you’d prefer a small, medium-sized, or large organization, a start-up or a long-established company, and/or a local organization or one that has a national or international reach (and job opportunities).
To find out more about potential employers in the business world, check resources such as Hoover’s, Vault Reports, or Wetfeet for starters, then go further and explore their company websites, LinkedIn pages, Facebook pages, and articles about them online and in commercial databases available through the library. Another great company resource that continues to expand its insider insights is Glassdoor, which provides information and interviews about companies, salaries, and organizational culture.
To learn more about libraries as potential employers, consider informational interviews. One way to approach this is to search LinkedIn for individuals who either currently work with or were previously employed by your potential employer, and contact them to see how they would describe the organizational culture. This works equally well for non-LIS organizations. (For additional approaches to informational interviews, see
Which department you might work for. Within any type of organization, each department has different responsibilities, and therefore different types of information needs. For example, one department may need a skilled business researcher, another an experienced records manager, yet another someone with strong website building and managing expertise.
(If you’re unfamiliar with how most businesses and nonprofits are structured and the information needs of their departments, check out 8 Ways Organizations Need your Information Skills.)
What work you might do. As you progress through your career, you’ll probably find that the work you do changes in ways completely unanticipated when you began your career. Usually those changes are an outgrowth of your original “core” work. For the LIS skill set, this generally falls into the categories of 1) research skills and information roles; 2) information organization roles (ranging from taxonomy-building to information architecture and beyond); 3) content roles (writing, developing online content, editing, acquiring content); customer service/teaching or training/sales roles; and 4) information resources, people, or project management roles.
Needless to say, there are many exceptions to this framework, but it can provide you with a starting point for thinking about broad types of work that might appeal. (Not sure where to start? See Alternative LIS Job Titles.)
Once you’ve narrowed the field by thinking through these options, then you’ll have a better sense of both what types of jobs to look for, and where to look for them.
Research the Relevant Job Market(s)
Depending on the type of jobs you’re interested in, you’ll want to monitor several job sources to figure out what specific jobs are called, what skills they require, and how many job opportunities there are in your area of interest. Key job-research sources include:
- general LIS job posting sites such as ALA Joblist and the LIS jobs aggregator INeedaLibraryJob (INALJ)
- especially for nontraditional LIS jobs, more general job posting sites such as Monster, Indeed, SimplyHired, or Idealist (for non-profit jobs)
- industry- or job-specific job boards (the easiest way to find these is to search on “[industry name or job type]” and “job boards” in your favorite search engine; for example, “green industry” and “job boards”
- job postings from your grad school, professional associations you belong to, and/or your state library association
- company websites
- social media resources, in particular, LinkedIn, which aggregates job postings from (and for) members and allows you to set up alerts by keywords
Make the Most of Your Research
Naturally, these will also be useful resources when you’re ready to start applying for jobs, especially when you’re trying to dazzle a potential employer in an interview (or cover letter) with your extensive “market” knowledge.
Keep in mind, however, that according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employers fill the majority of job openings through the unadvertised, hidden job market, i.e. the job market accessibly only through networking – which clarifies where your strongest efforts should be directed when you’re ready to go after job opportunities.