Dear Internet,

My writing about the job finding process, the frustrations, and how to plan when you don’t get a job is not a new thing. I touched about it in library school:

I wrote extensively about the process when I graduated from library school and applied for 110 jobs before receiving an offer:

With a follow up in 2012 when a friend pointed me to a forum question on a knitting social media site (Ravelry) whether or not someone should go to library:

Over the years these posts are the top most read in regards to my professional writing. The job tracker [.xls] (2010) I created as a complementary tool has been downloaded over 100 times and it’s been reported back to me how useful the spreadsheet is.

(I use a similar version of the spreadsheet except by creating tables in Evernote to track the job application process. Eff Microsoft.)

Now that I’m back in the saddle in the job market again, I figured it was appropriate to write about the process of what’s going on six years later. But please be assured the above posts are still fairly relevant today as when I first wrote them.

(Note: The following posts are designed with the thought you know how to put together your resume/CV,  references, and writing letters of interest. If not, may the gods have mercy on your soul (and this is not the place where I’ll be teaching those skills. Go forth and google!))

The name of the new series is I Want To Be a XXX Librarian and shares the same tag as the previous SYWtbaL posts so everything is one neat place. (Lucky you!)

Here is what has happened in the series so far:

(I purposely held out on posting anything on this topic for the last few weeks because I wanted to make sure the updated #teamharpy post was seen by millions. But thanks to widgets, I have a link in the upper right hand corner of this page as a constant reminder of the status of the case. Yay technology!)

Caught up? Good.

(Before I begin, there are going to be hiring managers who are going to disagree the hell out of my suggestions. But here is a wonderful thing to remember: no one hiring manager agrees with another. I’ve polled, with similar questions to each, those who do hiring at a variety of institutions and there was never the same answer. The below is what works for me and I tend to have a higher than average interview rate, so YMMV.)

Today we’re going to discuss the hows, whats, and whens for applying for jobs.

What should be ready before you start applying for positions

  • You resume/CV and references in doc and PDF formats. Why? Some institutions will only take one format over the other.
  • Your reference document should have three professional references and three personal references along with their job titles, where they work, business email and phone numbers, and how they are relate to you (e.g. colleague, employer, etc). Why? Some jobs will ask you to include the document with your applications, others will require you to input the information into their software. Some will require to have three professional references where as others will want a mixture of both. Obviously make sure all of your references are aware you are applying for positions.
  • Have a document with the name of the places you’ve worked, their address, and their phone number (typically the number to HR). Make sure to go back at least 7 – 10 years. Why? Many (okay most) institutions who use HR software will request this information when you put in your employment history so they can confirm you worked there. I use HR’s phone number because I know of some supervisors who have over stepped the bounds of what they can and cannot say and you also need to account turnover in your previous department.
    • This document is for you reference only and is not going to be given out publicly so you can format it however you want.
  • Your transcripts in PDF format from every institution you graduated from. e.g. Have a bachelor’s and two master’s? You’ll need three transcripts. You can request these, sometimes for a fee, directly from the college. To verify its authenticity, the document should be directly from your college and PDF format. Why? Because HR is too lazy to fact check this themselves? I’m sure it is to prove the credentials you claim to have is true. Now here is a twist in the process: Some institutions will state they want “official transcripts not given to the student” and then provide digital only applications. Now AFAIK, those type of transcripts, digitally, can be hard to obtain, so whatever the college sends on to me is the one provide to the hiring institutions.
  • Have multiple versions of your resumeWhy? Because you may be applying for more than just librarian positions and you’ll want to highlight different skills for those type of jobs. Obviously do not have multiple resumes for every job, rather if you’re applying for UX positions, have a UX centered resume.
  • Have a digital portfolio. Why? I cannot stress this enough. In 2014, I wrote about the art of keeping a digital portfolio, why it was important along with examples – that’s how passionate I am about this topic. (If you throw up your resume in pdf format (obviously), don’t forget to redact your contact information). Also keep in mind: Employers are going to be googling you thus by having a professional web presence will greatly enhance your awesomeness and higher up the rankings rather than just the tumblr you created for your favorite TV show.
  • Use URL shorteners to specific sections of your digital portfolio to illustrate examples of your work. Why? Because, more often than not, you’re going to need to illustrate your work via the HR software OR in your letter of interest OR in interviews. e.g. I use http://bit.ly/lrpresentations to go directly to my presentations page, http://bit.ly/graphicdemia points to my graphic novel project.  Be smart how you use these and don’t forget to keep a list of the ones you’ve created!

Search for jobs once a week and where to search for them Applying for jobs is a full time gig in and of itself. The other day I applied for four positions over six hours with only bathroom breaks. Calculate about 1-2 hours per submission and that time adds up quickly.

Looking for jobs is also a full time process. I have nine websites and four RSS feeds that push me jobs. By waiting once a week, I can spend a day going through all of the sites and compiling a list of positions (with their URL obviously) on what to apply for in the following days. Also keep in mind that many positions have an open call period of at least a month, so if you hit the sites once a week, you’ll still be able to catch the previous weeks postings.

Right now I’m only looking for straight library jobs that deal with digital / web / systems / online in the title. Once I gain more skills in other fields, I’ll be expanding my search.

(Also note I’m looking specifically for academic positions, though a few public positions and corporations have popped up in my search and I’ve applied to those as well.)

Addendum: Know where you want to live and what amenities you want as you search. I’m free as a bird so right now I’m looking at positions with the following criteria:

  • Within an hour of a MINI dealership. If you didn’t know, I drive a MINI Cooper, which is now produced by BMW. The twist here is BMW dealers will not fix MINIs. I could find a speciality shop that will fix Jeeves but I have a sweet deal with my warranty so I’d rather not.
  • Trader Joe’s / Whole Foods nearby. I’m not joking. Finding Lisa-approved food (I’m allergic to dairy) is difficult if there is not one of the above available OR at there needs to be least a good hippie store will do in a pinch.
  • Preferably on the East Coast. To be closer to Europe. Again, I’m not joking.
  • Locations as follows in no particular order: East of the Mississippi, Chicago, no farther south than Nashville and/or the Carolinas, Mid-Atlantic up through New England. I would consider New Orleans for the right job. (Not Ohio, Illinois except for Chicago, Michigan, Indiana, western Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, West Virginia, any part of Kentucky other than Louisville or Lexington, west and northwest of the following: New York, Vermont, or Maine. I’m sure I’m missing a few others. Yes, I’ve found quite a few jobs (20 so far) that meet my criteria.)

Keep track of where and how you’re applying for these jobs This is where using something like the job tracker [.xls] comes in handy. You do NOT have to use a standalone spreadsheet anymore as Google Drive keeps it in the cloud for you. I use Evernote (also a cloud software) and created a table with the following columns: Position title, location, URL of the job add, end date, date sent the app, how sent (login and passwords for HR websites), and notes. In notes I comment if I was rejected, interview dates (and rejections), and anything else I need to know about that job. You can set this up any way you like but just make sure you do one to keep track of your applications.

When putting together your letter of interest, copy the job description / qualifications into a separate document to check against. This is something I just started doing recently. I cut and paste the job description and requirements onto a blank doc page. I give it half a screen of real estate with the other half the letter of interest to the institution I am applying for. As I hit the point of addressing the description/requirements in my letter, I strikeout the item in the other document.

Addendum: When writing your letter of interest, make sure to use keywords or phrases they have used in their descriptions/requirements. Sometimes the letters go through a screen process that just picks up on those keywords. Plus it shows you have a strong sense of attention to detail.

Have multiple templates of letters of interest. This is where I’m going to get a lot of grief. You’ll here over and over and over again that each letter needs to be structured to address the requirements of the job you’re applying for. This I do not disagree with. However, you’ll be applying for so many similar jobs, there is only a few ways you can say, “In this regard I was fundamental in XXX.” So here’s what I do:

  • Find a letter of interest I have already written.
  • Click save-as and rename it for the new position I am applying for. (My example is lastnamefirstname_nameofinstitution_titleofjob.doc)
  • Update the to field, the subject line of the position I am applying for, and the date.
  • Update the greeting.
  • I have a standard intro paragraph that is the same for every letter, “I am writing with great interest for the position of XXX as advertised on the XXX.” and I update it with the new information.
  • Then I start rewording, adding paragraphs from other letters of interest and it becomes a matter of strengthening, clean up, and tweaking for the next position. Even starting with a pre-written paragraph / phrase, I am still spending upwards of two hours per letter of interest.

So that’s pretty much it. Other then one day I don’t look for positions, I knock out one to two applications a day. When I’ve made a dent into the list, I start the search all over again.

Have any more tips or tricks? Add them to the comments!