It is the beginning of February which means that the Spring semester for most M.L.S. students is well underway. And for those students who are graduating in May or June, this semester is going to be one heck of a headache. So here are a few tips from someone who has been there and done that two years ago:
Update your resume now!
If you haven’t already started applying to jobs, this semester is the semester to do it, so you’ll want your resume to be in tip top condition. If it’s been awhile since you’ve looked over your resume, may I suggest checking out a few resume books or paying a visit to a career center (your university should have one, and if you’re an off campus student, you can probably e-mail your resume to someone at the career center). Also, have lots of people look over your resume. We all make mistakes, and the more people who look at your resume, the better chance you have of catching all the typos and formatting errors.
Get your references lined up!
Asking someone to be a reference for you is always a little bit intimidating, but I assure you that most people don’t mind. Ask people who know you well, particularly if they know your work well. Bosses, coworkers, volunteer supervisors, professors, etc. are all good choices. Also, be sure that all of your references have updated versions of your resume. If you land an interview with a potential employer, you might even want to give your references the job description and the cover letter you sent in as well. The more they know about you, the better they can recommend you!
Pay attention to job descriptions!
I cannot stress this one enough! When searching the job ads, pay attention to what they’re asking for in the job descriptions, particularly the stuff listed under the “required” heading. These are the things that your employer is going to be looking for on your resume. If there’s some experience that you don’t have, find a way to get it.
Get off your butt and get as much experience as possible!
Hopefully you’ve been doing this from your very first day of grad school, but if you haven’t gotten much practical, hands-on experience outside of your classes, this is definitely the semester to get some. I hate to say this, but the M.L.S. is just a check mark on our resumes. What employers are really looking for is hands-on experience (see my point about job descriptions). Volunteer. Job shadow. Conduct informational interviews. Do a practicum or internship. Ask your professors as many questions as you can. Start or join a student group or organization. Attend conferences. Even if you’ve spent years working part time in circulation at a library, see what you can do about coming in during your time off and working on a project in a different department of the library. The more experience you have in different parts of the library, the easier it’ll be for you to find a job after graduation.
Create a portfolio of all the work you’ve done!
If nothing else, creating a portfolio will help you remember some of the past projects you’ve worked on and accomplishments you’ve made. You may not have any professional grant writing experience, but that grant that you scored an A on in class could impress future employers.
Start saving your money!
If you’re willing to move across the country for a job, then you also have to be willing to fly yourself out for interviews. Some libraries will pay for your flights and hotel, but these libraries are few and far between in this economy. If you are completely broke, rest assured that many libraries do phone interviews first and that some may be willing to do the “in person” over Skype.
Take a few time outs for yourself!
My last semester of grad school was pretty hectic. I have fond memories of it now, but the truth is that I was juggling a lot and I was tired of classes and homework and was just ready to be out in the working world. Unless you already have a job lined up for after graduation, this semester is going to be your most stressful. You should take advantage of every opportunity you get, but also remember to have some time to yourself to unwind. Go out to dinner with some friends. Sleep in when you can. Tell yourself that you won’t do any homework on such and such night. Whatever you need to keep you sane.
Stay active, even after graduation!
Back when I was graduating with my M.L.S., there were some students who were lucky enough to have a job lined up before graduating, and many others who had to wait for months (or even longer) after graduation for something to open up. I was someone who had to wait a few months. It was very frustrating, but the way I got through it is by remaining active in the field. I continued to volunteer at a public library and found stuff to do that would look good on my resume. Not only did volunteering help with my resume, but it also helped with my morale.