Priscilla Shontz and Richard Murray, the editors of LISCareer, a rich collection of articles written by practicing librarians on a variety of career development topics, are the authors of a new book entitled What Do Employers Want? A Guide for Library Science Students. Shontz and Murray cover topics such as Practical Experience, Professional Identity and How Employers Hire, basing their advice on interviews with people who hire librarians. The book moves beyond job search insights, outlining career development strategies for students and new graduates in a manner that is both funny and frank. I am pleased to be able to offer you an excerpt from chapter one: “What Do Employers Want?”
We asked numerous employers, “What are some key skills or attributes that you typically look for in a potential employee?” Most talked more about personality traits and soft skills such as enthusiasm, initiative, innovation, communication, flexibility, and collaboration than they did about academic knowledge. So, as a potential job candidate, how can you develop those highly desired qualities and demonstrate them to an employer in a cover letter, resume, and interview?
Love What You Do
“Eagerness makes new grads stand out, so show that enthusiasm,” said Dawn Krause (Texas State Library). This doesn’t mean jumping up and down on the interview table. Use your cover letter, resume, and interview to express how excited you are about becoming part of the library community, and in particular, how interested you are in doing that particular job at that particular institution.
Applying for jobs you’re genuinely excited about will certainly increase your chances of getting an offer. If you’re applying for a job as an instruction librarian and you don’t like speaking to groups, that will be apparent in the interview, and you probably won’t get the job. (And even if you do, you’ll probably be miserable). Don’t get carried away and scare off your interviewers with your “rah rah” vibe – you don’t want them to feel like they need to go lie down in a dark room after they’ve talked to you — but if you’re truly excited about the job, your interviewers will feel your positive energy.
Don’t be afraid to show that you love what you do. “See the profession as a lively, growing, interesting place to be,” encouraged Diane Calvin (Ball State University).
Accentuate the Positive
Nurture a positive attitude and let employers see it. “I look for someone with a positive personality and a service orientation,” said Nancy Agafetei (Harris County Public Library System).
Nobody wants to hire Debbie Downer. Employers are looking for someone who will be pleasant to work with and someone who will respond to adverse situations with a positive, proactive spirit – not someone who will give up, sit back, and wait for others to handle a problem, or who will complain about every situation.
Kim Dority (Dority & Associates Inc.) said, “Employers look for qualities such as self-management, intelligence, positive attitude, ability and willingness to learn quickly, ability to work well with colleagues, engagement, and energy.”
A job search can often be discouraging; don’t focus on the rejections. Keep your eye on the goal, stay optimistic, and keep moving forward. After all, everyone can’t say yes all the time. Use the obstacles and disappointments to reshape your job search strategy if necessary. Instead of focusing on what didn’t happen, focus on what you can do to make it work the next time.
What Do Employers Want? A Guide for Library Science Students is available from Libraries Unlimited.