Further Questions: What advice do you have for job seekers, particularly those new to librarianship, looking to build professional networks?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

What advice do you have for job seekers, particularly those new to librarianship, looking to build professional networks? What are some appropriate ways that networking can be used in the job seeking process? Please share your best tips for networking and professional etiquette.

Definitely get involved in your state library association (or if you are wanting to move to another state, get involved with that state library association) as well as the American Library Association. If you have a specialized area of expertise, such as genealogy, there are groups within both that you should consider joining. If you do not know how to get involved or feel like you cannot get your “foot in the door” by all means, just show up to a meeting of your round table and let them know you are interested and that you would like to be involved in a committee, these round tables are always looking for help! This will help you build up your professional networks and you may meet future employers, coworkers or job references in those meetings. In addition, make sure you have a 30 second elevator speech prepared so you can make a good first impression, tell everyone who will listen what your career goals are, if people know what you are looking for they are more likely to help you by introducing you to people that may be hiring.

– Julie Leuzinger, Department Head, Eagle Commons Library, University of North Texas

Cathi AllowayOver 4 decades as a librarian, I have built my network slowly but surely through professional library organizations and, particularly, NON-library groups and organizations.
My launch into public library administration was totally due to networking. I was an officer in the local Special Libraries Association chapter and got recruited and offered a job because of it.  It was a career-changing moment for me.  Ironically, I was in SLA to make friends and get some professional support when times got tough.    SLA was my social life as a young mother and full-time working librarian in a city where I had no family and few acquaintances.  Hint:  if you join an organization simply to get job leads – it tends to show and can be a turn-off to other members. Make sure you have some real passion and alignment for the group’s activities.  Networks help you solve work problems, not just the unemployment problem.  I have many contacts who can help me with personnel, strategy, IT and other issues, and when that happens, you become a valuable asset to an employer.
I have made great community contacts through two different metropolitan community “Leadership” programs.  The training and networking and friends were priceless and gave me skills and contacts that were long-lasting and beneficial.  I continue to volunteer for the one in my community.
In one of my previous library director positions, the library was building a controversial new building.  By joining the local and influential Rotary club, I was able to get to know many community leaders and slowly but surely change their impression of the project and libraries.  Rotary is a huge commitment – weekly meetings – and by rotating around to different tables at each meeting I learned how to introduce myself, converse, convince…and even offend….some people.  It was a great learning lab for professional etiquette.
I recently heard a talk by Renee DiPilato, who is Deputy Director at Alexandria (VA) Public Library.  She is doing a dissertation on library leaders and has found that most of them belong to Rotary clubs and have utilized NON-library networks and conferences to advance their skills and networks.
Catherine Alloway, Director, Schlow Centre Region Library
Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email us at hiringlibrariansquestionsATgmail.com.

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