Further Questions: What tips do you have for job seekers attending conferences?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

What tips do you have for job seekers attending conferences? How do you suggest they balance networking, attending sessions, and/or interview or informational sessions? Any special tips for first-time conference attendees?

Jessica OlinFirst: have a copy of your resume/CV with you, printed on nice paper. Some of the bigger conferences have specific help for job seekers, but you can make a connections at any kind of conference. Caveat: don’t force the issue. Wait for it to be appropriate.

Second: I am not sure how to balance things at a conference. Sometimes I go with learning in mind. Other times I focus on socializing and networking. At ACRL I left my schedule almost completely up in the air and went where friends wanted to go.
Third: Go to the orientation session(s) if it’s your first time. You’ll meet others who are new to that conference and get situated well. Also, check in with friends who are attending or have attended that conference. Finally, really big conferences sometimes have a way to pair up someone who is new to the conference with long time attendees. Check into that, for sure.
– Jessica Olin, Director of Parker Library, Wesley College

Marleah AugustineAttending conferences are a great way to learn more about the profession and the people involved. Something I would recommend is, just like what you wear, attend sessions for the job you want, not necessarily the job you have — or at least attend a balance of these sessions. If you’re currently working in a mid-range position but are planning to apply for director positions, attend some sessions meant for directors. Networking is important, but it doesn’t come easily to introverts like me — if you fall in that boat, find common ground with people. Go to sessions and presentations with questions already in mind, so you aren’t trying to think of something to say on the spot. Share your own experiences.

If you’re looking to apply for positions in a specific geographic area, seek out librarians from those areas who are presenting (their organization is typically listed in the conference program) and introduce yourself after their presentation. Of course, be genuine with your interest, but don’t be afraid to put yourself out there — speaking from experience, presenters are usually glad to speak with attendees about their topic or answer questions one-on-one. Take business cards — even if you’re not currently working, print some yourself that list some of your areas of expertise and experience. Don’t overlook the more “fun” activities — that’s often where conversations happen and you meet the most memorable people.

– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library

Julie TodaroJob seekers should focus on two primary aspects of conferences…the conference business activities planned for target job areas so –  for example – attending the children’s services business meeting if they are seeking a job in children’s services AND – of course – visiting the employment area of the conference….so looking at this by “pre,” “during” and “post…”
Review the Association website reviewing their processes for advertising area employment….both for general job seeking as well as job seeking during conferences. Example – do they post openings on their website? do they have a job fair or placement area at conference? Can you submit your resume prior to the conference? Is there a list of people interviewing? If the association offers the list of openings/organizations interviewing consider contacting them in advance saying you will be at conference and could you interview there?
Read the minutes from association areas for your target job such as review a few years of minutes from the academic library area membership or business meeting if you are seeking jobs in higher education. Look for open announcement periods during meetings to see if they allow (which they often do) attendees to announce jobs open.
Communicate with organizations that you have identified as having openings. Inform them that you will be at conference and you can interview/meet with them there. This cost saving often gets people interviews and the first “foot in the door.”
Create small packets (resume, cover letter, sample of your content) about “you” …take the packets to conference. Have them ready to hand out to those you meet.
Review social media both for area organizations and the Association. Take advantage of opportunities to introduce yourself…link to an online packet about you and listen to pre conference discussions.
Contact your educational institution. Ask their placement staff for openings in your area. If they don’t have any, ask if they have names of people in area organizations who are better to contact.
Search the usual regional and national lists…newspapers, etc. As in other recommendations, reach out to where you want to work…tell them you will be at the conference.
Review the conference program to identify programs for job seekers.
See if Conference activities offer a mentor program in your area of interest.
See if there are opportunities for you to present…contributed papers or poster sessions from your education program or from previous employment. Have your packets there with additional content on your expertise.
If there is an employment area, sign up!
If there are offerings on designing resumes, even if you have a good resume, attend to meet the area people.
If there aren’t placement centers/areas, ask Conference organizers if there are bulletin boards where you can post availability information and your interests.
Track social media discussion during conference to take advantage of last minute get-togethers of like-minded people or organizations from the area.
Attend the business meetings of groups you want to work for or with.
Attend opening and other social events.
Work with your mentor to identify activities for job opportunities.
Hand out the information packets you have about you!
Give programs you have signed up for…have your packets ready to hand out.
How do you suggest they balance networking, attending sessions, and/or interview or informational sessions?
Although education or information sessions are great for expanding knowledge bases, these should only be attended if your time is limited...if there are people delivering programs, on panels, etc. from organizations where you want to work AND if you have found that all of the job ads you see or positions you are seeking require awareness of a new content delivered at the conference.
Networking at conference will happen if you attend some of the previously mentioned activities! Introducing yourself at these events should include your name and the fact that you are here seeking employment and are here to interview for positions. If the setting is stand up or social or in a leisure setting such as a restaurant, hand out business cards (which indicate you are looking) rather than your longer packet…that is, make sure your information about you fits in someone’s packet.
Send emails to individuals you met and organizational representatives. Thank them for any assistance or advice they gave you. Reaffirm your availability.
Any special tips for first-time conference attendees? 
  • Join any new members round table group.
  • Sign up for mentor assignments/sign up.
  • Email any recent organizations where you have applications “out there” and indicate you will be at the conference and can interview.
  • Look for “newbie” programs…organizations call these very different things …newbie, first- time-attendees…recent grads….new librarians…or areas addressing different status such as “switching careers?” moving into management? going from public to academic?
  • See if the conference hosts have a visual identifier for your name badge…some have a sticker “I am looking for a new position” or “first time attendee”…these are usually attention-getters and are designed to not only assist you in meeting people but in unusual places like an elevator as well as a party.

– Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College

angelynn kingWrite down everything you want to do at the conference, only do half of it, and don’t feel guilty. It’s normal.




-Angelynn King, Head Librarian, Delaware Technical Community College, Owens Campus

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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2 responses to “Further Questions: What tips do you have for job seekers attending conferences?

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