SALIN Careers Forum 2014
52 curious and eager librarians and librarians-to-be piled into the Ira Raymond Room in the Barr Smith Library at the University of Adelaide on the 6th of November to get some useful advice on securing a job. The session was led by Marni Trevena, one of our SALIN Executive Committee members and a teacher librarian at Adelaide High. Three speakers, representing diverse sectors in the information management field were present to share their experiences and answer questions; Ann Morgan, Business Processes and Archival Collections Coordinator at the University of South Australia, Jo Cooper, Library Manager at the City of Prospect Library and Heather Carine, Principal at Carine Research. First, the speakers shared their employment experiences and the tips they have gleaned from reviewing job applications and sitting on interview panels. This was followed by a forum where many interesting questions were asked.
Ann Morgan, in her role of Business Processes and Archival Collections Coordinator is responsible for a small team managing the archival and special collections of the University and all the work that falls under the banner of business processes including statistics, social media, graduate librarian programs, research projects, exhibitions and event management.
Her key tips:
Be interested in the job you are applying for and the area it is in. Convey this interest in your application and during your interview.
It is okay to be nervous. Remember everyone on the panel has been in the same position as you.
Be prepared. Do your research on the job and the organisation. It is fine to bring a sheet or two of notes in with you – this demonstrates your interest and preparation.
If applying for a job in the academic sector make sure you have some understanding of the university sector and trends in higher education.
During the interview jot down the questions as you are asked them. This can help you to remember the question and remain on track.
Don’t ever lie. Back up all your statements about yourself with examples from your work.
Jo Cooper, in her role as Library Manager at the City of Prospect is responsible for managing a team, dealing with customers, managing budgets, recording statistics & liaising with council. Jo has mainly worked in public libraries with some time also spent in special libraries. She started out as a volunteer and a casual employee and slowly moved her way up.
Her key tips:
Enthusiasm and interest in the role is key. Do not apply for things that you are not suitable for or interested in.
If you are applying for a public library role you need to like people and dealing with customers.
Be flexible with your time and with how you can apply your abilities to the workplace.
If you meet 70% of the criteria for a job and you are interested in the job you should apply. Take a risk, you never know how it might work out.
In the interview do not ask questions that are not relevant to the job. If you ask the wrong questions you can be ruled out. Some things should wait until you have got the job.
Heather Carine is an information management professional providing research services to businesses as Principal of Carine Research. Her background is as a librarian working in special libraries, mainly in the law and banking sectors. Now running her own business, she uses her key research skills to understand the needs of businesses and provide them with relevant research. The nature of this work means that she is always needing to sell herself and her skills to companies, similar to the way a job seeker needs to sell themselves to a potential employee.
Her key tips:
Bring energy and focus to whatever you are doing.
Build networks and connections – you never know who could help you get a job.
Excellent communication skills, both written & verbal are essential. You need to be able to succinctly distill information.
Confidence is key. If you are not confident, act as if you are. If you are not confident in your public speaking skills consider taking a public speaking course or getting involved in a public speaking group.
Innovation always makes you stand out – think of examples of ways you have innovated in your work. People are always looking for good ideas.
What if you can’t be 100% flexible with your availability e.g. children, study obligations?
You need to sell yourself, highlight your skills and experiences which make you ideal for the role. If you are not sure if the role will be suitable for you ask questions before applying. Do not ask these questions during an interview.
Should you list your skills separately, or are they obvious through listing your previous role or education?
List your key skills only, don’t make the lists too long. Previous experience gets looked at first, then qualifications, then skills. Different styles of CV are okay as long as you are conveying the most relevant information about yourself in relation to the role you are applying for. Match your application to the job e.g. emphasise your specific IT skills if the job has an IT focus. Adapt your CV for every single application. Mirror what they are asking in the person specifications and the selection criteria in your applications. Put an equal amount of effort into all elements of the application – the cover letter, your CV and responses to the selection criteria. Sometimes only the selection criteria get looked at so don’t just focus on your CV.
Is there job security in the library sector?
The academic sector is highly competitive and there are few permanent roles due to budget cuts in the higher education sector. Many roles are contract based. However places are looking for new people with new ideas and if you make the right impressions and work hard you can build a career in the academic sector.
The local government sector is quite different. The majority of roles in this sector are permanent and there are always new roles coming up. Volunteer with a public library to get access to internal opportunities and to build networks. Consider signing up with a library specific recruiting agency such as The One Umbrella.
Securing permanency in the school librarian sector is difficult. You can try for roles as a School Support Officer working in the library and then transition into a library management role without being a teacher. You can register on the DECD website for these roles.
How much detail should be provided when addressing selection criteria?
Three examples for each criteria is a good guideline. However make sure that the examples are specific and relevant. Either paragraphs or dot points are appropriate, decide which one would be most suitable to the criteria. You could dot point your skills and then provide an example in a paragraph.
Always read the position description and selection criteria closely. Look for the key terminology. Use these to guide you in creating your application. Mirror the terminology and the skills asked for to demonstrate how you are suitable for the role. Make sure you address all the parts of the criteria if it has multiple parts.
How can you transition from one sector to another e.g. public to academic?
Consider your transferable skills e.g. IT, communication, interpersonal, project management, meeting deadlines, working in a team. Consider whether you are a good fit for the organisation. Start networking in your chosen sector and do your research. As previously mentioned, make sure you tailor your application to suit the role.
What should you wear to an interview?
Dress appropriately. Look respectful and neatly presented. You don’t need to wear a suit. Don’t wear shorts or a short skirt or a low cut top. Be neat and clean.
If you feel you have done badly in the interview but believe you are a good fit for the job can you rectify it?
If you have time at the end of the interview you can clarify a point you made or reiterate some key skills. However if the interview is over there is nothing you can do. Consider it a learning experience for next time
Aim for a 2 page CV. Most employees do not have the time to look at enormous CVs.
Spell check everything. Get someone to proofread for you.
Don’t talk too much, don’t ramble, give monologues or go on too long.
“Fake it until you make it”. Smile. Be friendly & engaging. Make eye contact.
Don’t say that you love reading books. This is a hobby. This has nothing to do with the job and shows a lack of understanding of library work.
Make sure that you listen clearly to questions. Take notes if you need to.
The session was concluded with a brief talk from Lauren Gobbett, the State Manager for South Australia for the Australian Library & Information Association (ALIA). ALIA is the professional association for the information sector and advocates for the profession at a national level. Lauren spoke about the services that ALIA can offer people looking for work including a career advisory service, a jobs board and information on careers and the sector.
Ann Morgan & the University of South Australia
Jo Cooper & the City of Prospect Library
Heather Carine & Carine Research
The Penguin Speaking Club – Heather runs the Young Women’s Group which meets at the Hutt Street Library on the 2nd Thursday of the month from 6pm – 7pm.
Australian Library & Information Association (ALIA)
One Umbrella Recruitment Consultancy
Department for Education and Child Development
Advice for New Grads
Addressing selection criteria in a public library
Tips for applying for library jobs in the public sector
Resume and key selection criteria workshop
How to answer the trickiest interview questions
Get the job: Resume and Interview Tips
Nailing the library interview
Preparing for a library job interview