Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Connie's Top Ten Ways to Find a Law Library Job (for students & new librarians)

This afternoon I attended one of the "teas" held at the Faculty of Information Studies (FIS) at University of Toronto. The focus of this tea was alumni contact with students, and I was playing for the alumni team. 8-)

It put me in mind of some things a library student or someone just finishing a library degree might do to network and hopefully bag a good starter position. Here is my "top ten" suggestions, in no particular order:

  • Join associations related to your area of interest. Some have student or new member rates. This will open up some further opportunities for you (see below). For law, Canadian students should join the Canadian Association of Law Libraries (CALL/ACBD) and local association if there is one, such as Vancouver Association of Law Libraries (VALL) or Toronto Association of Law Libraries (TALL). Read their e-mails and newsletters about the latest changes and trends in your industry. Take advantage of member directories when targetting resumes. Attend social and educational events.

  • Write an article. You might rework a course paper or ask a newsletter editor for an assignment. This will get your name known among association members.

  • Join a committee. If, as a student, you can't become a full committee member, they will still likely love to take you on as a volunteer. This will help put you more in the centre of the industry, and make you better known at least among committee members and the association executive. Not too shabby for contacts.

  • Read and post to listservs. Read the lists for job openings and changes to the industry. Also, you might be able to put your educated opinion in now and then. People will remember someone who has said something particularly intelligent or helped infuse some tasteful levity into an otherwise dry discussion. Take care not to dominate the conversation when others want to speak, or to make off-colour comments.

  • Attend conferences in your area of interest. You may be able to volunteer to obtain free admission, and some associations even provide some funds for attendance at conferences for students or worthy members.

  • Contact a library or librarian and ask for a "behind the scenes" library tour or informational interview. Cold-calling is difficult, but librarians are usually open to networking and assisting colleagues. You might say something like: "This is Mary Smith. I am a library student at FIS and am interested in law librarianship. I am wondering if you would be willing for me to meet you and have a tour of your library?" Don't be put off if you get turned down--for every one librarian who turns you down, there will be others who would be pleased to meet you. A phone call works better in this case since many people distrust e-mail with spam being so prevalent.

  • Apply for positions, even if you don't have the exact qualifications. If you don't get an interview, invite the employer to pass your resume along to other organizations that may be interested in you.

  • Watch the job "domino effect" to anticipate where jobs will be coming open. That is, watch who fills a position since their last job will come open, which then will be filled by someone who may have come from might be able to time your resume to be in the right place at the right time.

  • Attend events that involve alumni. Mingle and get their wisdom. When you finish school, you will be a member of the alumni association yourself.

  • Some work is better than no work, especially if you don't currently have experience specific to your field. Accepting a part-time or contract position is a great idea. This will give you a feel for the industry, whether it is really what you want to do. As well, these positions sometimes turn into permanent full-time work, especially if you impress your employer.

You can mix and match these approaches to what suits you. Some people are more comfortable cold-calling, and others are more comfortable writing and sending e-mail. The more you do, the more contacts you will gain and the better you will become at networking. And it may not seem like it when you are first starting out, but this can actually be fun!


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