I’m back. With Resume and Cover Letter Tips.

Hi again, readers! I took an unscheduled break from blogging while there, but I’m back and ready to dish some more.  Especially since I’m on “vacation” this week and yet I can’t go outside because of the weather.  Blecch.  Hope you’re all staying cool, wherever you are this week.

During my blogging break, I finished a draft of my syllabus for my fall freshman seminar, knitted up a storm, and read two new huge books by two of my favorite authors, George R.R. Martin (A Dance With Dragons)  and Anne Easter Smith (Queen By Right).  No spoilers, though, I promise.

Let’s get back to job hunting.  If you haven’t already, take a look at Mr. Library Dude’s excellent post on Library Schools and Library Jobs.  Fun fact: Mr. Library Dude and I have never actually met, but he had my current job before me.  If he hadn’t decided to move to another job, I wouldn’t have mine.  And he gets major props for passing on all of his very-well-organized files.

Resumes and Cover Letters are, in a way, one of the trickier things to write about. There’s no shortage of advice out there on how to put either document together, and a lot of it, while it may not be explicitly contradictory, does vary depending on the person giving it and what industry they’re in.  Therefore, I’m simply going to make a list of points that worked for me.  Make of it what you will.

- You need a cover letter.  You may have heard that people don’t read them anymore.  This is true in some fields.  It is emphatically not the case librarianship.  Most of us, even those who work primarily in technical or IT services, have some contact with the public.  Even those who don’t have to be able to communicate with colleagues.  Communication is a big part of our field, and your cover letter is the first clue to the hiring committee whether your can do it clearly or not.

- Your cover letter needs to be unique for each position you apply to.  Period. This is your chance to show the employer how your skill set matches up with their needs.  Don’t rehash your accomplishments  at past positions.  That’s what your resume is for.   Show how the skills you used to reach these accomplishments will serve this new employer.

- Regarding your resume, keep those past accomplishments that you list relevant to the new position you are applying for.  Unless my library is also a fast food restaurant, I don’t really care that you can bun more hot dogs per minute than any of your  coworkers.  For non-library experiences and accomplishments, make sure you make the skill connections explicit.  It’s fine to mention secretarial work you did, for example, as such work often requires good writing and communication skills, and you’ll need those in the library – but make it clear that that’s the reason you’re including it – as proof you have such skills.  Here’s a more relevant library example.  Are you familiar with a Course Management System such as Moodle or Blackboard?  Don’t simply list this in your computer skills section.  Explain how you have or could use that as a librarian.  Have you been an embedded librarian in a class?  How do you use these tools in library instruction?

- Most people will advise that you need an individual resume for each application, as well.  While it’s a lot of work to keep writing all of this stuff, I managed it by having three “master” documents – a CV and a resume for academic library jobs (some will ask for a CV, some for a resume, so you need to have both prepared), and a resume for public library jobs, and then I tweaked/moved around items based on the requirements of the particular job I was applying for.

- Cover letter length will vary based on position type.  In the academic world, people tend to write longer (up to 2 full pages) cover letters, while in other fields, this is seen as less acceptable.  I tried to keep my academic library letters to about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pages and my public library letters to one page.  No matter what the type of job, remember that, given the state of the library job market, there are likely to be upwards of 50 or even 100 applicants for every position.  Depending on how much time the committee has, your letter may only be skimmed on the first pass through.  Don’t make them search for important information.

- Format your resume.  The “wall of text” approach will get you thrown in the garbage fast.  Remember, however, to stick with conventional formatting schemes and bullet styles that can be read by many email and word processing programs.  Proofread and edit.  And then do it again.

- Don’t waste space on your resume with “references available upon request” (everyone already knows this), or an “objective.”  It’s not 1995, and hiring committees don’t want to read your vague statement of buzzwords.  A well-written cover letter will accomplish the task in much clearer fashion.

- Don’t waste your time (or the committee’s time) applying for jobs that you are not qualified for.  If a job listing says “MLS or equivalent plus 3-5 years library experience” and you’re a recent library school grad, you aren’t qualified for this position.  (The exception might be if you’re an older student and had worked in a library prior to your MLS education).  Don’t piss off the committee by sending them an extra application to read (they’ve got enough work to do already).  Of course, sometimes ads aren’t so clear cut.  It’s nice when they divide their qualifications into “required” and “desired,” but this doesn’t always happen.  Use your best judgment, and you may even reach out to them and ask for clarification, but don’t find yourself on someone’s blacklist down the road because you sent them a pointless application now.

- Apply only for jobs that you’re truly interested in and would consider taking if offered.  Once again, there’s a bit of gray area here, because it’s certainly possible to be interested in a job, and then go on an interview and not like the work environment or find the attitudes of potential colleagues off-putting. But if you’re not willing to move to a certain country/state/city/town, don’t apply.  It’s a waste of your time and theirs.  Put your energy into doing a better job on applications for places you’re actually interested in working.

- Follow the instructions in the ad.  You would not believe how many people eliminate themselves from job searches just by “demonstrating” that they can’t follow simple instructions.  If it says “no phone calls,” don’t harass the contact person with calls.  If it says you need to fill out an online application form with their HR department, along with sending in a cover letter and resume, then do it.  Yes, a lot of these forms are appallingly redundant.  No, there’s nothing you can really do about it.  When you fill out said forms, spelling and grammar count, just like they do on your cover letter and resume.  If you’re asked to include a writing sample, a website sample, your references, transcripts, or any other documentation, you need to include them.

- More and more places are asking for references up front.  If they’re specified on the job ad, make sure you include them.  If you’re asked for “three professional references,” professors don’t count.  Ideally, all three professionals are library professionals, but at the very least, at least one should be a person who has supervised you in a professional work environment.  Pick people who really know you well and can give an honest appraisal of your work.  Be aware that in today’s lawsuit-happy environment, some companies prohibit their employees from giving references beyond the dates you worked there.  Check with your references and find out what they’re able and willing to share before you include them.

- This should go without saying, but if you’re going to use someone as a reference, get their permission to include them first!  Not only is it courteous, but it gives you a chance to screen for possible disasters.  If someone seems unsure about giving you a reference, ask them about their hesitation.  Better to find out and correct a negative behavior before you find out that your reference is giving you less than stellar reviews.

- Send in your materials on or before the deadline date.  If one isn’t listed, get the materials in as soon as possible.  Show that you can be prompt and on time.  If you find an ad for a dream job, and the deadline date is past, you might consider contacting them and asking if they would consider accepting an application late.  Explain that you’re really interested in the job and just saw the ad, and would like to apply if they’re still willing to take your application.   Whatever you do, don’t get in the habit of sending late applications out – it makes you look disorganized.

- Don’t be surprised if you never hear from most of the places you send applications to.  It’s sad, in someways, that as applicants, we’re expected to be on our best behavior and be as courteous as possible, but said courtesy is often not returned by employers.  Very few will contact you to let you know your application has been received and/or is complete.  It’s great when they do, but don’t expect it to happen.  Some employers will never contact you.  Some will contact you to let you know you didn’t get the job, but only after a candidate has been hired, which can be several months after you initially sent in an application.  Some will contact you once they’ve selected candidates to interview, and let you know that you’re no longer under consideration.  And, of course, some will contact you asking to set up an interview (we’ll tackle that in the next post).

Posted in Job Hunting | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Where the Job Postings Are

Listings for library positions come in all shapes and sizes, and you can find listings in all sorts of places.  I’ll share the ones I found the most useful here, and I’m hoping that you all will add even more in the comments.

ALA JobLIST
Online: http://joblist.ala.org/
Twitter: @ALA_JobLIST

ALA’s job listing site.  Searchable in a number of ways (by date posted, by type of library, amount of experience required, etc.).  New postings are regularly shared on Twitter, along with articles that share relevant career-search advice.  You can also upload a resume (registration is free) and then employers can search for you. [Full disclosure: I found my current job following this Twitter feed.]

LIB GIG
Online: http://http://www.libgig.com/
Twitter: @libgig_jobs

Good site for both job listings (including some that aren’t in the library industry but might be of interest to librarians). Also has lots of links to articles on job hunting and career development.

USA Jobs
Online: http://www.usajobs.opm.gov/

If you’re looking for a job in a government library or archive, this is the place to start.

Chronicle of Higher Education
Online: http://chronicle.com/section/Jobs/61/

Academic librarians are among the many job listings in the Chronicle.

Library Job Postings on the Internet
Online: http://www.libraryjobpostings.org/

Exactly what the title makes it sound like. Includes links to a number of state library associations’ job pages.

Archives Gig
Online: http://archivesgig.livejournal.com/
Twitter: @archivesgig

Run by my friend Meredith, a source for those of you that aspire to work with archives, records, and special collections.

Other Places to Look:

Individual state library associations. Twitter (I just found @needalibraryjob today). Your LIS program – many of them keep listservs for both current students and alumni to share job postings. Wisconsin-Madison SLIS students, here’s your link: http://www.slis.wisc.edu/careerservices-jobslistserv.htm.

If there’s a particular library/libraries or school(s) you want to work at, I recommend visiting their sites directly to see if they have job postings available.

All right. I know I just scratched the surface of what’s out there. If you’ve found other websites, twitter feeds, facebook pages, newspapers, or any thing else you think other folks should know about, add them to the comments!

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Keeping Yourself Sane While Job Hunting

As anyone who has spent time job hunting can tell you, the process has a nasty way of threatening to take over your life.  It’s easy to get wrapped up in searching for new leads, obsessively trying to make contact on LinkedIn and at networking events, feverishly churning out cover letters and resumes, and checking your phone and e-mail every ten minutes to see if you’ve gotten the all-important call back.

Important, of course, but it can also make your life miserable.  More importantly, the more you slip into panic mode, the more likely it is your work will suffer.  If you’re cranking out five cover letters and resumes a day, but they’re all mediocre, you’re not likely to make any progress in your search.

With that in mind, here are some tricks that helped me maintain my health and sanity while job hunting:

Organization

This is key.  First, whenever I found a job I was interested in applying to, I printed out the posting right away.  If there was absolutely no way to get to a printer, I would email myself with the heading “job posting” and print any such emails as soon as I got home.

Once the posting was printed out, I printed the due date at the top with a bright pink marker.  I then filed the post in a folder, organized in order by due date.  For jobs with no date listed, I assigned an arbitrary date of one week after I saw the posting.  Due dates were also entered into my day planner.

When it came time to work on an application, I took the top item out of the folder.  After perusing the institution’s website, I would staple any notes I had made to the position description.

Once an application was complete, the position description and notes went into a new folder (“completed applications), organized in alphabetical order by institution, easily accessible in case an interviewer came calling.

If I received an interview, phone or in person, I retrieved the posting and notes from the completed applications folder, along with a copy of the resume and cover letter from my computer, and put all of these things in their own folder, so they were all together and accessible when interview time came.

In addition to organizing your job search, make sure you’ve got the rest of your activities organized, as well.  This is especially important if you’re finishing up school.  Make sure your assignments are also entered in your planner.  If you don’t have a planner, start one for free using an online application like Google Calendar.  Schedule time to complete your reading, papers, presentations, group meetings, and anything else you need to fit into your life along with your job search.

Downtime

However hard it may be, you have to spend some time not focusing on school or your job search.  Both tend to demand attention and suck up a lot of your time, but not having some downtime to relax can be very detrimental.  There are any number of things you can do to spend some time away from work, school work, and your job search.  Read a good book.  Exercise.  Meditate.  Try a new restaurant with friends.  If you have a hobby such as knitting, scrapbooking, painting, etc., schedule some time for it.  Spend at least a few hours a week focusing on yourself and things you LIKE to do, rather than things you HAVE to do.

Someone to Talk To

Actually, I’d recommend two someones.  One should be a friend or colleague who has good grammar and writing skills and is willing to read and comment on cover letters and resumes.  Even when you write a new letter and resume for every application (which you should be doing), they all start to sound the same after a while, and when this happens, it becomes easier for the brain to miss corrections that need to be made, or to gloss over things as we proofread.  A fresh set of eyes is quite useful.  Pay the person with food or beer or an IOU, but find somebody who can give you honest feedback.

The second person should have nothing to do with your job search whatsoever.  This is the person who will listen to anything and be supportive – the person you go to when you need to bitch, or need a reassuring thought.  This might be a trusted friend, parent, or supportive partner.  It might be a professional counselor or therapist.  The point is that this is somebody who will listen when the going gets tough (which it almost certainly will).

Once you’ve figured out a basic method of organization for your search, you’re ready to begin searching in earnest.  Next week (or soon thereafter), we’ll cover my favorite sites to find job postings.

Posted in Job Hunting, Library School | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

On Being a Librarian and “Loving Books”

Recently, another librarian’s blog post made the rounds.  She had a friend who was considering going to library school, and one of her reasons for doing so was that she loved books.  She also reported that many people had told her that’s a bad reason to go to library school, thus she was looking for additional feedback.  (And I’ve committed a cardinal sin of blogging here by not bookmarking the original post; now I can’t find it and can’t link to it.  If anyone remembers who wrote it and/or where to find it, shoot me a message in the comments and I’ll happily link it).

So, what is it about prospective library students who say they want to go to library school because they love books that makes us cringe so much?   After all, most of us love books too, right?  I haven’t actually ever met a librarian that hates books…

I think our reaction comes from a worry that these prospective students are approaching the profession with a framework that is incomplete or naive (and just to be clear, in no way do I mean that these prospective students are stupid – just that they haven’t fully thought through the situation yet).  It’s been a long time since being a librarian was just about books, if, indeed, it ever was just about books.  We know our profession is often misunderstood (how many times have you been asked, “Wow, you have to go to school for that?” or “Did you take a class in shushing people?”), and thus it shouldn’t come as a surprise that even some prospective librarians aren’t entirely sure what their future job entails.

The problem, as those of us on the inside know all too well, is that it’s hard to find a job in this field.  The number of qualified candidates far outstrips demand and the current economic situation has only made things worse.  We fear that the person who comes into librarianship just because they love books is never going to be able to clearly articulate other reasons why they became a librarian, and they’re going to rot on the job market because of it.

So, current and future LIS students, here are my thoughts on the subject.  There is no inherent shame in loving books.  We all do.  But that can’t, and shouldn’t, be your only reason for becoming a librarian, and it especially won’t fly when you find yourself at a job interview.  There needs to be more substance to your thought process than that.  So, if you’re still in the stage where you’re considering LIS programs, I would spend some time researching the profession before deciding if it’s really for you (and spending a ton of money on earning your degree).  Volunteer at a local library if you can.  Ask a local librarian or two if you can shadow them for a few days to get a better sense of the work they do.  If you’re already in library school and preparing to go on the job market soon, start thinking about how you’re going to answer the question “Why did you become a librarian?”  Because you almost certainly will be asked (I heard this question in all of my interviews at least once).

And before anyone asks me again, I became a librarian in a round-about sort of way.  I was pursuing doctoral-level education in another field, where I was also working as a teaching assistant.  I eventually came to the realization that I liked teaching more than I liked the daily grind of doing dissertation research.  And I liked helping other people (like my students) with their research more than I liked doing my own.  I loved helping them find that “a -ha” moment, where they learn something new, particularly when it was a skill, like a database search, that would help them through the rest of their school years, maybe even their lives.  I also love tinkering with technology – figuring out how things work and how people can use them in their lives and research.   And when I sat down to discuss all of this with my advisor, he said it sounded like I would be happier as a librarian.  He was right.  I still get to teach (without having to grade papers, which is just an added bonus), I get to feed my insatiable curiosity every day by assisting students and faculty with their research papers, which run the gamut from accounting to zoology, and, since I’m at a small school where I also serve as the educational technologist for the faculty, I get to tinker endlessly with new software and hardware everyday.  And yes, I love books, too.

Posted in Job Hunting, Library School | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Beating the Holiday Job Search Blues

The holiday season can be rough on a job search.   First, there often aren’t as many postings to go through.  Thinking back to my first post, David from JobLIST commented that, at least historically, listings drop off in November before picking up again as winter goes on.  We could speculate endlessly about why, but there are a few obvious reasons.  Lots of people take vacation time during November and December, so it’s harder to find time to convene a search committee meeting.  With semesters ending, academic, school, and even public librarians are dealing with an influx of patrons (often with increasingly panicked requests as students scramble to meet deadlines), leaving less time to focus on administrative tasks like hiring.   On my campus, at least, the end of the semester means an increased number of concerts and social events, which also fill up the schedule.  And for places where the fiscal year coincides with the calendar year, it’s often simply easier and more budget-friendly to wait until the New Year starts.

However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t continue to work on your job search.  In fact, December can be a great time to refocus and retool if you’ve been on the market a while.   It’s also a great time to get started if you’re going to be graduating in May.  If you’ve been looking since last May (or longer) perhaps this is the time to pull back a bit and overhaul your resume – if it hasn’t made the cut so far, it’s probably time to try something different.  If you’re still in school and haven’t started pulling your resume together, do it over break.  Once the spring semester starts, you’re going to be busy with coursework again, and you’ll need to start applying for jobs.  Preparing a master resume that you can tweak as job ads come out and jotting down some potential cover letter ideas will save you a lot of time and angst in the future.  I’ve said that before.  It’s true.

Other things you can do to beat the holiday job search blues:

  • Set up a profile on LinkedIn.
  • See if a local library needs volunteers.  It’s a busy time of year, with semesters ending and lots of holiday-themed community events, and many places would probably love an extra set of hands.
  • Start a blog or Twitter account and participate in discussions with librarians and library students.  Demonstrate that you’re interested in the major questions and issues facing our profession.
  • Network, network, network.  Do your family members know you’re looking for a job?  You might be surprised to find that they know somebody or something about a lead.  Same goes for friends and colleagues at other parties you attend.  You can use a social gathering as a networking opportunity without being overbearing.

Don’t ignore the opportunities that are out there, particularly if you spot a dream job.  According to this handy article (thanks to JobLIST for tweeting it this morning), many job seekers take the holiday season off, so it can be fortuitous for those who hang in there simply because there’s likely to be less competition.

If you’ve got other great holiday tips, or questions, add them to the comments!

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The Ethics of Innovation Webinar

While most of my posts so far have focused on job hunting, it’s not my intention to focus on it exclusively.  So today, I want to talk a little bit about the webinar I attended yesterday, “The Ethics of Innovation,” which was co-sponsored by OCLC and Library Journal (LJ).  But before I do, since I know many of you found this blog looking for job-hunting information, it’s worth that there are a good number of free webinars in the library world, and to attend most of them, all you need to do is register ahead of time.  They’re a great way for new librarians and library students to hear about some of the current developments and trends, and also to network with existing librarians.

So, moving on to the actual webinar….Moderator Wayne Bivens-Tatum (Princeton), and panelists Gary Price (ResourceShelf.com) and Liza Barry-Kessler (Privacy Council, LLC) led a great talk about the crossroads that libraries find themselves at, and the constant ethical questions that are raised by ongoing innovation, particularly with regard to technology.  There was also a good discussion on Twitter – you can search for the hashtag #ethicsIQ.

Some of the take-away points and questions that were raised:

Today, libraries play many roles.  We aren’t simply distributors of information.  We can be publishers, technology consultants, content gateways, service providers, social hubs, and gatekeepers.

  • By gatekeepers, we don’t mean in the traditional sense, where we protect the books and other physical objects.  Rather, we mean that we want to share information with users when and where the user wants it.
  • By technical consultants, we don’t mean that we turn into the help desk.  However, we are able to assist users with basic tasks such as setting up email accounts, navigating a typical webpage, and printing documents.
  • Users expect innovation and will go elsewhere to find it if they don’t feel that libraries are keeping up.

With regard to library services, increasing the ease of use unfortunately tends to also increase the ease of misuse.  For everything wonderful technology can provide, there are also potential negatives – the largest being having private information such as user data fall into the wrong hands.  This leads to the question of what are we required to teach our patrons about ethical use of resources?  How do we walk the line between being a content provider and being the copyright police (which most agreed was a bad idea)?

  • Given that most electronic and digital materials aren’t stored in our physical library spaces, what are our ethical responsibilities regarding the use of these materials?
  • How can we partner with our vendors rather than playing cops for them or ignoring ethical violations all together?
  • Computers in libraries have raised a number of “pass-through” ethical issues.  Library computers are often used to access non-library sites, where users engage in behavior such as spamming, cyber-bullying, and illegal mass downloading.  Does the library have any responsibilities in these areas?

To what extent are libraries responsible for what patrons do with the information that they access from our resources?

  • This one raised a lot of discussion on Twitter.  Some people felt that librarians’ primary responsibility was to find the patron the info, and that we can’t be held responsible for what the patrons do with it.  Others advocated a more pro-active approach…while we certainly can’t, and in my opinion, shouldn’t, be held responsible if a patron does something illegal with information obtained in a library, we can and should be part of their education regarding copyright and privacy practices (and I said education, not policing, lest I find myself mis-interpreted).
  • The traditional view of libraries and privacy focuses on protecting user privacy and user data with regard to internal library resources.  A more educational view of libraries and privacy focuses on educating users about privacy issues that affect them inside and outside of the library.

It’s really important for libraries and librarians to know and understand their vendor contracts and licenses.  You and the vendor should have a clear sense of your library’s goals before you agree to any contracts.  You should also understand what the vendor’s goals are.  As Gary Price pointed out, vendors aggregate and collect TONS of user data, which is highly valuable to a number of people for a variety of reasons.  Understand what they are doing with your patron data before you sign anything.

Libraries should have an ethics policy/strategy, and it should be evaluated and updated regularly as new technologies emerge.  Too often, we only look at these policies once every ten years, or after a problem has surfaced.  We could probably save ourselves a number of headaches with more consistent updates.

Ethical issues and legal issues are not the same.  We can all point to laws that are or have been unethical, and we often engage in behavior that is technically illegal but we don’t find it to be unethical.  The presenters offered the example of sharing a PDF of a journal article with a friend who works at another library or college that doesn’t subscribe to a particular journal or database.  Many of us would do this without hesitating – we’d look at it as helping a friend out.  But, in the eyes of the law, it is piracy, of the same ilk as DVD piracy…something most of us would probably refuse to engage in.

If anyone else attended the webinar and wants to share their impressions, I’d love to hear them.

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Navigating the Social Media Minefield While Job Hunting

Social media are, in my opinion, among the more confusing things that a job candidate must deal with.  On one hand, every job blog, article, and advice column insists that you must have a social media presence.  And why not?  You can network with industry professionals on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, post your resume on LinkedIn, Tweet and re-tweet compelling news articles that demonstrate that you’re in touch with the latest research in your field, and more.  You can stay in touch with friends and colleagues, who are often the best source of job-related leads and “ins” at companies that are hiring.  This Mashable article highlights a number of great ways you can use social media in your job search – even using sites like YouTube, which most of us don’t think of as a job search resource.

In today’s over-crowded job market, it’s important to be prepared to explore “off the beaten path” alternatives to a job site.  Traditional job search sites alone won’t get you very far.  According to an HR professional I know, “companies are moving away from traditional job sites because the signal to noise ratio has declined.”  Simply put, there are too many people throwing resumes at walls, including walls they aren’t qualified to climb.  Networked candidates with referrals are more likely to posses the needed skills and help the employer avoid having to wade through hundreds of resumes that aren’t pertinent to the opening in the first place.

But social media can play a more nefarious role in your job search as well.  We’ve all done things we aren’t proud of, but now, our friends can provide us – and our perspective employer – with a constant reminder of some of these not so fine moments by posting pictures and snarky comments on social media sites.  Numerous news stories have surfaced recently regarding current employees losing jobs or candidates for openings being passed over because of something posted on social media sites.

Conflicting evidence abounds as to how much importance HR professionals place on what they find online when they research prospective employees.  Some companies generally don’t Google prospective employee’s names or check social media sites unless a candidate raises other potential red flags.  Others say that they do check on every potential employee, regardless of position — and check very carefully.  Based on what I’ve heard from these various folks, and considering their various fields, my admittedly unscientific conclusion is that the more likely you are to be working with the public, particularly children, the more likely it is that your web presence will be scrutinized.  So, with libraries, it’s probably safe to assume that most employers will at least Google your name to see what comes up.

So….what does show up?  Well, people are often surprised to learn that even if their Facebook profile is set to private and is unsearchable, it can and will turn up on Google via other, public pages that you’ve interacted with.  For example, if you’ve ever posted on the wall of a public event, public figure, or the like, that page may show up in a Google search, and your profile can be traced from there.  Same thing with friends who have public profiles – are you tagged in their pictures?  Have you posted on their wall?  Of course, the seemingly constant changes to Facebook’s privacy policies makes it difficult to stay on top of the situation as well.  What was hidden from view yesterday may be the first thing to show up in your Google results today.  I would advise Googling your name fairly frequently while you are actively searching for a job to see if anything unexpected has turned up.  It’s good to know what potential employers are seeing in case you have to address something during an interview.

If you’ve looked at your Google results and decided your social media presence needs improving, the first thing I would do on any of these sites is make sure your profile picture is professional.  This is not the time for a picture that was taken at a bachelorette party or during a pub crawl.  Even relatively innocuous pictures may cause a prospective employer to pause.  Wedding pictures or a picture of your kid(s) give the employer clues about your family status … which in turn may cause them to wonder whether they’ll have to provide a spousal position or assistance with a spouse’s job search (commonly done in the academic world, though not without griping about the amount of resources it takes), or if you’re going to want to negotiate for childcare as part of your salary and benefits package.  Can this sort of information influence them as they search for candidates?  Well, legally, family status isn’t supposed to play a role, but practically?  When you need to stand out in a pool of 100 candidates or more, I’d be cautious about giving a potential employer any reason, however insignificant it seems, to be wary of you.  In any case, find a picture of yourself (and just yourself) in professional clothing, or have a friend snap a new photo for you and upload it. Secondly, consider deleting or untagging status updates, wall posts, photos, or anything else that could be considered crass or vulgar…and use your grandmother as the barometer of what’s acceptable, not your friends.  Would you want Grandma to see that?  If not, you probably don’t want a potential employer to see it either.

Focus on content that is relevant to the type of position you want.  Sharing articles and links is an easy way to keep up with the current literature in the field and show others that you know this literature, plus your very participation shows that you understand basic technology concepts such as how to set up and configure an account, attach and share files,  use a link shortening service, etc.

If you’re not on LinkedIn, which is a Facebook-like site for job seekers, employers, and job-related networking, I would certainly advise doing so.  Once you’re on LinkedIn, you can join the ALA group, where a number of folks have posted interesting job-search-related questions, and of course you can add questions of your own.  There are also a number of state-level library groups on LinkedIn.  You can also research companies, libraries, and universities you are interested in working for by finding their LinkedIn profile.  Furthermore, the HR professional mentioned above told me that, last year, 40% of hires at their company were networked / referred hires, often coming from connections on sites like LinkedIn.  One of these positions was a legal archivist/librarian position.

Managing your online presence can get tricky, however, if you share your name with a bunch of other folks.  I’m lucky in that regard… I have a unique name, and when I Google it, everything that turns up on the first page of Google results relates to me.  I’m curious, though, about you John Smiths out there.  Most of the job-searching advice I read last year advised that if your Google results were undesirable, that you work to improve them, but their advice on how you actually go about doing that was usually nonexistent or vague.  So, those of you out there who have Googled your name only to find that you share it 300 other people, a porn star, a registered sex offender, or a blogger who makes offensive statements, what have you done?  Is there anything that you can do?  How do you approach the subject with potential employers?

There’s also the question of whether or not its ethical to ask potential employees to police themselves online or present personal profiles in a certain way for work-related reasons.   In the web 2.0 world, it appears to be getting increasingly difficult to separate our personal lives from our professional reputations and responsibilities.  It’s certainly possible to make legitimate arguments that a) employees have the right to have [legal] fun during non-work time and not have it effect their standing at work and b) that in certain cases, if a potential employer is that disturbed by an online profile, then perhaps we’d rather not work for them in the first place.  At this point, I would only advise that you do what feels most comfortable or right to you.

Finally, if you’ve never used social networking sites before, remember that it’s easy to step into them slowly.  You don’t have to become a Twitter genius overnight.  In fact, it’s possible to observe what other people are doing on Twitter without evening joining Twitter, just by Googling them or going directly to their Twitter page.  On LinkedIn and Facebook, all you need is a login and password.  You don’t have to put anything other than your name on your page before you can start interacting with others.  Take a look around to see how others are successfully (and not so successfully) using a resource before jumping in yourself, and it is easy to get a a number of great ideas.

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