Yesterday I attended an informal careers event for the University of Sheffield’s Information School, organised by CILIP’s Career Development Group (Yorkshire and Humberside Division). Along with Ned Potter and Joel Kerry I was there to offer advice and tips on career paths by chatting about what I’ve been doing since I finished my MA in 2007.
Ned introduced the session with a very pretty ‘The Time for Libraries is Now‘ and ‘If you want to work in libraries‘ mash-up slide deck with added extras, which you can see below. It’s really a quick walk through aiming to set the scene, tell you a few things you probably need to know and link you to a few key resources you may well find extremely useful! I honestly think if Ned was a career advisor he’d be the best career advisor out there because seriously this is stuff I would have LOVED to know four years ago.
The first thing I usually say to people starting out on the job search front is to get yourself registered with every recruitment agency you can think of (even Office Angels has the occasional library post come up)! Not only do they list jobs but they have some really great advice on constructing CVs, preparing for interviews and fine-tuning personal statements.Specialist library and information profession agencies have a massive range of roles listed and so there’s generally something to suit everyone, even now that it’s getting harder to find work.
- Sue Hill Recruitment – is probably the largest and most well known of the specialist agencies. I found a fantastic temporary position through these at Leeds Trinity when I first finished my course and out of all the agencies I registered with they were the ones regularly calling me with other opportunities.
- Weekes Gray – was the new kid on the block when I registered with them but Keri has tonnes of experience and was great with interview tips and feedback.
- Jobs for Info Pros – was another newbie in 2007 but I’d had earlier contact with Alex Wilson-Campbell when he was at Instant Library Recruitment. In fact he found me my first library job at The College of Law in York and pretty much got me to where I am today.
- Infomatch – did very little for me overall but they also have a great team with a lot of experience in the field.
- TFPL – always seemed to be very southern focused but that may well just have been at the time I was looking. They’ve been around for ages and are very good at what they do!
- Fabric – I’d never heard of until yesterday, so thank Tina for that one.
- jobs.ac.uk – isn’t a recruitment agency as such but they always have a healthy listing of library related jobs or research opportunities.
However… I actually found my first professional post at Corus through Monster jobs, after almost giving up hope. At the time I was working as a Weekend Coordinator at the Information Commons as well as a Library Assistant at Leeds Trinity and was finding it really difficult to dedicate much time to active job searching. Some weeks I’d be in work seven days after scoring some overtime in the Learning Resources Section at the University of Sheffield and it was really hard. The commute to Leeds ended up costing me more than I was earning but I thought the experience was worth the sacrifice. I could have jacked that in anytime, it was only a temporary position but I persevered and it’s still on my CV now. I cannot recommend temporary positions highly enough… simply because they get you the experience you probably need without your full commitment. My colleagues at Leeds Trinity gave me some great advice on job hunting and one ended up being a crucial reference for my job at Corus.
My long term aim had always been to work as an Academic Liaison Librarian (or whatever variation you find in these job titles) and I remember in one of my interviews at The University of Sheffield (for a job I didn’t get) when asked where I wanted to be in five years time I answered, “I’d really like Maria Mawson’s job”. It’s funny because although the interviewers were a bit taken aback by such a specific answer a couple of years down the line when I was interviewed for my current position the same interviewer had a good giggle before he asked me the same question again! This time I didn’t even need to answer and I actually work three desks away from Maria now. I think I’d decided I wanted law subject responsibilities because I came from a legal-ish background with The College of Law but I actually enjoy my current subjects a million times more.
One of the things Ned talks about is a career not being a straight line from a to b. It’s incredibly difficult to work up a ladder, especially when you’re trying to jump more than one pay grade and in my experience I tend to agree. I’ve worked at this insitution since 2006 but not continuously. I couldn’t get to where I wanted to be because the positions were simply not available and I couldn’t carry on part-time hours whilst I waited. I thought having my foot in the door would stand me in good stead and so I continued working part-time even though I now had my full time job at Corus as well. Again it was hard and I only lasted until the end of the academic session I was working through but then six months later I was back FULL TIME in a job I wouldn’t change (much) for the world. I’ve been in this role now about two and a half years and don’t really know what the future holds other than more work on my Chartership and warning Carmen and Helen that I’m coming for their jobs next.
I’m not sure how much help this is to other people but seriously if you’re still reading this (well done) and as I actually quite enjoy talking about careers let me know if I can help you out with yours… maybe this is something I should be doing in my role as a New Professionals Support Officer anyway though.