It was interesting and helpful to hear all the responses in the School Librarian’s Workshop Facebook group to last week’s blog. Thank you for all your input, comments and feedback. I’m glad so many of you got something from the post. If you decided based the blog that it was Time to Move On, (or if you’d already come to this decision on your own) now the question is – how do you do get the job you want?
First, dig out your resumé and review it. It likely needs updating. Although an Objective might work for those looking for corporate positions, every librarian (and teacher) seems to have almost the same objective: “To create or expand a 21st century library program.” There are variants of course but it uses up valuable page real estate – the opening of the resumé – to add nothing of value.
Spend some time thinking of what you do very well as a librarian. Then, instead of an Objective do a Profile with three or four bullet points highlighting your outstanding skills, such as Experienced Tech Integrator or Skilled User of Social Media.
Under experiences which you list in chronological order, don’t just describe your job. Highlight what you did. You might have started a One Book, One School event or created a Makerspace. In other words, how did you make your program successful? This reinforces what you featured in your Profile.
Include a section on Related Experiences such as being an advisor to a club or making a presentation at a conference. Next, of course, is Education. You should also have a section on Professional Associations which shows that you are a professional and here you should include any volunteer positions you hold currently or held in the past. Other sections include Publications which include blogs, Honors you have received. Some people close with References available on request, but since this is a given it also takes up valuable space and doesn’t need to be included.
Using your state association’s listserv and other resources, locate (and keep searching for) job openings. Once you have spotted one, do research and find out as much as you can about the school and district. Check their state report card. See what they say on their website. Is their Mission Statement mostly boilerplate or does it give an indication as to what they value? If they have photos of students, what are they doing?
With your research in hand, you are ready to write your cover letter. It’s invariably three paragraphs. The first paragraph states what position you are applying for and where you learned about it. Use this space to start your pitch by referring to what you learned in your research. For example, if it’s a high performing school you might say, “I am looking for the opportunity to work with the best and the brightest.” If it’s in a school that is focused on improving student performance, you “want to be part of the challenge in helping students discover what they can achieve.”
The second paragraph is where many applicants tend to waste the space, restating things that are in the resume, such as the places where they worked. Instead, show why you are the perfect candidate for the position. You can point to how your abilities as a tech integrator led to increased collaboration with teachers and 21st century learning experiences. This sets up questions that will be included in your interview.
In the final paragraph, don’t close with the traditional, “I look forward to hearing from you.” Instead, say “I look forward to discussing what and how I can contribute to the school program.”
As soon as you hear they want you to come in for an interview start doing additional research. Find out who will be interviewing you. Will it be just the principal, or will there be a supervisor and perhaps the current librarian? Google them and see what you can learn. Take a close look at the library’s page on the school website. If there isn’t one – that tells you something about the current program and a possible way for you to improve outreach. You need to learn as much as you can about what they have accomplished and what they seem to value. Do a dry run to the school preferably at the same time as your interview so you know exactly where to go and what kind of traffic to expect.
You should also consider going online for sample interview questions so you will be ready what they might ask. Inevitably one will be, “Why do you want to leave your current position?” Do not say anything negative about the administration or the teachers. Instead, answer with something like: “Budget constraints had me teaching two classes resulting in the library being closed. This was unlikely to change in the foreseeable future, and it’s important to me that the library be available to students throughout the day.”
Prepare questions of your own in advance. Too often when applicants are asked if they have any questions they ask something foolish such as what the salary is or what their schedule would be like. Ask questions that will help you understand the vision and culture of the school and district.
Prepare a portfolio to bring with you showing your best lessons and projects. Bring enough copies for everyone present since you will be leaving it there. In addition to or instead of a printout, consider putting it on a thumb drive.
Listen carefully to what is said and what is not said. Almost all administrators say the library is the heart of the school. What do they mean by that? You can and should ask what they like/don’t like about the current program. The response will tell you how well they understand it, as well as where they would like to see it go. Do ask to see the library and learn as much as you can about the technology it has.
As soon as possible, send thank you letters to all who interviewed you. In general, hand-written is better than e-mail. It will carry more impact. Again, don’t waste the real estate. You don’t want to say that you appreciated their time and look forward to hearing from them soon. Take the opportunity to remind them of who you are. Refer to something specific the person said that you found informative.
If all goes well you will get a job offer. Think carefully before you accept it. Mentally review the interview. What are the negatives about the position? Do the positives outweigh them? Know your priorities and if his position supports them. If you don’t evaluate the offer completely, you may jump from the frying pan into the fire. A mistake here will require that you remain a few years before you can consider a new move.
And although the process is challenging – stay positive. Jobs are opening up. There are opportunities for those who are willing to leave their comfort zone and go after what they want. Finally, for those of you who are happy where you are, consider bookmarking this post. You never know when things change so it’s best to be prepared.