School of Information Studies - March 2010
The full version of the March 2010 CAPSScoop for the School of Information Studies can be found by clicking here.
Articles in this edition
by by Benyamin Paris, MLIS Alumnus
Hey all, my name is Benyamin Paris, and I just graduated from the MLIS (Master of Library & Information Science) program. I was asked by our Career Advisor, Janice Tester, to write about my job searching experience, what worked, and what did not. Before I start though, I do want to mention my case is not typical for many reasons. It’s important to note my current job, a bookstore manager for Haven Books (the SSMU bookstore) is not in a library, archive, or strictly related field. Furthermore, I am not a Canadian citizen (though I am just about to get permanent residency), and I went straight from an undergraduate degree at McGill to the MLIS program. Thus, even if my experiences appear different to yours, take what you can from my job search and the seven tips that follow.
My Experience and Tips
My first actual job while at University was working for McGill as a Library Ambassador. This lead to several other jobs with the McGill library system. I was also able to secure a job working for the Montreal Children Library (a wonderful place) for a summer, and then worked as lab assistant for the school. While these may not seem to be great jobs in terms of salary or responsibility, they did give me something to put on my CV…which leads me to tip 1.
Tip 1: Start somewhere. Even if it’s not perfect, experience is crucial when looking for a job. Plus, any job can lead to unexpected and helpful contacts…or at least good references.
I started looking for a “real,” i.e. full time job fairly early in my last year, sometime in October and November, 2008. At this time, I found my experience with the city and McGill to be quite helpful, such as knowing about CaPS (Career Planning Service), and where the various libraries were. I also found out about another really interesting organization, called Carrefours Jeunesse, a Quebec based youth employment service which also offered free help. This leads me to tip number 2.
Tip 2: Find out and use available resources. There are a surprising number of people and organizations willing and able to help you find a job, often for free. The ones I found the most helpful were CaPS and Carrefours Jeunesse, but there are many others. Use them, they help.
Working with these organizations and many others, I was able to hammer out a decent CV and start sending it around to various places, both by email and in person. Although in my view my CV was not incredibly impressive, it conveyed good things about me, and was at least mildly interesting to read…, as I hope tip 3 will be.
Tip 3: Your CV is important, make it look good. Despite what some might say, there is no one perfect way to create a CV or Résumé…but there are certainly many wrong ways. Look at a few books, consult with CaPS, or just go online and use a template…and then show it to lots of people. The people you show it to don’t have to be professionals, in fact not all of them should be, but make sure many people look it over to help refine it and catch any things you may have omitted. You do not want to misspell “librarianship” which...never happened.
I sent my CV to several places, used many online employment sites, such as Emploi-Quebec, the CaPS website, Workopolis, and many more…but I also went around and handed out my CV in person. While this did get me a few interviews, it also lead me to realize…
Tip 4: If you want to work here, learn French. For many of you, this won’t be an issue, but for those who don’t…sorry to say you really have to if you want to work in Quebec. Some libraries need just basic French, (like Westmount and in the Suburbs) but most service oriented workplaces require at least fluency and ability to read French, and in addition, so many jobs in city libraries or BANQ are primarily in French.
I did manage to brush up my French a bit, and also started talking to various people I knew, both professors, librarians and other individuals who I thought could help. It didn’t actually result in permanent position, but I did get two summer jobs working with professors, which helped with money, gave me something to add to my CV, and of course, contributed to some much needed self confidence….and tip 5.
Tip 5: People you know can help. For years I hated the idea of “using connections,” and it still bothers me to this day. But, I have to say, it’s really REALLY, helpful to have them…professors, administrators, friends in the workplace- these are all people who can point in the right direction, give good reference, and even flat out- get you a job. You don’t have to go out of you way to cultivate them either. Most people have a professor they like, and someone they know who works in library, or even a Facebook friend. It doesn’t hurt more than your pride to ask. Plus, people like doing favors for others.. Try it!
I kept looking, searching various websites, sending out CV’s. For a while I focused on only library jobs, but when I could not find anything after a while, I decided to broaden my search to included related jobs. Luckily for me, that day an add for a job managing a bookstore popped up, and I decided to apply for it, a serendipity which leads to tip 6.
Tip 6: When looking for jobs, balance is important.Many people I know send out literally hundreds of CV’s and spend hours every day looking for jobs. While maybe that helped them, I saw a lot of people get so stressed out by this that when they did have interviews, they could barely speak, much less present themselves. Looking for a job is an important and vital activity that requires effort, time, skill, and patience. But burning yourself out doing it during school or right after a long day doesn’t actual help you. Try to live your life as well. Also, if you can’t find exactly what you’re looking for, try expanding the search a bit. Tip 1 applies here as well.
My interview went pretty well, partly because I approached it with attitude: I wanted this job, it seemed interesting, but if I didn’t get it, well, I believed I could find other jobs seeing that I had broadened the search. This attitude allowed me to relax a bit, present myself more naturally. Further, I also did some research before I went to the job interview, nothing extensive, but enough to know what the job was and basically what I would be doing. Finally, I was able to provide a good reference, who recommended me strongly, even though for some parts of the job I had little experience with. And thus tip seven.
Tip Seven: Breathe. It sounds simple, but it’s actually remarkably difficult for many of us, especially on interviews and first meetings. Practice helps a lot, either mock interviews (which CaPS and Carrefours Jeunesse both can do) or even simple practice with friends. There are all sorts of tips, do’s and don’ts for interviews; what to wear, how to speak, how to answer questions (be prepared to answer: “What are your weaknesses?” everyone asks that one) and these are very good to know, but most important: breathe, and remember to be who you are, rather than a windup machine or flustered student.
So it seemed my luck turned around and few days later I was hired as the Haven Bookstore manager. And while, like most jobs, it has its ups and downs, I can honestly say it has been an immensely rewarding experience.
Once again, this is my humble experience, and depending on your case, a different approach may work for you. Please feel free to contact me if you want to talk, by emailing me at the store at %20ssmubookstore [at] gmail [dot] com, and I will be happy to assist you.
Oh, and last but not least…come to Haven to buy and sell your books!