Monday, August 14, 2006

Dear Annoyed Librarian #9: Resume Assistance!

Dear Annoyed Librarian,

You always have such thoughful and considerate advice on every aspect of a career in librarianship. This is why I worship you and want to buy you martinis from dusk until dawn. I just got my "prestigious" MLS, and now I'm looking for a job. I'd really like some help with the basics. How do I write a good resume? I know that's going to be important for getting a good job. Can you please help?


Aspiring Resume Writer


Dear Aspiring,

Thank you for the kind words. If I'm ever in your part of the country, which seems unlikely, I'll allow you to buy me one martini. Okay, maybe two. But that's it. And if you're going to buy me martinis, that means you need a job, so here goes.

You came to the right, or perhaps I should say write, place for resume writing advice. (On second thought, perhaps I shouldn't say write. It sounds stupid.) The Annoyed Librarian wants to help all of you frustrated librarians out there who desparately want good jobs. The first step to a good job is a good resume.

And just what goes into a great resume? The most important parts of the resume are the paper and the layout. Everything else is of secondary importance. For example, be sure to have a strong, acid-free heavyweight paper in a nice pastel color--pink for the girls and blue for the boys. This lets your potential employer know at a glance both that you're serious about your paper and about whether you're a boy or a girl.

And the layout is equally important. It doesn't so much matter what the resume says--it's how the resume looks. So hire an expensive graphic artist to lay out your resume. It's worth it! No one will even bother to read a really good looking resume, just like nobody bothers to talk to a really good-looking man or woman. People just like to stare and admire the view. The only thing anyone will be looking at on your really good looking resume is your phone number to give you a call and offer you a job!

But, you ask, don't I have to have some content? Yes, something has to fill up the space allotted for text in your handsomely laid out resume, and you can't just put in that stupid Lorem Ipsum stuff. You should try to make the content as impressive as possible in case someone isn't blinded by the paper and the layout. The typical contenders are: Contact information, Education, Experience, and maybe some categories like Skills and Honors. Let's take these in order.

First, contact information. You might think this is simple. You live where you live, right? Wrong. In real estate, location is everything! If you live in Humptulips, Washington or Gun Barrel City, Texas no one is going to take you seriously.They may not even believe you. So you're going to have to change your contact information to something that sounds impressive. If you're applying for a public library job, try Manhattan or Chicago. If Academic, try Cambridge or New Haven. People have actually heard of those places.

Next, Education. Again, unless you have really impressive educational credentials, you need to spice it up a bit. If you went to college in a particular state, make sure you put that you went to the best college in that state. For example, maybe you went to Cal State Fresno. You don't want to put that. You want to put Stanford. Not the California University of Pennsylvania. Drop the California, and you have the University of Pennsylvania. Not Westfield State University. Harvard. You get the idea. No one is going to bother to check, so just make sure you know what cities they're located in and you'll be fine. So if someone asks how you liked living near Penn, don't say you think Pittsburgh is a lovely city. Not that you'd probably say that. If you went to college in a state with no good colleges, then you're just going to have to lie about it.

As for your genuine ALA-Accredited MLS: believe it or not, there does seem to be a pecking order. As bizarre as it may seem, there do seem to be schools considered better than others. They're all easy and intellectually slack, but some are definitely considered more slack than others. So perhaps you went to the University of South Florida, or the University of Southern Mississippi, or the University of Missouri. Unless you want to stay in those states, it's probably best not to mention it. You're usually safe if you stick to the Midwest. Say you went to Illinois, Indiana, or Michigan and you can't really go wrong.

Now, on to Experience. What you should put here really varies according to the sort of job you want. If you want to be the director of a one-librarian library in Elmo, Missouri, then it probably doesn't matter what sort of experience you have. If you've managed to complete some sort of degree and are willing to work for minimum wage, you're in! But once you move up the scale, you'll want the experience to match.

For example, big city library director. These jobs often pay top dollar. Even that one in Georgia paid $127K. But you don't get jobs like that if your experience consists of shelving books for a year and trouble shooting computers for six months. No, you need to say that you were an assistant director somewhere big, or perhaps a director somewhere small. Either one will probably do. Just make up a good sounding library and put it on the resume. My considered advice, though, is to make it somewhere far away. If you're applying for the NYPL, then say you worked at the LAPL, and vice versa. New York and Los Angeles are a long way apart and no one will ever know. If you're applying for a job in the South, just put down that you worked anywhere outside of the South. No one will check, because Southerners don't like to talk to Yankees.

Another example, you're an academic librarian who wants to work in a major research library. (In this case be sure to call it a curriculum vitae or vita instead of a resume. Curriculum vitae is Latin for "I'm a pretentious academic.") If you want to work at Berkeley, no one is going to take you seriously if you worked at the Pensacola Christian College. So say you were an AUL or something at Yale or Princeton or somewhere big on the East Coast. And if you want to work on the East Coast, then put down Berkeley or Stanford or someplace. (Unless you're applying at a big private university. If so, don't put Berkeley. Stick to other private universities.) And if you want to work in the Midwest, put down either coast and no one will check. Midwesterners don't like to talk to the coasts because coastal people refer to their home state as "flyover country." You can't use the Yankee defense, because there are no major research libraries in the South. Just add more stuff like this for the last three or four jobs, depending on what sort of qualifications you need for the current application.

We've covered the basics, and now for some other possible categories. Skills, for example. This really seems to vary. Some jobs want you do be familiar with lots of computer applications, some with lots of foreign languages, some with lots of library-specific duties. It's best just to put them all down under Skills and be done with it. If your prospective employer things you can reprogram their computers and supervise 87 professionals while cataloging metadata and speaking Danish and Swahili, so much the better for you.

As for Honors, anything that sounds really impressive will do. For example, if you were knighted by the UK for saving a member of the royal family from Irish terrorists, you'll want to put that down. If you weren't, put it anyway. Who'll know? Honorary degrees are good, too, provided you follow the same advice as in the Education section. Honorary degree from Harvard: Good. From The University of Texas of the Permian Basin in Odessa: Not so good. This might also be the place to acknowledge your many charitable duties. Perhaps you were cited by a charitable association for all the fundraising you did for some incurable disease. Then again, perhaps you weren't. Regardless, it looks good on the resume, so put it down.

And here you have the basics. If you follow my advice, your resume (or vita!) is going to look very impressive, indeed, and you're guaranteed an interview. With your wit and charm, you'll then probably get the job, and you'll have me to thank for it.


The Annoyed Librarian


Norma said...

Very good. From my vast store of interviewing more candidates than I care to remember: If you haven't changed your hair style in 30 years, the search committee might think you also have no fresh ideas. If you sold cars for 10 years after the MLS, leave it out of the resume.

mdoneil said...

When I got out of really tough library school in Florida (not USF!) I sent out C'sV (CVs?). Since I am a RWM I also sent out the same CV under the name of Wachtel Singeltary, who was in Alpha-Kappa-Alpha, and who volunteered for the Urban League. (As opposed to the RWM who was in Tappa-Kegga-Bud and volunteered to go for beer if someone else was buying.)

Ms. Singeltary got as many rejection letters as the RWM, but hers were on nicer paper, and she never once recieved a rejection post card (From Leon County Florida).

My advice, go to school in Scotland where their first degrees are Masters, get a few of those and then parade around campus with your 4 Masters degrees and tell the university librarian you'll only work there if it allows for professional growth (whatever the hell that is).

Oh and AL, I'll buy you martinis, heck I'll buy you Ferraris!

Extreme Walker said...

Still trying to figure out why you made fun of my alma mater (USF) and my hometown (Pensacola). Otherwise, great stuff.

AL said...

I'm not sure I'm making fun of either USF or Pensacola when I point out that Michigan or Illinois are higher-ranked library schools than USF or that folks at Berkeley would probably take you more seriously if coming from Yale or Princeton than from the Pensacola Christian College. That's just a fact of life. Just to reassure my Floridian readers, I have nothing personal against Florida, except that I can't visit because I wilt in the oppressive heat. But the Annoyed Librarian is a delicate flower.

AL said...

I was, on the other hand, making fun of Humptulips, Washington.

Anonymous said...

Oh, GOSH, you're just so HILARIOUS and FUNNY. First off, it's so good to know the school I received my MLIS at sucks and won't help me get a job. Damn, that must be why I've already been offered three positions. Of course, these positions are all certain to completely suck, just like EVERYthing about this profession, but I'm just an IDIOT that didn't go to a school as FANTASTIC as yours (which was where again?) so what do *I* know?

You're the reason people think librarians are bitter bitches wearing buns. You're not funny or clever. Go get your PhD, I have a feeling you'll be blissfully happy in the soul-crushing world of academia. And you're definitely way, way, way, too amazingly smart to be wasting your time and effort working in a library! Pish-tosh!

(ps: Although I'm stupid, I do "get" this site and I do understand "sarcasm" and I even understand the frustration that comes from working in the library field. That doesn't mean you're funny, however. But when you reply to this comment mocking me, just please don't go the easy route of ah, poor rube, doesn't even under HUMOR! I freaking GET it. You're just not FUNNY.)

AL said...

Thanks for reading!

Anonymous said...

Wow. Who pissed in their Wheaties?

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, I do think you are funny, and I even graduated from USF (University of Sun and Fun) almost 20 years ago. I've had a strong career, BUT started out as green as they come with the pink resume paper (yes, really)... To be quite honest USF wasn't a strong MLS program when I went, but that was pre-internet, in the dark ages of learning tomes of reference sources, and original cataloging. Reading UCLA's course catalog seems mind-bending by comparison, but I know a completely useless Librarian from there, but also several excellent ones. Like anything, its not what 'ya got, but what you do with... Thanks for using your sense of humor for good--I wasn't particularly offended. Then again, I don't have student loans.

Anonymous said...

you aren't exactly ecnouraging integrity, are you? Yes, it does matter.

For example, if you were knighted by the UK for saving a member of the royal family from Irish terrorists, you'll want to put that down. If you weren't, put it anyway. Who'll know?