What I Wish I had Known, When….I Started Looking for a Job

By Suzanne Rogers Gruber, MLIS, 2014

Sooner or later, you’ll need to start a job search. I’ve been searching, off and on, since I entered the iSchool in the fall of 2012. (I graduated in Fall 2014.) Currently, I work on a freelance basis, which means I am perpetually looking for new opportunities, but I am also working toward a particular kind of permanent position. This constant, low-pressure job search is not as bad as it sounds– I’m actually quite happy with my current circumstances– but there are five things I have learned over the last three years that I wish I had known when I started:

  1. Job search advice is terrible.
    Most of the job search advice you’ll read is well-intentioned and probably even well-informed. But specifics matter. Know your audience and the application standards that are most appropriate to the specific position. For library positions, try INALJ (inalj.com) and the Hiring Librarians’ Library Interview Question Database (https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1N9segNyNeOssPYqfZ1pacKEHYDPpETKI00lHW_ppJF0/edit#gid=0) , and Open Cover Letters (http://opencoverletters.com/) . For tech and corporate positions, search www.LinkedIn.com and Glassdoor.com to start. Government job applications have their own lengthy and complicated systems (www.usajobs.gov ) . Whatever the industry or sector, talk to people in related roles. You need current and relevant information much more than you need generic advice. (Do you really have to be told to proofread your cover letter again?)
  2. Your thoughtful, specific, descriptive search terms will get you different results from site to site. Search widely, create lists of synonyms and fashionable jargon, and look at descriptions more than titles.
    I use three major apps/sites to keep an eye on open positions: Glassdoor, Indeed, and LinkedIn. Even though I use the same location settings and keyword searches in each app, the job lists don’t match. They often have little to no overlap. Don’t get attached to just one source—be familiar with many sites or outlets relevant to your particular interests, and cross-check them often.
  3. LinkedIn is more fun than you think it is. Make your profile awesome. (Check out previous SJSU ASIS&T presentations and LinkedIn’s own guides for help on that.)
    Here’s something I learned in the last three months: if you post in groups and interact with others’ posts, you will appear in recruiters’ searches more frequently and with better rankings. I average 1-2 new recruiter contacts a week when I am active on LinkedIn. I get no contacts whatsoever on weeks when I’m quiet. Some of those recruiter contacts have resulted in interviews and possible future projects, and others I’ve been able to pass on to friends and colleagues.
  4. It’s not about you. This is hard, because of course your job search is all about you and your career, and I hope you find a position where your professional success is important to your employer. It’s important to remember that a lack of response to an application, or a successful-seeming interview that doesn’t result in an offer, does not necessarily mean you did anything wrong. Most of the time, you won’t know anything more than you didn’t get the response you wanted. Usually, it means the hiring manager found someone they thought was a better fit or that the organization’s needs changed. Do your research, present your best skills and abilities, follow up appropriately, and then let it go. Don’t let it discourage you.
  5. Professional organizations make a difference. I originally joined ASIS&T because the iSchool offered a free one-year membership and I liked the organization’s focus. I have heard from more than one interviewer that my involvement in ASIS&T made my profile and portfolio stand out. Active membership in a professional organization shows you are committed to your field and willing to volunteer your time towards its advancement. I’ve made friends and had opportunities to collaborate with professionals and academics worldwide. ASIS&T has been a big part of my success.


Job searching is a skill that must be learned and practiced. Seek out resources and contacts who can offer advice and perspective, and re-evaluate your approach and your goals from time to time. Try a volunteer project that stretches your skills, and find peers to commiserate and celebrate both your disappointments and your successes. Whether your search lasts a few weeks or a few years, keep learning and growing—it will pay off in the long run.
Suzanne (Suzi) Rogers Gruber has worked in school and academic libraries, publishing, and tech startups, and has volunteered for many nonprofits and community organizations. She is currently a freelance information strategist and designer. Suzi is one of the recipients of the ASIS&T New Leader Award in 2015. She served as Chair of SJSU ASIS&T in 2013-2014, as Public Relations Officer for SIG ED in 2014-2015, and is looking forward to serving as SIG ED’s Communications Officer in 2015-2016. Her areas of interest include user experience design, ethics, and community development. Connect on Twitter @srgruber or through her website at www.srgruber.com.


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