Information Studies Alumni Share Career Expertise, Job Hunt Tips
June 1, 2012 - Graduates from the Department of Information Studies shared their educational and career experiences with current students and alumni at a Library & Information Studies Alumni Association (LISAA) Career Panel in April at Moore Hall. The panel, was moderated by Jennifer Pflaumer, a current graduate student, co-director of the student chapter of the Special Libraries Association, and a LISAA board member., Featured alumni were Shana Johnson, Santa Monica Public Library (’04); John Khuu, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Online (‘08); Lynn Lampert, CSU Northridge (‘98); and Andrew Magpantay, Rent.com (‘86).
Drawing from a diversity of skills and experience, the panel members dispensed on-the-ground career advice, job hunting tips, and reflections on the valuable education they received at GSE&IS’s Department of Information Studies at UCLA. Lampert, who is chair of Reference & Instructional Services at CSU Northridge, said that the department provided her not only with the tools for success as an academic librarian but also with unparalleled mentorship and support in finding the right career.
“What UCLA Information Studies provides you is the ability to go out and do just about anything, because you are taught to be nimble [and] flexible,” she stated. “Keri (Botello, internship coordinator, Information Studies) is great. I remember her helping me when I interviewed as a student at many different places. So take advantage of your [faculty’s help] and have them look at your applications and resumes. They care very deeply about you getting a placement that works for you.”
Johnson, who is a youth services librarian, urged students to join professional organizations at discounted student rates and to attend every possible conference of organizations such as the American Library Association in order to “get an insight into the profession.”
“There are so many organizations out there where you can interact with professionals,” Johnson noted. “You never know what kind of connection you’ll make with somebody. I went to the Public Library Association conference when I was a student ambassador for the department and ended up meeting my future boss.”
Khuu, who works as an information architect, recommended internships as a way for students to learn about their chosen career path or to discover a new one. He originally served an internship in the From Interns to Library Leaders Program (FILL) at a public library, but it was his next experience as an intern at Disney that led to his current position.
“It’s really about exploring,” Khuu asserted. “Since you have the status of a graduate student, it gives you the liberty to meet people and say, ‘I’m a graduate student, what is [the field] like?’ People open up more easily when they know you’re a student as opposed to when you are [already] a colleague.”
Magpantay, who also took a non-traditional career route as a senior product manager at a dot-com after finishing his MLIS, echoed Khuu’s sentiments on internships and opined that among the variety of ways that students can seek work, “Persistence is also important.”
“If there’s a job at an organization you really want to be with… find a problem that you think you can solve for them and go in there with that attitude,” Magpantay urged.
The panel also shared resume dos and don’ts that would help get job-seeking students a second look from prospective employers. Johnson recommended keeping a resume simple, while providing a complete picture of an applicant’s experience and accomplishments.
“For me, the [resumes] that stood out were in very clear language, concise, not too wordy,” she opined. “Make sure you account for every single thing that could be remotely relevant to the position.”
Khuu encouraged students to pay attention to detail such as grammar, punctuation, and consistency in style and format. He also urged them to be creative in sharing their professional personality.
“They’re looking at that resume and moving on,” he stated. “How can you captivate them in 30 seconds or less so they will choose to speak to you?”
Lampert asserted that the cover letter is also a critical component of the job application and emphasized that employers can tell a lot about how important the job is to an applicant. She cautioned students to be thorough in acknowledging a job’s requirements and stating their ability to meet them.
“You can tell a lot about a person and how much they cared by the letter,” she observed. “You can ask people in organizations that you are targeting to show you their resume and curriculum vitae. The important thing is to highlight recent experiences that are related that show your breadth [of expertise].
“Study where you are interviewing, not just for the cover letter or the job,” Lampert asserted. “Look at what they’re doing. Look at the university, look at the organization. When you talk to people on a phone interview, you want to let them know that you’re seriously thinking about it. If you send out mass resumes that you haven’t tailored to each job, it shows.”
Lampert also underscored the importance of demonstrating good professional etiquette in all interactions throughout the job application process, from speaking to administrative assistants to sending a follow-up thank you note.
“Every little thing you do is under the microscope,” she said. “Nobody talks about this, but those things matter.”
The panel wrapped up with Pflaumer asking the panelists for one last nugget of advice for students. Johnson reiterated the value of students becoming involved with professional organizations both on- and off-campus as a way to attract notice from professionals who might be interested in hiring them. Khuu underscored the worth of staying current, “both in skills and in the latest technologies” by attending Meetups for information studies professionals or reading articles on the newest trends online. Magpantay told students to “Find what your passion is… what you’re really interested in and go for it.” Lampert encapsulated what may be the secret to job satisfaction for future graduates of the Department of Information Studies.
“There is a Katherine Hepburn quote that basically says when you find your path in life and you’re really good at it, at least one person’s happy with what your decision was,” Lampert noted. “And that’s the most important person, that’s you.
“You should, [throughout] the span of your career and not just at the beginning, really love what you do. The market is competitive, but the skill set that you bring as a recent graduate is also very attractive. So you’ve got to go for what you want but really scope it out. You may go through different paths, but don’t ever take your eye off what you really want because eventually it will come to you.”
- Joanie Harmon
Pictured L-R: Shana Johnson, Santa Monica Public Library (’04); Andrew Magpantay, Rent.com (‘86); Lynn Lampert, CSU Northridge (‘98); and Jennifer Pflaumer, graduate student, Information Studies, co-director of the student chapter of the Special Libraries Association, and LISAA board member.On ladder: John Khuu, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Online (‘08)