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Top Tips: From Start to Finish – The Graduate Trainee Experience

It’s that time of year again when Graduate Traineeships are advertised via Cilip and when current Graduate Trainees have to weigh up their experience and decide if Librarianship is a career worth pursuing. We’ve asked 6 current/former Graduate Trainees to provide 5 top tips about the Graduate Traineeship from the initial application to life after a traineeship.

5 Top tips: The Application Form

Kate Beeby, the joint Acting Librarian (and former Graduate Trainee) at Ruskin College, Oxford has provided the following 5 top tips on writing a successful application form. You can follow Kate on Twitter @Ka_Be

  1. When filling out the application, you will normally have a set of criteria given in the job description that will determine your ability for the position. It is normally divided into two categories – ‘essential’ and ‘desirable’. Work through each one of these, ideally each paragraph detailing how you match these criteria. Those screening the applications want to be able to easily identify and check off each attribute.
  2. Really research the place that you have applied to work at. At my current work, a large percentage of our students have had little formal education previously, and we have niche courses running in Trade Union studies, Sociology, Social Work and others. You need to be aware at all times of your user, and whether your service is suitable for their needs.
  3. Research the next steps in your career – you will probably be asked about courses in Library and Information studies, and what options you are looking into – whether it is a distance learning course, part time, full time, and which institutions offer the course you wish to take.
  4. Keep yourself up to date with things going on in the library world – Twitter is good for this, plus CILIP will offer you monthly updates as a member. You may be asked about such things in interviews, like open access, RDA, e-book loans etc. and your own thoughts on them!
  5. Don’t forget to ask questions at the interview! You can ask if there any upcoming projects that you’re likely to be involved in, if there’s a chance to network with other trainees in the area, or how your role will develop throughout your time there.

5 Top tips: The Interview

I’m Emily and I’m a GT at MMU. Before this I studied Linguistics and Spanish at Newcastle, and after this I’ll be studying Librarianship at Sheffield. I write a blog about being a GT here.

  1. Google “library job interviews” and related terms as preparation for your interview. There are lots of blog posts by both interviewers and interviewees explaining what you can expect to be asked. Don’t forget that the job description and person specification often give pointers on what you’ll be asked at the interview, too.
  2. Anything and everything counts as experience if you put the right spin on it. Come prepared with examples that demonstrate the abilities they’re looking for. I thought that never having worked in libraries or customer service might count against me, but by talking about tutoring and the work I’ve done with GirlGuiding UK, I showed that I still have the relevant skills.
  3.  Be yourself. It is a formal situation but the interviewers still want to know what you’re like as a person and whether you’ll fit in with the team. When I was offered this job, they said it was partly because I had been very personable at the interview.
  4. Be informed – about what the job entails, about the workplace, about your future plans, as well as wider issues in the profession – a common question is “what do you think will be a problem facing libraries in the future?” Being able to sound knowledgeable, perhaps by talking about something you’ve read in the news or on social media, can help show commitment.
  5. Ask questions – not ones that you should know the answer to (hours, salary, main roles and responsibilities), but ones that make you sound like you’re interested in the work and the place. I asked about who is responsible for the library’s Facebook and Twitter pages, and thought of some other questions based on things the interviewers had mentioned.

5 Top Tips: For Making the Most of the Experience

These tips were provided by Carla and Sean from The University of Leeds. You can read more about their adventures as Graduate Trainees via their shared Blog and Twitter @LUlibGT.

  1. Say ‘yes’ to everything – Broaden your Trainee experience by saying yes whenever someone asks you if would like to help or get involved in whatever they are doing.
  2. Ask to get involved – This is the other part to ‘say yes to everything’; if no one offers, then enquire if you can shadow or assist a colleague in their work. Most people will say yes!
  3. Carefully select your Graduate Trainee project – Your project is your legacy after you have finished your traineeship. It should be a valuable asset to your library and it should give you an opportunity to take control whilst gaining a variety of skills, so choose it carefully!
  4. Network – A lot of Graduate Trainees are involved in an online community, e.g. on Twitter or LIS New Professionals Network, so connecting with them and other key individuals will provide you with info about their experiences, as well as events going on, such as Library Camp or the Library Day in the Life Project, which would be valuable to your Trainee experience.
  5. Visit other libraries – Many employers pay for their Graduate Trainees to travel around the country and visit other libraries. This will allow you to get a greater insight into the library service as a whole, particularly if you arrange backroom tours or meetings to speak to members of staff.

5 Top Tips: Gather Evidence and Experience

These tips have been provided by Evelyn Webster, a Graduate Trainee at the Oxford Union Society Library, 2011-2012. You can follow Evelyn on Twitter @exlibrisevelyn

  1. Keep a diary/blogI have an A5 page-per-day diary, in which I note down any library-related things I learn. It’s a basic tool for reflective practice; it shows you have far you’ve come. When I began writing personal statements for jobs and library schools, the diary was also a great reminder of what I’d done and what I’d achieved.
  2. Go to as many training events as possibleTrainees don’t get paid a lot because a) they’re inexperienced, and b) they get training. Take every opportunity to attend extra training sessions, events, talks or courses. If an event is interesting and free (or cheap), beg your boss for time off and go! Twitter, CILIP and LIS- JISCmail lists all provide information about upcoming events.
  3. Find out what everyone else in your library doesIn your role as a trainee, you are unlikely to see everything that happens in order to keep the library running. Use the year to find out what else goes on and who does it, and hence what types of job you might like or hate. You can do this by asking questions and showing interest, by job shadowing, and also by offering to assist with things colleagues are doing.
  4. Do some volunteeringIt could be library-related, because then you get relevant experience and a great way to prove your enthusiasm for the profession. However, any kind of volunteering will do; find something that interests you and you care about. The aim is to show that you’re a good, well-rounded person who thinks about others. Interviewers and grant assigners love that.
  5. Get a projectMany trainees work on a particular project during their year, but if you don’t, try to spot something that you can offer to do. It doesn’t have to be massive; anything that you plan and implement (and finish) counts as a project. The skills you gain are invaluable, plus it makes you feel great to accomplish something that benefits your library!

5 Top Tips: Life after a Traineeship

Patrick Glaister has provided 5 top tips about life after a traineeship. You can follow Patrick’s experiences of being a GT and the Library MA via his blog.

I did my Graduate traineeship last year at Aberystwyth University. It was a really good experience and I gained so much from it. Currently I am studying for an MA in Library and Information Management at Manchester Metropolitan University. Here are my top five tips for when you complete your traineeship

  1. Keep in touch – I think it’s a great idea to keep in touch with your managers/mentors from your traineeship. It is useful in terms of gathering references, getting advice and also they may come in handy with dissertation research.
  2. Save your work – Any work you did as a trainee on projects is worth keeping hold of, not just for posterity but because it may be useful further down the line. I have used several pieces of work from last year in my coursework at MMU.
  3. Plan ahead – I knew pretty much where I was going to study early on so towards the end of my traineeship I started to look for library jobs in and around Manchester. I managed to get one which fitted in with my studies and it has provided me with money to fund my course and added to my experience.
  4. Apply for grants – Apply for grants/scholarships, there are lots of grants available such as AHRC and the money can come in handy.
  5. Join some associations – if you are going to be a student then you can get cheap student membership of associations like SLA and CILIP, it’s useful for networking and also they have a lot of resources you may find useful during your studies.

As blog posts go, this is pretty lengthy but we hope you found it useful. We would like to offer a massive thank-you to Kate, Emily, Carla, Sean, Evelyn and Patrick for providing the tips. If any of our followers would like to add their own tips, or if you are a prospective GT looking for some more guidance, please comment on this post.



5 comments on “Top Tips: From Start to Finish – The Graduate Trainee Experience

  1. Pingback: Blog post for Manchester NLPN | Letters from the Library

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This entry was posted on February 21, 2013 by in Top Tips and tagged , , , , , .

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