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how-to do a career workshop

I worked really hard doing this event and I’m writing out the various steps in the hopes that it will encourage students at my school to continue doing this.

Last year, I learned about the GSA Lectures Fund while serving as the Treasurer for the Graduate Student Association at Catholic University. Because I didn’t have access to funds through my SLA student chapter, I applied for funding to realize my vision of a career workshop that would allow students to learn about careers at different types of libraries while tailoring their application packages for different hiring conventions. I invited Naomi House, of INALJ fame, to do a keynote presentation specifically on how to tailor your resume for academic vs public vs government jobs. (There’s a pretty high-quality recording of her talk on YouTube, and her slides are available from this link, as well.)

I was able to repeat the event this year because of my friend Emily Wagner, who is our ALA student chapter president. Despite a number of competing demands on her time, she filled out the GSA paperwork and dealt with facilities requests, and served as a student point of contact for the event. I need someone else to do this next year if this event is going to continue, so please, current and future students, step up!

I didn’t know if this was a reasonable thing to take on as a one-person project, but when my good friend (and former coworker) Samantha told me about her new boss, Karen Britton, I HAD to do the event again. Karen was the CIO at the White House for 2 years and is currently consulting with the FDA on a library reorganization project, so I knew she’d have a lot to say, and would make the perfect keynote speaker for this event.

We live in just the best community for library work. Everyone that I invited to attend was incredibly generous with their time.
Here is the list of reviewers, with headshots and brief bios. (This took me about 3 hours, but should take less time next year since I’ll ask for bios at the time I issue the invitation, and I have a template now!)

I went shopping at Costco. In case you’re interested, here’s a list (This requires an initial trip to put in the order at the deli – about 10 minutes of time inside the store. The trip to Costco itself can be done within an hour if you know the store layout well.) I do this the night before the event, then keep the items in my car overnight (a major reason this event always happens in the winter. This year, I was able to borrow a cart from the Facilities/Catering folks, which meant only 1 trip from my car for initial setup, and a second trip to pick up the sandwiches around lunchtime.)

Getting to know the building a little better also meant that I didn’t need to purchase ice – there is an ice machine next to the room where we have the event, which also means I can purchase 2-liter bottles of soda the day of and stash them in there. Unfortunately, we’ll likely never be able to use the refrigerator due to food safety guidelines for the catering staff. The Starbucks on campus charges about $15 for jugs of coffee, and also provided tea and hot water. Ideally, this event would have 3 containers of regular coffee and one of decaf. We also need to be very careful that the order gets put in for the proper time – it came out about an hour late and that was a real bummer!

My friends Kelsey and Mark helped set up the tables with breakfast, which was done within half an hour. Lunch was similarly smooth – we just removed the bagels and replaced them with sandwiches and wraps from Costco. This year, I placed orders at Potbelly for folks that indicated that they were vegetarian, so that really simplified my shopping, too, even though there was a slight increase in overall cost.

CUA runs these events pretty well, and Mark, our very kind department assistant, really knows his stuff with filming and setup, so the AV stuff is largely taken care of by other people.

I reach out to departments on campus to get free pens and USB drives, and the Library Science department was kind enough to give me 50 folders to place the programs and assignments into. I also placed materials about our Career Services department’s offerings for students and graduates, and a flyer about the GSA Lectures Fund.

The big snafu on this event is always, ALWAYS, the work of assigning people to meet with reviewers. It’s just the worst – it takes at least 8 hours. I didn’t have it done in time to print out copies of the schedule for each folder, which was a real bummer.

It’s also tricky to write the promotional materials, since I’d done a lot of them as emails in 2015 and didn’t have them handy. I’ve done a better job this year of leaving them on Google Drive.

I waited a little too long to announce this this year: ideally, I’d have a speaker secured before Thanksgiving and then put together the other reviewers well before Christmas, but I wasn’t able to do a full announcement until after the new year because I ended up doing a lot of my invitations around the holidays.

I think I could do this again next year and have a bit of an easier time. I was definitely worried that I couldn’t top 2015, but I guess this experience just proved that the pool in DC is really deep. I’m excited to see where this can go, but I’ll need some help.

Here’s my budget for this event:
Food, printing, folders: $550 (rounded up to provide a buffer for variable vegetarian meal options)
Speaker honorarium: $300 (plus any travel expenses)
Gifts for reviewers: $300

To be on the safe side, this event needs about $1200.

I’d like to begin charging $10/person for DCLA and SLA members, and $20 for non-members. I’d need to check in with presenters from past years, and possibly do an informal survey, but I really think it’s worth the cost. I’d like to reduce or eliminate our reliance on the GSA Lectures Fund, unless there is a student who is really motivated to take this on and have ownership of the event. I think that fund should fund student-initiated programs, and since I’ve moved on and no one is jumping to take this over, maybe it’s time to look for alternative funding sources. I’d LIKE to keep this event as a resource for students, and I do try every year to have at least 2 folks in the room who I KNOW hire exclusively for student or new graduate positions, but I do wonder if I would have caught different fish posting this from a DC/SLA account to the various professional listservs.

I also worked with AGLISS and Emily to get announcements posted on listservs so that this didn’t TOTALLY look like my personal project, and I’ve learned now that I ought to have an editorial calendar and master document so as not to inconvenience the people who are supporting my projects. Thanks again, Emily, you really are a treasure.

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