Interlibrary Loan Assistant Megan Molinaro graduated from Knox College in 2010 with an English Literature degree, a minor in Business, and nearly eight years of library experience. Though she had her heart and college prep-work set on a career in publishing, her road to the book industry was a rocky one—after two years of soul searching, instead of preparing books for print, Megan finds herself back in the library, happily handing out the best printed text to eager readers. Melissa Nguyen interviews Megan about her tough experience with life after graduation and discovering the career path she had been on all along.
How did you prepare for post-grad life? And how did life after college differ from what you thought it would be or prepared for it to be?
Initially, I had a job path in mind—publishing—so I talked with my academic advisor and she showed me a summer program that is a crash course in the field as well as a way to make connections. I had also taken an editing class at my college, which combined with my writing tutor experience, made it seem like publishing was a natural fit.
After the program, I decided I should do an internship. I found an independent publishing house and moved to New York, working unpaid full-time. At the publishing house, each day I worked the front desk, answered phone calls and email inquiries, sorted mail, and assisted the different departments I rotated in each month, including marketing and publicity, development, admin, and editorial. I spent a lot of time updating databases and reading through the slush (or unsolicited submissions) pile to try to keep them under control. I also had an opportunity to write a couple of reader’s reports, and once a month, we would have an internship meeting and lunch, where other people in the industry came and shared their experiences with us. I really enjoyed the marketing and publicity rotation, because I got to write press releases. It was a fun mix of graphic design and a practical utilization of my writing skills.
By the time I was done with my internship, I thought I might try to find a marketing job in publishing. I really feel that I learned a lot about marketing and the inner workings of a publishing house from the internship, even though there were some really slow days. I found a passion for marketing I didn’t know I had, but unfortunately, despite all the prep, I wasn’t able to land a paying job in the field and couldn’t afford to live in New York for much longer, so I made the decision for my mental health (being broke is stressful) to head back home.
I think the best way to describe [my feeling] would be broken hearted. I had put in all this time and effort into my education, I was passionate and dedicated, but no one seemed to care about that. I felt like every job interview turned into a test I had no idea how to pass, and even though I knew deep down that there is nothing wrong with me, that I am a great candidate, every rejection that piled on top of each other made me more apathetic.
Even though I knew things were bad I did not really expect it to take nearly two years after I graduated to find a stable job. During my search, I knew I didn’t want to do retail anymore and that I wanted a position that would make use of my skills in some capacity. I toyed with the idea of going back to my library job that I had in high school and began applying with the county library. I was good at shelving books and helping patrons, and if I could get it I would have time to think about how I wanted to move forward. I literally stumbled across a listing for my current job on Indeed. I redid my resume for the 80th time and applied. After a phone interview and then an in-person interview with pretty much the entire department, I was happy to have landed a job I really enjoy.
I work for an academic library in St. Louis in the interlibrary loan department, gathering resources for student research. I am also in charge of outreach and promotion, monitoring statistics, and keeping track of requests and copyright. It’s interesting and no two days are alike. I love working at the library—it’s like getting to stay in college without the tests or work!
I think that what I do now for interlibrary loan is not very similar to what I did in publishing, but the skills are transferable. I have to be able to access and maneuver databases, as well as keep accurate records and statistics. Having a high level of attention to detail helps a lot. Every job I’ve had has built on top of the skills I gained from past experiences, including those learned at my publishing internship; plus, the internship solidified my writing skills so that they are applicable to the real world.
What was the most helpful resource in your job search?
For me, looking into writing/marketing/publishing job-specific sites like Mediabistro were the best. I have also had a lot of luck with Indeed. I like that Indeed aggregates job postings from multiple sites and that you can get job specific when searching. Indeed is how I found my current job.
What is important to look out for while combing through job listings or looking for a job?
I have gotten really good at telling whether or not a job posting seems legitimate. One thing I always look for is a company name and an actual email address. If I get to the company website and it looks like something I made in 5th grade… I tend to pass. I also read the job descriptions. If it seems like someone put effort into describing what you will do, I will submit my résumé. I think when you spend enough time looking at listings eventually you get a feel for what might actually work out and what won’t.
Despite my own advice, I’ve still definitely ended up at some scam interviews. I once got a call from a company, but I had a hard time hearing the name of the company on the phone. I couldn’t even remember giving my résumé to these people (warning sign 1). But I was desperate so I went anyway. I couldn’t even find the place (warning sign 2). It was in this tiny office with loud music playing and while I was waiting, 4 other people came in for interviews (warning sign 3). By this point, I realized it was a scam pyramid scheme, but I didn’t feel like just walking out so I sat through the interview for practice and left.
What are your top three tips for landing a job?
Be yourself—I know it’s tempting to tell an employer what they want to hear, but at the same time hopefully you want to work there awhile, so there is no point in either of you lying about how you present yourselves.
Practice your answers, and definitely practice for phone interviews. A lot of jobs seem to now start with phone calls and go from there. One tip that I do think works well for phone interviews is smile, pretend the person is right there and talk like you would if you were face-to-face. Also make sure you are concise in your answers because it’s easy to ramble on the phone.
Be prepared for a lot of rejection. It can weigh on you a lot if you let it. For me, it got harder to take because I didn’t understand WHY anyone was rejecting me; I would replay everything in my head and try to see where things went wrong. But at the end of the day, you might have done nothing wrong, and maybe they just liked someone better, or maybe they didn’t like anyone.
What would you tell your new-grad self knowing what you know now?
If you are going to do an internship do it while you are still in school. They are much easier to get as a student, and you will probably get more out of them early on in your career. [Editor's note: If you're unsure how to go about finding an internship while you're still in school, check out these five easy steps.]
Trust your instincts and don’t be afraid to change paths a couple of times.
I wish I had done more with my money. I saved a bit when I graduated, but by the time I did the internship and the summer program, it was pretty much gone. I wish I had been more financially savvy about it.
Don’t grab at every opportunity because you need a job. Don’t be too picky either. Try to be more judicious about where and how you apply to things.
There is nothing wrong with you. It might feel like it, but everyone is looking for something different—just keep being you.
Melissa Nguyen also remembers those internships spent answering phones and distributing mail—and though she went home each night with a multitude of paper cuts, she’s proud of those battle scars that have led her to her awesome roles as a magazine editor and freelance writer. To see more of her writing, check out: www.writingsbymelissanguyen.wordpress.com (one day she hopes to garner enough paper cuts to buy her own domain).
P.S. Need a little more inspiration? Check out Melissa’s post on the important lessons she’s learned from her internships.