Q: I am a new graduate of LIS and obtained my Masters from an ALA accredited library school in Canada. In addition to my MLS degree, I hold a PhD in French literature. I have been looking for a job for two months yet am not able to find one. I have a lot of education, but I don’t have much library experience. My question is: should I put my PhD degree on my resume? I have been told that most employers would consider me to be overqualified.
SM: Short answer: Yes! Your concern is perfectly valid, and many librarians have found themselves in this same predicament (if you can call it that): educationally overqualified. Honestly, it seems ridiculous that the simple fact of having an additional degree can make you less desirable, especially when so many positions require, or prefer, a second masters.
Most likely, you will encounter some discrimination during your job search — it really depends on what kind of job you are looking for. While there are some libraries that seek out librarians who hold PhDs (these are typically large research libraries with very unique collections), there are many more that might look upon the degree as a detriment. You state that you don’t have much experience working in libraries, which means that most of the positions you are qualified for are entry-level positions. Experience is really what’s desired for any librarian position. I imagine that it may be difficult for employers to hire someone who has a doctorate, for an entry-level position. So, you will need to address it, not hide it.
Include all your degrees on your resume/vita, even your PhD. If a search committee or a potential employer finds out that you have another degree and you did not list it, they might assume that you are trying to hide something. Instead, use it to your advantage, especially if you are applying for academic librarian positions. I’m sure you would like to — if not now, then eventually — use your subject expertise in French Literature to complement your role as a librarian. If the position you are applying for has nothing to do with your subject background, then downplay it, or find some aspect of it that fits into the requirements for the position. Some positions will value your subject expertise and foreign-language background more than others.
Tailor your resume and cover letter to each job you apply for: address your educational background in your cover letter, but accentuate your library degree and school work (projects, thesis, etc.). Mention how your PhD and your subject expertise can and will enhance your role as librarian X. Discuss how your use of the library as a researcher and student has helped to prepare you for a career as a librarian. Play up any and all experience you have in libraries – working, volunteering, interning, and just using. And, most importantly, emphasize your interest in the job at hand and your commitment to librarianship.
Two months might seem like a very long time, but when searching for jobs, it isn’t long at all. So don’t get discouraged just yet.