Your traineeship: Getting started

Action figure librarian
Image via Flickr user veraj9

Whether you've just finished uni or have been working for a while, finding and starting a traineeship, let alone moving to London, can be daunting. So we surveyed our trainees to ask for their advice.

Finding out about librarianship and finding a traineeship
If you've found this page while looking for some more information about librarianship as a career and traineeships as a route there, then if you haven't looked at it already, check out the CILIP website - and particularly at their traineeship directory. This is the resource that our current trainees say they found most useful. Some also found out about traineeships that they were interested in by talking to librarians they worked with, either as students, or while gaining work experience. Speaking to those currently working in libraries can provide invaluable information about routes into librarianship, and the experiences at different traineeships.

There are also a variety of online resources where you can find out more. Many of our trainees found the Library Routes Project and Library Day in the Life great resources for learning more about how others got into librarianship and what different kinds of librarians do. Through these projects, you can also find links to many librarians' blogs and social media accounts, which can provide further insight into the sector. Twitter can be particularly useful, both for e-networking with other trainees and LIS professionals, and for discussing the field. UKLibChat is an LIS twitter discussion group who converge every other Thursday to discuss topics relating to librarianship on the hashtag #uklibchat. You can view the agenda for the next chat, add your own topics for discussion, and view summaries of previous chats on their blog.

There are also a variety of library career events relating to specific areas of the profession. If you're particularly interested in legal, commercial, scientific or medical librarianship, BIALL and CLSIG run a graduate open day where librarians and information professionals from those sectors give short presentation and answer questions. If you're interested in art or museum librarianship, ARLIS run a workshop to introduce the sector.

But by far the best way to find out more is to try to gain some kind of work experience. If you're still at university, there may be opportunities to work in your university library or to sit on the library committee. Beyond that, many places may be friendly if approached for a few days of work experience or shadowing. Have a look at our trainee profiles to see how the current trainees gained experience.

Congratulations! You've got a traineeship in London. Now how do you find somewhere to live?
Building Centre scale model of London: Westminster, London Eye, The City
Image via Flickr user Chris Devers
London is a wonderful city. Unfortunately, it's also a very large and often expensive city. Particularly if you've just come out of university halls, the prospect of finding accommodation here can be a bit scary.

Most of our trainees live in shared flats, which they found online. Spareroom was the most popular website used, with trainees reporting that the site provided good quality accommodation and was easy to navigate. Gumtree, Moveflat, FindaProperty, Zoopla and Primelocation were also used. Spareroom and Gumtree tend to focus specifically on rooms in shared accommodation, either advertised by groups of flatmates or by landlords (including some HMOs), while others have a mixture of flatshares and whole flats. Some trainees decided to use agencies, which can take some of the stress out of trying to find a reputable place. However, agencies can also charge high fees, which can make your set-up costs larger.

Many trainees strongly recommended first asking around friends and family to see if anyone knew of available accommodation, or had a room to spare. Even if it's not a permanent solution, having some kind of base from which to flat hunt can take some of the stress out of finding a place - particularly if you currently live on the other side of the country!

Some reported difficulties with Gumtree and its content, but noted that it often had cheaper accommodation than some of the other sites.

Ooh, this place looks nice! How do I get it?
Tiny Room for Bed / Office / Closet
Image via Flickr user Teitelbaum
We received a lot of responses when we asked for advice about flat-hunting in London. Almost all of them noted how fast flats go here. You need to be searching close to the date you want (unless you're prepared to pay for lots of time when you won't be living there) and you need to make decisions quickly - if you don't take a place immediately, you won't have the luxury of a great deal of time to think about whether you want it later.

So how do you find a good flat? Here are some of the tips we received:
- "Get to as many viewings as you possibly can and do as much research as you can about the area of London you want to live in. It is difficult but if you know anyone down here already ask them about areas. For example, I looked mostly North, however, I ended up in some strange and what felt like unsafe places, I was actually looking at flats in Tottenham just before the riots. I would also recommend living centrally if it is the first time someone has lived here. It opens up your options, you save on travel and can do some touristy stuff while here." 
- "Don't start looking much more than one month before you want to move. Flats are advertised and taken down within a few days (rarely more than one or two weeks). Create a good little blurb about yourself and start sending it to as many flatshare adverts as possible. Don't take the first thing that comes along if it looks truly awful. There are always good and affordable flatshares popping up around central London... When you do want something, make it clear you are interested and be ready to put down your deposit within a day or two."
- "Go and spend a day in the area you want to live in, take any advice you can from people you may know that already live in London and try out your commute at a couple of different times. Ask lots of questions if you are thinking about sharing with strangers to get a good feel of what the people are really like. If you can rent without going through an agency then you can avoid costs and lengthy contracts." 
- "Think carefully about transport, it may be cheaper to live far away but you spend more on transport and get fed up of a long commute easily." 
- "Bring a friend to look at places with you if you can.

Ok, I've found somewhere. It costs HOW MUCH?
Money UK British Pound Coins
Image via Flickr user hitthatswitch
First things first: if it looks too good to be true, it almost certainly is. If they want you to 'prove your funds' by transferring money to a friend, they are DEFINITELY scammers, and you will almost certainly lose money. One of our trainees encountered a too-good-to-be-true-priced room with a landlord spinning a long story about wanting funds proved after dealing with a previous difficult tenant. Thankfully, they didn't fall for it. If someone on a sharing website is looking for an opposite-sex flat-mate and says that they'll "pay for everything ;)", you probably don't want to contribute what you'll be expected to contribute to the flat.

But even with an entirely legitimate landlord, moving can be more expensive than you expect. Often, you'll have to provide a deposit (usually 6 weeks or so of rent) as well as the first month's rent. If you go through an agency, you may have to pay substantial admin fees. If you're taking on a room from someone who hasn't yet finished their contract, then you may have to buy them out of the remaining months.

If the property you're renting is unfurnished, then you'll need to spend a bit on furniture. However, as one trainee pointed out, if you keep an eye on the kerb, you may find some serviceable furniture.

Bills: Are bills included in your rent? Several trainees noted that bills were often a much larger cost than they had anticipated, so an all-inclusive rent is definitely worth looking out for - you'll be particularly thankful in the winter when you don't have to choose between bread and heating in your monthly budget. If the bills aren't included, do you know what the arrangement for paying them between flatmates is? You don't want to end up being 'The Responsible One' who pays the bills and then has to chase everyone else for money.

It may sound obvious, but remember that if you're going to put down the deposit, you'll need to make sure you transfer any funds somewhere accessible, and make sure you have ID (often a passport) and former landlords or employers who would be happy to provide references if required. A copy of the letter confirming your traineeship may do instead - one trainee's landlord was happy to accept this as proof of income and in lieu of a reference.

If you're letting privately, check if  your deposit will be part of a deposit protection scheme.

To keep up to date with the most current rent prices, you may want to check out the London Rents Map. If you're uncertain of how your budget will stretch, you can plug your salary into the online Salary Calculator, which can either work out your take-home pay (complete with student loan deductions) or the required salary to meet a desired monthly amount. 

So now that I've emptied my bank account to pay my rent and deposit, how do I save some money?
Quality beverage
Image via Flickr user milknosugar
Once again, our trainees provided a few tips:

- "Link your Oyster and Railcards for cheaper off-peak journeys."
- "Live as centrally as possible and walk or cycle everywhere."
- "Go to supermarkets...towards the end of the day at about 7/ 7:30 to buy all the best reduced items for that day." 
- "Bring a packed lunch to work."
- "There are an awful lot of free things to do in London socially so keep an eye on blogs and reviews sites for exhibitions, events, community groups etc... "
- "Set a limit for food and socialising per week (I have allocated £100pw) and then leave your cash card at home."
- "Think about which supermarkets you are using - [for example] Tesco Express is more expensive than Tesco." 
- "Public transport (particularly on the tube) can mount up to much more than you expect. Living in walking distance (with a slightly higher rent) may genuinely be cheaper than living further out but paying for transport."
Several trainees also recommended looking out for money-saving websites, which can offer deals on food, days out, shops, etc. The Money Saving Expert website provides links to many of these, and also has a good weekly email you can sign up to.

I've got my flat and my budget. Now I just need to do this traineeship...
at the library
Image via Flickr user artolog
Finally, we asked what advice trainees had for those starting out:

- "Make the most of all the visits and opportunities that come with it - you won't get them again!"
- "Say yes to as much as you can. Best way to meet people and get the most out of your traineeship. Accept the fact that some of the tasks you do will be monotonous but you are around people who you can learn a lot from so remember the opportunities are everywhere."
- "Firstly, if you're interested in a career in Knowledge Management or more general Information jobs, and think you need to get a CILIP accredited qualification, then it might be better to find a job somewhere other than a library. In fact you may find that you don't need the CILIP accredited qualification until you are much further into your career anyway. The traineeships at University of London libraries are really aimed at being a first step towards becoming a librarian, and involve a large amount of general, clerical library duties. Secondly, a job is just a job, even when it's a 'traineeship'. Don't get worked up about it before you start. Once you are working, it is not like being back at University. You are given tasks or responsibilities, you are explained how to carry them out, then you just get on with them. Some tasks can be dull and monotonous, but others can be challenging and interesting when you get down to it. This doesn't mean that you will be worked off your feet though, traineeships do not involve much stress at all. Libraries are very relaxed places to work. The salary is not great, but if you are curious about library work then a traineeship is a great way to find out if librarianship is for you. Much of the work doesn't actually involve you knowing direct information about the subject matter of your library's collection, but do think about what the material you will be dealing with means to you. Working in a library is not the same as studying in one, but it may be more rewarding when you have some sympathy for the readers."
- "Approach it with an open mind - part of the point of your traineeship is to see if you librarianship is the career for you."
- "Make the most of being in London (or wherever you are based) and look at what the different libraries you have access too can offer you in terms of experience or ideas. Think innovation and digital technology, keep up to date with blogs and organisations such as Ted Talks for interesting information and technology design projects worldwide." 
- "Get involved in as much as possible. Join CILIP and any specialist library group, attend conferences, visits, anything going if possible."
- "Don't be afraid of asking silly questions, and if you need to take lots of notes about how things work, do!"

Good luck!

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