Last year, I was approached by someone who wanted me to contribute to their new librarian website. Flattered, I jumped at the chance. I began trading emails with the site’s owner and looking at his site. We talked about what his site’s purpose was and I, respectfully, gave him some design critiques. I also invited him to provide a reciprocal contribution to this site.
At the same time I was also preparing a presentation for the 2017 Missouri Library Association conference. I took the opportunity to flesh out the ideas I was going to be discussing in my presentation for this new site. Even though what I submitted was much longer than asked for the site owner seemed ecstatic and posted the piece without delay. I again offered to host a posting by the site owner but was ignored.
You’ll notice that I’m not posting the URL for the site in question. That’s because as far as I can tell the site no longer exists. Furthermore, I never got that reciprocal post. This is the “negative experience” referenced in the Contributors page. Below is a version of that recently rediscovered post edited for this site. I thought now would be a good time to resurrect it since I’ve not been able to write anything new, lately. Enjoy.
There are few activities that we participate in in our lives that are more humiliating and depressing than searching for a job. We scour the internet hoping against hope that some desirable organization in some desirable location will have just the right open position that meets our pay requirements, experience, values, and skills. Occasionally, we find those, but usually we have to settle for something that’s just “good enough.”
Once we finally find that good enough position, there is the usually obnoxious and occasionally degrading process of actually applying for the job. If you’re lucky, all you have to do is email them your resume and cover letter. In my experience, however, it’s usually worse. Usually, you have to spend ninety minutes filling out an online application that contains all of the information in your carefully constructed resume, then uploading your actual resume, and you still have to write the cover letter.
Oh, the cover letter. In three to five paragraphs introduce yourself to a stranger, explain how you meet all twelve required qualifications, plus three of the preferred qualifications, and explain why you want to work for this particular wonderful organization that you probably just heard of for the first time. Also, do so in a punchy dynamic way that doesn’t waste anyone’s time because the people sorting through these things don’t have time to read them, anyway. And keep it to one page.
The system sucks.
It’s really amazing that anyone ever gets a job that they’re happy with.
I got my first library job in 2005; my first full-time job in 2008. I was able to use that job to go to library school for only 25% of tuition, beginning in 2011. I finally graduated in 2015 and spent two-and-a-half years applying for jobs across the country before finally landing a better job 1,600 miles away from home. This “better job,” by the way, is STILL not a “professional” librarian job. That’s now more than thirteen years’ experience and three-and-a-half years after my Master’s degree and I still don’t have “Librarian” printed on my official business cards.
Finding a job is hard. No one should blame you if you simply give up and become a Lyft driver, instead. But if you want to stick it out there are opportunities, even if they’re not the ones you dreamed about. In 2017 I moderated a roundtable discussion at the Missouri Library Association’s annual conference called, “Job Seekers’ Support Group: Navigating the Horrible Valley of Library Job Searching.” I had the idea at the 2016 conference when I saw a need as a frustrated library graduate in a dead-end job. When they asked for session ideas for the following year I submitted. Then, I forgot about it. Then, I got a job a third of the way across the country.
While this session wasn’t your traditional conference presentation, I did prepare a few slides for conversation aids. I’ll take the opportunity, here, to elaborate on my points; hopefully to the benefit of everyone.
Hopefully, now that I’ve been able to get a better job than I had when I submitted the session idea gives me some credibility. Hopefully, this post will help someone else struggling to endure in their job search. There is currently no reason for me to look for a job, thankfully, but there likely will come a time when I’m ready to move on and need to enter the fray again. I can only hope that I can remember these lessons when the time comes.
To reiterate, my most important advice that I can give is
I want you to be successful, too. To end I’ll paraphrase the greatest philosopher of my life: Kermit the Frog. Life’s like a movie. Make your own ending. Keep believing. Keep pretending. I did just what I set out to do. You can, too.