Waiting Professional Man

My Worst Job Interview Experience, Part 1

Do not apply for a job at the University of Cincinnati.

It took me two-and-a-half years to get a job after I started looking for professional positions. In November of 2015 I was invited to interview with the University of Cincinnati’s (UC’s) main library, Langsam. I, of course, was very excited. I was almost a year into my job search and hadn’t landed anything yet so to be considered for this position was heartening.

Earlier in the year I’d been asked to interview at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. This was my first time being flown out to interview for a job, and the experience was nothing but pleasant. They paid for my flights, put me up in a hotel for two nights, took me out for a meal, arranged my ground travel, and everyone I met or dealt with was kindly and professional. Even though the position was not a “professional” librarian position they still treated me like I was a “professional” with all the respect and dignity that that word implies in the academic librarian context.

You can imagine that when UC called to offer me an in-person interview I had a certain set of expectations. It was a little odd, then, when UC said that I’d have to pay for my travel to be reimbursed later after the interview. “Well, okay, that’s fair. I guess.” I thought. The sense of oddness grew to disappointment when they refused to pay for a second night in the hotel. I’d have to pay for that myself. At the time I was making less than $25k a year. It would have been fiscally prohibitive for me to have an extra night in a hotel room. So now, I knew that no matter what I did, I’d have to travel and interview on the same day.

These reservations aside, I was still excited for the chance to interview, and I dutifully began making my arrangements. Because I was having the foot the bill for my air travel myself I took the cheapest flights I could manage for my time schedule. This meant that I’d leave the day before the interview and fly from St. Louis, to Chicago, and then down to Cincinnati. Then, the next day I would have a half-day interview before getting a flight from Cincinnati, back to Chicago, back to St. Louis. Overland that’s 594 miles, one way, for cities that are only about 355 miles apart. I will never understand airline economics. How is it cheaper for the airline for me to do that than to fly directly? I’ll never know.

STL-CHI-CIN
An overland map of my flight path because Google Maps won’t allow you to daisy-chain flight directions.

That was November and my interview was in early December. As we got closer to the interview date I began to learn more about what was to come, or not come, as it were. It became clear that there would be no shared meal, and I was told that “a shuttle would be provided” for my ground transportation from the airport. So, no one from the library was going to be meeting me. If you’ve never been there, the primary Cincinnati airport (CVG) is not in Ohio, but Kentucky. It’s at least a thirty minute drive from the airport to the University on whose property my hotel was.

Flash forward to the two days of the interview trip. I, of course, have had to take vacation days for this — another cost to me on top of the flights, albeit a normal and expected one. At 8:30 in the morning (Central) I got on the Metrolink with my luggage and proceeded to the airport for my flights. I don’t know now the sequence of events, but there was some relatively short delay in either St. Louis or Chicago and by the time I got on the plane in Chicago and we got in the air I was well stressed out. The flight between Chicago and Cincinnati is only about an hour, give or take, but the attendants still proceeded with the drink orders. I was ready for a drink and asked for a whiskey on the rocks. The attendant huffed a little and excused herself, because she didn’t have the machine to process my debit card. Prior to her leaving, though, she poured my drink. Then, just as she got to the front of the plan, “Bong!” goes the intercom before the pilot asks the attendants to secure the cabin for landing.

whiskey-clipart-whisky-glass-clip-art_418920That’s right. Free booze.

I still had plenty of time to finish my drink before landing and did so dutifully. We were approximately forty-five minutes late getting into CVG. Not terrible; and besides, a shuttle had been provided for me. I made my way through the airport. On the way to baggage claim I saw several drivers with signs expecting passengers. None of them had my name on them, nor did any indicate UC. So, I kept walking and looking for my shuttle driver. I had one bag checked and since it was after 6:00 PM (Eastern) in northern Kentucky there wasn’t much air traffic so it didn’t take long for my bag to arrive. Picking up my bag I next went out to the ground transportation area to continue the search for my shuttle.

Remember the oddness and disappointment I felt earlier in the process? I was now starting to approach genuine concern. Still, there was no UC shuttle. I knew I was staying at a Marriott and I saw a Marriott shuttle. I walked up to the driver and told him where I was needing to go and he shook his head saying in his thick accent “No. Not that Marriott. Airport Marriott only.” I thanked him and walked back toward the building. There were two other shuttle companies represented out there, that night. I approached both of them while they were chatting and smoking, but neither of them acted like they were expecting anyone, or in anyway acted like I was a potential customer, so, I gave up on them and went inside. Concern was turning to panic.

This whole time I was calling and emailing my one-and-only UC contact and checking my emails searching increasingly desperately for more clues or information about the shuttle that was to be provided. There was nothing. Only “a shuttle will be provided” was the information given to me. Inside the terminal I found an information desk with a kindly white-haired man posted to it. “I’m sorry. That’s not the kind of information I have.” He said, sympathetically.

At that time, one of us noticed a young man in a UC jacket standing by himself. I went to him and explained my situation. “I’m sorry,” he said, “I’m waiting for someone else.” I paused for a moment awaiting an offer of help in my plight. None came.

You can imagine how I felt at this point. It had been over eight hours of travel by train and plane for a trip that would have taken me five-and-a-half hours if I had just driven my own car. I was in a foreign airport outside of a foreign city with no one but myself to get me out of this situation. I was tired. I was hungry. I was angry. I was confused. I was scared. The University of Cincinnati had abandoned me at the airport. I did the only thing I could do in this situation. I got a cab that took me to the hotel which I paid for with my own money. “A shuttle will be provided,” rang in my ears.

The University of Cincinnati had abandoned me at the airport.

I get to the hotel, check in to my room, call my wife and regale her with my thus far harrowing story after which I head downstairs to the hotel restaurant. By this time it’s after 8:00 in the evening and I essentially had the restaurant to myself. I decide to treat myself after a long day and order something expensive-ish and a Manhattan, straight-up. Since I was the only customer the waitress and I were talking and I told her about my day. She was very sympathetic and earned a good tip. After a little while my drink came out and I started to sip it. On the second sip I realized that it was, in fact, a very pleasant Old Fashioned I was drinking and not a Manhattan. Right about the same time the waitress and the bartender came rushing over to my table to apologize for the mix up. This was hardly the worst thing that had happened to me that day and I took it in good humor. “Do you still want the Manhattan?” They asked. “We won’t charge you for it.”

13_1789356531_l“Yes.” I said. “I’d like that, very much.”

Free booze, twice in one day.

After dinner, I went back up to my room. I took some time to rehearse my presentation before heading to bed. But already I’m remembering that job interviews are your opportunity to interview your would-be employer as much as they are interviewing you. Thus far, UC had done nothing, nothing, to ingratiate themselves to me. In fact, they hadn’t treated me with any respect at all. Did they really want me, or not? Did they treat all their candidates this way? Did they consider this to be a “professional” position, or something less? If this is how they treat their candidates, how do they treat their employees? Did I really even want this job anymore? These are the thoughts I was having as the booze, food, and exhaustion took me off to sleep.

Continued in Part 2: Getting Out of Ohio

book and red wine on a marble table

I’m Fully Staffed Again!, or, I Needed a Drink

Recently, a candidate accepted a job offer to work for me. This means that for the first time since the end of June I’m fully staffed in my department. Prior to that I was fully staffed for 4-6 weeks, maybe. Other than that, from October 2017-May 2018 I was down one or more positions in my department. That’s most of my first fifteen months in this job. That’s not to mention my hiring manager who sought other opportunities after my first seven months and is not being directly replaced. Of the six positions under me I have now hired five of them, all five of whom are still in their year-long (!) probationary period which will require three performance evaluations each through their eleventh month on the job.

Now, no one is allowed to leave for two years, minimum.

I’m nailing them to their desks, dammit.

I’m tired of this crap.

Don’t get my wrong. I’ve got a great staff, now, of which I’m very proud, and I think our new edition is going to fold in nicely. But while I’ve gained a TON of experience in employee recruitment, it is not one of my favorite tasks. In particular, I hate reading through the cover letters and resumes, although it does give me plenty of opportunities to be judgemental, which is always nice.

  • Why did you put that comma there?
  • Don’t tell me about your reading habits. I don’t care!
  • Yes, it’s great that you volunteered as a puppy petter for three years, but how does that help you deal with an angry patron at nine o’clock in the evening?
  • So, you’re just looking for any job that’s not your current one, then?
  • “Library” has two “R’s,” thank you.

Okay, going trough the resumes and cover letters I find annoying, but the worst part, the absolute worst part is having to call that finalist and tell them that you went to the other candidate. I had to do this, again, and this time there were tears. Not blubbering and wailing (I’d guess that came after we hung up) but quiet disappointed tears. That was the absolute worst. While I’m confident I made the right choice, I felt like a terrible person. There was booze later.

In my earliest blog posts I concentrated on my job search. I did that because I really didn’t have anything else other than the persistent Hell that was my old job. I’ve been in this job less than two years and I still feel like a new-hire in a lot of ways. I also still remember what it feels like to be a job seeker and how frustrating that whole process is. Because of that memory and some of the horrible experiences I’ve had made a particular effort to be sure that I treat all of my applicants with as much respect and dignity as possible. Anyone that I give a telephone interview to gets an email response of a thanks-but-no-thanks that is either generally or specifically encouraging. Anyone who is brought in or otherwise gets a second interview gets a phone call from me, personally. Again, the phone call is personal, supportive, and encouraging.

These are small acts, but so many would-be employers don’t bother. When you have dozens of applicants for a position it’s not practical to email each of them individually, obviously. Hopefully, HR informs them eventually of their status, but many times they don’t. No one should ever be left to guess what their status is for any open position. Job searching can be such a bleak and horrible valley. It is an undignified chore, regardless of your skills or qualifications. It really doesn’t take much to treat others with even the smallest amount of respect; the respect they deserve.

book and red wine on a marble table

Obligatory Weekly Update

Not much has been going on. The second week of the semester is over and I feel like we’ve settled in.

DeLyle was here for about twenty-four hours on Tuesday and Wednesday for a job interview on campus. Our fingers are crossed but her would-be supervisor said outright that she’d never supervised anyone older than her and was looking for someone to mentor,* so our hopes aren’t up too much.

My sister is in Florida in the run-up to Hurricane Irma, but last I heard from Mom was that they’re going to be leaving before the storm gets there**.

Oh, my sister got married and went to Florida for her honeymoon. I wasn’t able to attend.

I have two employee evaluations due in the next few weeks. This is something that I’m still learning how to do. I’d done one last month, but as the sidekick. This next one I’m the leader and my boss is the sidekick, then the third one is all me.

It’s less than a month before I go back to St. Louis for the MLA conference and visit with my family.

Somewhere in the back of my brain I’m putting together a post about communication and mentoring from supervisors. It’s still percolating, though. I’ll have something more substantial to post in a few days, I hope.

I’m sorry this post is so lame.***


*This is probably illegal ageism.

**She just posted on Facebook that they’re on their way home now.

***No, really, I am.

Announcing, Live, and In Person…

JobSeekersSupportGroup

ME!

Today, I confirmed that I will, indeed, be appearing at this year’s Missouri Library Association Conference moderating the JOB SEEKERS’ SUPPORT GROUP.

The description I submitted to them reads as follows.

Librarianship is a very competitive field to break in to. There are many more applicants than open positions and the struggle to achieve one’s career goals is extremely stressful. This breakout session is a round-table discussion opportunity for soon-to-be or recent graduates, or anyone else on the job market to come together to ask questions, commiserate, or share stories about their experiences. We can share stories about our success and failures, frustrations and hopes. It will give job seekers a place to show that they’re not alone in their search and hopefully provide helpful information to shorten their search. Questions that may be addressed: What happens in an all-day academic library interview? How soon should thank-you’s be sent? What is the difference between a CV and a Resume? What does “pay commensurate with experience” mean? What constitutes “professional experience”? How do you handle awkward moments? Etc. This will be an open forum for anyone to contribute to in a safe environment.

While I’ll be able to regale the room with stories of my own failures and lessons, as well as the positives of my 2.5 year job search, I’m hoping to provide some insight*, yes, but mostly I’m hoping to provide a safe space for people to come together and openly discuss their fears, frustrations, and experiences. It is an opportunity for us to learn from each other. If you’re attending the conference, this year, feel free to stop me and say “Hi.” I’ll be there all three days and can’t wait to see some familiar faces.

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*DISCLAIMER: I am not a licensed therapist. I have no degrees in psychology or any behavioral science. I have no experience working in human resources. I’m simply a librarian who was extremely frustrated when he had the idea for this session and saw the need for it.

Life Is Funny, Sometimes

Last year, while attending the Missouri Library Association’s (MLA) annual conference in Springfield, MO, on the last day I had an idea.

There should be a session for job seekers to come together and share their experiences. It could be support group for people to share the struggles and encouragements of the job searching process.

I tweeted this idea out using the conference hashtag and got the largest positive response to anything I’d posted over the course of the conference. Clearly, I was on to something.

Missouri is peculiar in that they have two state-wide library conferences. MLA’s is in October, and the other one, the MOBIUS Annual Conference, happens in June. When the call for sessions for the MOBIUS conference came out in the winter I jumped on the chance and submitted my Job Seeker’s Support Group idea to them, only to be denied the chance. Later, in the spring, I submitted the idea again when MLA called for sessions.

Then, I forgot about it.

Then, I moved to Las Vegas.

Then, yesterday, I received notice that my session proposal for MLA has been accepted.

Yay!

130e8o

and Hah!

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The good news is that I can present a session at a professional conference, and that since I’ve recently taken a better job after years of searching I will have some authority on the matter.

The bad news is that since I’m new to this job and it’s 1,600 miles away from the St. Louis conference location I don’t know that I’ll be able to do it.

I’ve opened talks with my superiors to see if this is possible, and I suspect that it might be. I don’t think there is a downside to me attending a non-Nevada statewide conference as a UNLV representative. It’s good for me to get the experience and CV line, and it’s good for them as a function of outreach. My biggest fear is that I’ll have to choose between doing MLA in October and the Access Services Conference in November. I really want to do both but don’t know if that will be possible.

So, fingers crossed for getting to add to the fabulous experience that is MLA.

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