Sofía Becerra-Licha took the Job Hunter’s survey on 12/28/2012. Her responses appeared as Be Realistic about How Many Applications Job Seekers are Forced to Put Out. Ms. Becerra had actually just recently concluded her job hunt when she completed the survey.
How long has it been since you got your library degree?
A little over a year (August 2012).
How many years of library work experience do you have?
1 year of professional experience; 2 years of part-time experience as an MSLS student.
How many years of work experience outside of libraries do you have?
1-4, depending on how you count part-time work during my subject master’s. Prior to graduate school, I worked 1 year full-time and then I worked several odd jobs during that master’s program, including serving as a TA 1 year.
Your Job Hunt
How long did it take you before you found your job?
Approximately 10 months.
How many positions did you apply to?
What was your work situation while you were job hunting?
I began job-hunting towards the end of my penultimate semester of full-time coursework in library school. Throughout my search I was either: attending classes full-time and working part-time (months 1-6), working or interning part-time while finishing my master’s paper (months 7-9), or volunteering part-time (month 10, though I originally thought I’d be there longer).
Were you volunteering anywhere?
At the time of my current job offer, I was volunteering at my undergraduate alma mater’s college archives, cataloging VHS tapes.
Did you travel for interviews? If so, who paid?
I traveled for one in-person interview and was reimbursed by the prospective employer.
Did you decline any offers?
What’s your new job?
Project Archivist at Berklee College of Music’s Stan Getz Library.
Is your job full or part time? Permanent or temporary?
Full-time two-year project position.
Did you relocate? If so, who paid?
I paid relocation costs.
How did you find the listing for your job?
The Music Library Association list-serv/website, among other sources. There was a lot of overlap in my job feeds and I honestly can’t quite remember.
Did you meet all of the required qualifications? How many of the desired qualifications?
What was the application process like? How many interviews did you do?
I submitted a résumé and shortly thereafter I was contacted to schedule a Skype interview. After the interview, I was also asked to respond to a follow-up question via email.
How did you prepare for the interview(s)?
I reviewed the job ad against the résumé I had submitted and made sure I could address how I met the desired qualifications, as well as potential weaknesses in my background.
I researched the school online to get a feel for its character and values and how I might fit in here.
I contacted music librarians I knew in the area to ask if they could tell me anything about the position, or their perception of the work culture.
This was my first Skype interview, but I’d used it socially and professionally and I knew from phone interviews that it was likely I wouldn’t be able to hear or see everyone well, so I mentally prepared to be especially conscious of my body language and posture, particularly when asking for clarification.
Even though this was a virtual interview, I still dressed as though it were an in-person interview (and in clothes I knew from practice would look appropriate on screen).
I made sure to place my laptop so that the camera was at eye-level and I set up in a room with a blank wall behind me and good lighting.
During the interview, I had two copies of the résumé I had submitted: one on the desk in front of me and the other thumbtacked to the desk hutch, just above the computer screen (so I could glance at it quickly without looking down).
Did you know anyone in the organization that hired you? If so, how?
Is your job commensurate with your skills, experience and expectations?
What do you think was the biggest obstacle in your job hunt? How did you overcome it?
I was interested in music library/archives positions, but the majority of my library/archives work experience wasn’t in a traditional archives and I technically had no music library work experience per se.
I’m not sure I ever successfully overcame the former deficiency for non-music archives positions, but in general I tried to emphasize my subject knowledge (I have graduate and undergraduate degrees in music in addition to the MSLS), the transferrable skills from my public services assistantship (most of which I draw upon on a daily basis on the job now), and the music and archives experiences I actively sought out (field experience, volunteer work, and a second assistantship). If I hadn’t been offered my current job, I was actively planning to seek out additional volunteer work to continue skill-building in these areas.
What set you apart from the other applicants? Why did they hire you?
I think having a music background helped, but I’m honestly not sure what truly set me apart in the end. I’m pretty sure I was the only non-local candidate and the only Skype interview.
State of the Job Market
Has job hunting been a positive or negative experience, for the most part?
I’m fortunate that my current end-result was positive, but overall it was a grueling and demoralizing process.
Would you change your answer to “what’s the secret to getting hired”?
If you took the Job Hunter’s Survey some time in the last year and are interested in doing a follow-up, even anonymously, please contact me at hiringlibrarians AT gmail.