Chosen as an ALA Emerging Leader, but I’m still struggling to find a decent position.

ConDev5378A Hunting Dog, 1945, Washington County, NCThis anonymous interview is with a job hunter who is currently employed (even if part-time or in an unrelated field), has not been hired within the last two months, and has been looking for a new position for more than 18 months. This person is looking in academic, public, and special libraries as well as non-librarian jobs in related fields such as technology project management. at the following levels: entry level, requiring at least two years of experience.

This job hunter is in an urban area in the Southern US, and is willing to move to many places

What are the top three things you’re looking for in a job?

– Interesting, varied duties
– Reasonable opportunities for growth/advancement
– Staff commitment to the mission of the organization

Where do you look for open positions?

ALA Joblist,,, regional/state listserves

Do you expect to see salary range listed in a job ad?

√ Yes, and it’s a red flag when it’s not

What’s your routine for preparing an application packet? How much time do you spend on it?

For every cover letter, I copy and paste the requirements from the job description into my word document so that I can check them off as I address them in the letter. I generally use the same CV/resume for all positions, and just look over it once a month or so or when I know I have something to add.

How long this takes really depends on the position. I never completely reuse a letter for more than one application, but since many positions have similar requirements I can often reuse chunks from previous letters and that will speed things up. Maybe 1 to 1.5 hours if I’m starting from scratch.

Have you ever stretched the truth, exaggerated, or lied on your resume, or at some other point during the hiring process?

√ No

When would you like employers to contact you?

√ To acknowledge my application
√ To tell me if I have or have not been selected to move on to the interview stage
√ Once the position has been filled, even if it’s not me

How do you prefer to communicate with potential employers?

√ Email

Which events during the interview/visit are most important to your assessment of the position (i.e. deciding if you want the job)?

√ Meeting department members/potential co-workers
√ Meeting with HR to talk about benefits/salary

What do you think employers should do to get the best candidates to apply?

Advertise broadly, allow a reasonable time frame for submission of application materials, and keep the process as straightforward as possible.

For example, if your employment/application site asks me to input my last ten years of employment history, please let me know whether I need to actually do that or if you are just going to get that information from my CV. Those things can take HOURS and I always secretly suspect that no one is looking at anything but the cover letter/CV.

What should employers do to make the hiring process less painful?

Just communicate more and be as clear as possible about the process and time frames / where you are in the search. I once received a response from a library where I had applied around the holidays explaining what their holiday closure schedule was and how the search committee would not be meeting until after the start of the year. This was SO NICE. I know that many jobs receive huge amounts of applicants, but little communications like this are incredibly helpful and make the process less stressful. I’d settle for a simple email letting me know that I’m no longer in consideration.

Additionally, being as clear as possible about salary points. I understand the reasons why you might not post a salary range in the advertisement, but this information should really be communicated by the time you are inviting candidates to interview.

What do you think is the secret to getting hired?

I’ve served on a few search committees so I feel like I have a better perspective on the process than a lot of entry level candidates, and this has helped me take rejections much less personally. So much of it seems to come down to the personalities of the people on the search committee, or intangible aspects of “fit” that no one can predict. I find this to be unfortunate and wish that more positions were filled strictly on the professional merits of the candidates, but that’s how things are. A lot of it is luck, or knowing someone within the organization who can help you navigate this tricky “fit” stuff.

Do you have any comments, or are there any other questions you think we should add to this survey?

I’ve been in a contract position since finishing library school that ends in a few months. The budget situation at my current employer is such that they will likely not be able to offer me continuing employment past the end of my contract.

In my first job search right out of school, I was very idealistic about the kind of “academically significant” career I wanted to have. However, the past 3+ years of pretty much consistently job searching have really beaten me down. I’ve done pretty much everything “right,” moved for the first good opportunity that presented itself, focused on getting good experiences in a variety of roles, published and presented, stayed professionally involved and was even chosen as an ALA Emerging Leader, but I’m still struggling to find a decent position.

At this point I would be happy with something that is just stable and not a complete dead-end. It’s sad to say that, but I’ve come to realize that opportunities for the kind of work that I initially wanted to do are so few and far between that I am unlikely to be happy with the rest of my life if I try to hold out for one of these.

Are you hunting for a new LIS job? Take the survey!

This survey was co-authored by Naomi House from I Need A Library Job – Do you need one? Check it out!

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Filed under Job hunter's survey, Southern US, Urban area

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