Job Hunter Follow Up Year Two: Sarah Brown

sarah brown job hunterSarah Brown took the Job Hunter’s survey on January 4, 2013.

Her responses appeared as as If you let us know up front, you’ll get quality applicants that you can afford.

We last followed up with her on January 8, 2014.

Your Job

What’s your current work situation?

Employed full time AND part-time

Is this job the same as you had when we followed up with you last year? If not, please describe briefly how you got this new job.

Yes to the FT position. The PT is new. PT position was strictly word of mouth – someone who knows my boss was looking for a evening/weekend librarian. My boss knows I have an interest in academic libraries, and passed the info along. One short phone conversation and an email with my resume later, I was hired. This survey will focus on the FT position.

Is your job commensurate with your skills and experience?

For the most part. I feel it is a good fit with my skill level in every aspect of the job but instruction – this is something I was doing quite a bit at my first job, and something I would like to do again in the future. Unfortunately, I’m not currently gaining much experience with it. Last year I also lamented the lack of supervisor experience in this position, but I was “promoted” to the Page Supervisor eight months into the position, so I’m gaining that experience again.

Is the pay scale higher or lower than you were looking for?

Pay scale is what I would expect (lower than what I ideally think the position should command, but not outrageously so). The problem is the freeze on performance-based raises.

How is your job different from what you thought you might do, when you first embarked on your job hunt?

When I first started looking, I was only looking at museum libraries, since I focused on that type in grad school, and did my internship at a museum library. I was convinced that my strengths lay in reference, instruction and outreach to a museum community. My current job’s main duties revolve around around many of these same things – being a supervisor to paraprofessionals, reference, outreach, and creating library instruction sessions for volunteers to teach – but for the public community.

Have you had a chance to participate in hiring any LIS workers? Any lessons or observations from the experience?

I have been on the hiring committee for two paraprofessional employees. Through this, I’ve learned that competition for these positions is fierce, and that it is important to hire the person, not their experience. Personality goes a long way towards a fulfilling employer/employee relationship. Also, I more fully understand what a great cover letter can do for increasing the chances you’ll at least get an interview.

Have you had a chance to negotiate a raise and/or title change? What was that like?

Unfortunately, no. I’m in a public library, which is part of county administration where I am. There has been a freeze on performance-based raises since for several years (since 2008 I believe). I have taken on more responsibility since I’ve been here – I’ve been “promoted” to a supervisor and have the responsibility that entails (hiring, firing, in charge of building when branch manager is absent, etc), but it is not within the county’s pay structure to give me a new title or move up the pay scale.

What’s the next step for your career?

My career path is not straight. Hopefully my venture into public librarianship will not derail me, and I’ll be able to either get back into academic libraries or get my foot in the door at a museum library soon-ish. My new part-time position is at an academic library, so hopefully that experience will help me make the leap to full time in the future. I’m growing a lot and have gained more experience than I would have thought possible at this public library in the past 1 ½ years. However, I am ready to get into a position where my efforts are geared towards the needs of a more research-based community. I said last year that I planned to stay here for five years, but due to several factors that’s been shortened to three (so another year and a half from now). I plan to spend the next year or two continuing to grow where I am, including completing a state-wide library leadership institute and doing more outreach and program-building for my library system. Then, I’ll start my more focused, less frenetic job search.

Your Perspectives

Was job hunting a positive or negative experience, for the most part?

There were certainly positive aspects to the experience, but the overall was negative. So many hours spent on cover letters, resumes, and applications that disappeared into a HR black hole. It was really mentally rough to not only not get these jobs, or even interviews for these job, but to not even know what I was doing wrong so that I could take steps to fix it.

Would you change your answer to “what’s the secret to getting hired”?

I originally said you needed to be genuine and slightly aggressive. I still think that’s true, but I’ll add to it. Now that I’m not a complete “entry-level” candidate, I’m starting to realize the importance that “knowing someone” and having a good reputation will be in my next search.

Do you have any advice for job hunters and/or library school students?

Don’t block yourself in to one type of librarianship – be open to different types of positions and organizations. Remember that hardly anyone gets their dream job right away – its more important in the long run to start getting professional experience than hold out for the perfect position. That being said, its also important that you interview your interviewers and make sure you think you’ll be at least moderately happy in the position before you accept.

Do you have any advice for hiring managers?

Remember that you can train someone new skills, software, etc. You cannot teach someone to get along with their co-workers, have drive and dedication to the field, etc. Be willing to be a little flexible on that required two years (or more) experience in x type of library. When writing the job announcement, try to really describe the position – some ads have lists of skills a mile long, with no information on how often or in what type of environment those skills will be used. Finally, remember that all your applicants are people that worked hard on their application – at least let them know where they stand when HR says you can.

What’s your ideal work situation?

Ideally, I’d like to work at either a research university or large museum (Smithsonian, National Gallery, Boston MFA, etc). I am pretty flexible with hours, but would really prefer to work evenings or weekends only if there is an event going on – being there just to be there is frustrating for me. Really, my ideal would be a flex schedule, where I could work 9 hour days and have three day weekends every other week, but that’s a long shot. I want to work as a part of a team, and would love to continue doing outreach. I’d like to live and work in a more urban environment – where I can either walk, bike or take public transit for most things. I’m looking at a few ideal cities that meet these requirements – hopefully some positions will become available when I’m ready to get serious about renewing the search.

Anything else you want to tell us?

Can’t think of anything. Thanks for doing this!

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