Back in 2012/2013 I ran a survey of job hunters (co-authored by Naomi House of INALJ). It had over 500 responses, including 117 people who were at least initially willing to be non-anonymous. In this series, we check in with these respondents to see where they are about a decade later.
Jessica Olin filled out the original survey in 2013 and her answers appeared as Being Yourself at Every Stage of the Process, But the Best Version of Yourself. At the time, she had just finished her job search, landing in a position as Director of the Robert H. Parker Library at Wesley College in Dover, Delaware. You may recognize her name as she was also the author of the popular blog, Letters to a Young Librarian (2011-2019).
She is no longer in libraries, and her jump to project management has provided good work-life balance and a feeling of being appreciated. She was kind enough to answer my questions below.
Where are you now? What’s your work situation like, and what path did you take to get where you are?
I’m a project coordinator at a large-ish telecom company. I mostly work from home, using computer equipment that was provided by my employer. I work with some great people, but best of all: I’m not in charge of anyone anymore. I work with people who all seem to appreciate my opinions and the value I bring. Plus I only work 40 hours per week. It’s great! The path I took to get here consisted mostly of finding a tech recruiter who saw my transferable skills for what they are and then found an opportunity that suited.
Were any parts of your journey completely unexpected?
The part where I got laid off from libraries and needed to decide whether to move to stay in the same field or find a new career to stay in the same area.
Looking over your past answers, what pops out at you? Has anything changed?
The biggest thing that’s changed is that I’m no longer in the field. I’m still a little bitter about how it happened (getting laid off the way I did, towards the beginning of the pandemic, was kind of a nightmare) but I’m much happier out of libraries than I had been for a long time.
Have you had a chance to hire anyone? If so, what was that like?
I was the director at two different academic libraries, and at one of them it felt like I was constantly in the process of hiring/interviewing/on-boarding. It’s a difficult process, especially when you’re not only dealing with the task of presenting the institution and yourself to best advantage but also the vagaries of internal politics.
Do you have any advice for job hunters?
My old advice still stands (“Being yourself at every stage of the process, but the best version of yourself.”), but also remember you’re interviewing the institution as much as they’re interviewing you. You should be looking for whether or not the place is a good fit for you, not just the other way around. True, it can be hard to stick to that when you really need a job and sometimes any job is better than no job, but toxic work environments can hurt you for years even if you leave. There are good, even great, libraries out there. You deserve to work at one of those.
Do you have any advice for people who hire LIS folks?
More transparency at every stage. I’m a huge fan of the trend of giving people interview questions to candidates ahead of the interview. Also, be willing to pay for transportation ahead of time instead of just reimbursing.
Anything else you’d like to tell us?
A librarian really is a project manager, and I know plenty of people who made the same or similar transitions as the one I made. Not everyone will see “librarian” on a resume and agree, but the right position will.