“every position I’ve had since 2016 when I entered the field has been contract”

Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Please note: this is an anonymous response to an online survey; I do not have any way of contacting the respondent or verifying responses. Their answers may reflect good, bad, or middling job searching practices. I invite you to take what’s useful and leave the rest.

Your Demographics and Search Parameters

How long have you been job hunting?

√ Other: I’m always looking because every position I’ve had since 2016 when I entered the field has been contract

Why are you job hunting?  

√ Looking for more money

√ Looking for a promotion/more responsibility 

√ I want to work at a different type of library/institution 

√ Looking for remote/virtual work (or at least hybrid)

√ My current job is temporary 

√ My current job is boring 

√ I’m worried I will be laid off/let go/fired from my current position 

√ Because I reassessed my priorities after COVID

Where do you look for open positions?  

INALJ, Libgig, LinkedIn, Indeed, SAA/ALA/AAM/HigherEdJobs job boards

What position level are you looking for?  

√ Entry level

√ Requiring at least two years of experience 

√ Other: Independent Contractor

What type(s) of organization are you looking in? 

√ Academic library

√ Archives

√ Other: Museum libraries/archives

What part of the world are you in?

√ Mid-Atlantic US 

What’s your region like? 

√ Urban area 

Are you willing/able to move for employment? 

√ No 

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

Permanence, relevant to my experience/interests, pays enough to live on

How many jobs have you applied to during your current search? (Please indicate if it’s an estimate or exact)

~20 in the last year

What steps, actions, or attributes are most important for employers to take to sell you on the job?  

√ Pay well

√ Having (and describing) excellent benefits

√ Introducing me to staff 

√ Funding professional development 

√ Prioritizing work-life balance

√ Other: Communicating steps of the selection/interview/hiring process promptly and clearly

The Process

How much time do you spend preparing an application packet?

1+ hours per application

What are the steps you follow to prepare an application packet?

Examine job posting, research the institution and its library/archives/collections, tweak base resume for job requirements, write cover letter from scratch, have friends in the field check application materials over 

When would you like potential employers to contact you? 

√ To acknowledge my application

√ To tell me if the search is at the interview stage, even if I have not been selected

√ Once the position has been filled, even if it’s not me

√ Other: If I’m taken out of consideration at ANY point, even if it’s the day after I applied.

How long do you expect an organization’s application process to take, from the point you submit your documents to the point of either an offer or rejection?

I’ve received responses to applications anywhere between a week and six months after submitting material

How do you prepare for interviews?

Review job posting info, rehearse answers to questions I expect, run mock interview with friends/partner

What are your most hated interview questions, and why?

“Why did you leave your previous position?” Because it was contract and the contract ended, like every other job in the field, probably including the one I’m interviewing for when the question is asked

During your current search, have you had any of the following experiences:

  • Submitted an application and got no response  √ Happened the majority of the time or always 
  • Had an interview and never heard back  √ Happened more than once 
  • Interviewed for a job where an internal candidate was eventually chosen  √ Happened more than once 
  • Asked for an accommodation for a disability  √ Not Applicable
  • Withdrawn an application before the offer stage  √ Not Applicable
  • Turned down an offer √ Not Applicable

If you want to share a great, inspirational, funny,  horrific or other story about an experience you have had at any stage in the hiring process, please do so here:

Applied for a position at an academic library you’ve definitely heard of, and one I’d worked at on contract for two years previously. Made it through two stages of interview, spaced out over three months, and waited for two more with no word about scheduling the final round, until I saw the job posting had been resubmitted to all the sites I have on email alert. Emailed the hiring manager to find out what was going on/if I should resubmit, and was told they had chosen another candidate. The renewed job posting was left up for another two months, and then the hiring manager left the institution entirely. The position still isn’t listed on the staff page.

What should employers do to make the hiring process better for job hunters?

Respond as soon as you know an application won’t be moving forward in the process. Don’t leave candidates hanging for months on end because you want to keep the pool open if your xth choice declines the offer.

You and Your Well-Being

How are you doing, generally?

√ I’m somewhat depressed

√ I’m despondent

√ I’m frustrated 

√ I’m running out of money 

What are your job search self-care strategies?

Complain to friends in the field who know the deal; keep myself from getting too excited about any opportunities that open up. 

Job Hunting Post Graduate School 

If you have an MLIS or other graduate level degree in a LIS field, what year did you graduate? (Or what year do you anticipate graduating?)

January 2020

When did you start your first job search for a “professional” position (or other position that utilized your degree)?

√ More than six months before graduating with my MLIS/other LIS degree 

In relation to your graduation, when did you find your first “professional” position?

√ I was actually hired before I graduated 

What kind of work was your first post-graduation professional position? 

√ Part Time

√ Contract 

Did you get support from your library school for your first job hunt (and/or any subsequent ones)?


Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about searching for or finding your first post-graduation position?

I got extremely lucky while I was still in school and had an amazing (part time, project-based contract) job that was exactly what I want to be doing with my degree, and then I completed the contract in December 2019 and graduated directly into the pandemic. When I finally started getting responses to applications after all the hiring freezes finally let up in late 2021, almost all my references had retired or left the field. 

Thanks for reading! You can support this project by joining our Patreon or through any of the other (monetary and non-monetary) methods on this page.

Leave a comment

Filed under 2023 Job Hunter's Survey

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.