The 2023 Job Hunter’s Survey collects information from LIS workers who are currently looking for work, crossing multiple experience levels, specializations, and library types. There are 37 questions, including a special section that asks for information about the length of time taken to find the first post-grad school position (which for some respondents was quite a few years ago). The survey opened on February 2nd, 2023. It will remain open indefinitely, but as of April 11, 2023, there were 434 responses. Most chose to fill it out anonymously, but 30 people did leave contact information. I am posting both individual responses and statistics, as I can get them written up. Given the number of responses, it will most likely take more than a year for me to share them all.
This is the sixth 2023 Job Hunter’s Survey statistics post! Please note I don’t use representative sampling, so it would be inappropriate to draw conclusions about the larger population of LIS Workers as a whole.
In this post, I’m again looking at just one question that I asked job hunters.
What are your job search self-care strategies?
This is an open-ended question, and it’s taking me FOREVER to code all the responses, so I don’t have any charts for you today. But, I did still want to broach the topic. We should talk more about this! Job searching is a tough, soul-grinding activity, even for the most optimistic, sunshine personalities. My thought is I’ll keep slowly working through the answers and then talk about the various groupings I find as I go. Hopefully this will open up more thought and dialogue on the topic. In writing this post I’m realizing that some of the categories I was thinking of as larger groupings are actually only mentioned by a few people. I still think they are worth sharing because they might be useful to folks who are examining their own strategies.
Today I will mention some of the more straightforward strategies/responses (please note that many folks had multiple strategies):
- No response -112 respondents skipped this question (25.8%)
- No strategy/Not sure – mentioned by 34 respondents (7.8%)
- LOL – mentioned by 2 respondents (0.4%)
- Media: TV/movies/video games/YouTube/podcasts… – mentioned by 17 respondents (3.9%)
- Books/Reading – mentioned by 11 respondents (2.5%)
- Therapy/psychological care – mentioned by 14 respondents (3.2%)
- Meditation – mentioned by 6 respondents (1.3%)
- Reward/Treats – mentioned by 7 respondents (1.6%)
- Crying – mentioned by 6 respondents (1.3%)
A quarter of all respondents skipped this question, which seems fairly significant. We don’t have any way of knowing why, of course. It could be because they did not have self-care strategies. However, this was question 28, so it is also possible that the folks who skipped this question did so because of survey fatigue.
No strategy/Not sure and LOL
34 people said they did not employ any self care strategies, or were uncertain about it. 1 person replied “LOL” and another replied “LOL” and followed with “Taking any job I can. Applying for SNAP so I can eat without running up my credit card.” I lump these LOL in with the no strategy answers because it seems like many folks find the idea of self care laughable, impossible, or simply puzzling.
Some of the uncertain folks said things like, “I don’t know what job search self-care would look like.” or “?????” Others were uncertain what self care meant in this context but described a possible strategy, such as “? Hope?” or “There are self-care strategies? No but seriously I’m honestly not practicing them beyond taking weeks where I simply “forget” I should be applying to jobs because my application process is driven by a certain level of desperation right now.” or “Don’t know that I have any beyond stubbornly keeping at it (Healthy, eh?)”
Some folks without strategies also expressed that job hunting had a negative impact. One person replied, “Can’t say I have any. After I have a promising interview that does not go my way, I tend to feel disheartened and do not even want to look for work for a couple of weeks.” Another expressed years of pain, saying, “I should probably get some. At the end of the day, though, years of rejection are really painful, even when you know they have nothing to do with you or your qualifications. I put my life on hold starting at age 25 and… somewhere in there… I turned 40. I’d sacrificed my whole personal life for the job and the job never appeared.”
Like the last respondent, a few folks expressed that even though they didn’t have any strategies, they thought this was something they should pursue, “I don’t have any but I wish I did! If you share the results of this question that would be great :)”
Media: TV/movies/video games/YouTube/podcasts…
17 respondents mentioned various forms of media as a self-care strategy. These ranged from “Play videos to turn my brain off for an hour or so” to “Lots and lots of TV shows and chocolate. Also, looking at cute animals.” to “Reading zines. Watching Murder She Wrote. Walking and enjoying trees and nature.” In general, this is a strategy of distraction, although it also serves to remind folks that there is more to life than job searching, and that this “more” can be funny, engaging, or otherwise enjoyable. It can also be a strategy of social bonding, as with the respondent who said “take breaks and ignore it for a while to focus on schoolwork. talk to my friends and family. watch tv with my housemate.” And of course the bonding need not be with another human, as for the person who responded, “Civ 5, watching movies with my cats, complaining to my friends. Trying to give myself days off from the job search.”
I did pull books/reading out as a strategy separate from Media above, simply because I wanted to know how often LIS workers rely on books for self care. Fewer folks mentioned this narrower category (only 11). Most spoke about books or reading in general terms, although a few did specify type (zines) or genre: “Pilates or watch anime or read fan fiction.” Like Media, Books/Reading might be primarily a distracting tactic. However respondents did call out other specific benefits. One person included books in a list of intellectually stimulating activities, “Weekly therapy, long walks with my dog, regular exercise, staying intellectually stimulated with other activities (books, puzzles, DIY projects, gardening), and lots of socializing with friends and family!” Another called out reading as an activity that helped them de-stress, “read to de-stress, scream into a pillow at being this deep in debt & not able to move out of my parents’ house” And one person who spoke about books put it into the social/bonding context (as well as keeping spirits up) by saying that they had joined a book club: “Following the Stutz ‘life force’ pyramid. I am not spending all my time on job searching, but instead have identified other things that will keep my spirits up while also potentially helping my job search: volunteering (with also turns into a form of networking), joining a book club, working out, exploring my local area, and taking LinkedIn Learning classes to further my expertise in areas of interest. I’m also allowing myself to do the fun stuff I didn’t have time for when I was working 40+hrs/wk and stressed out.”
13 people mentioned therapy but I expanded this category to include Psychological care to be able to add in one more response: “I was finally diagnosed as not neurotypical, which may help long term with my career.” I’m assuming this person saw a psychiatrist, which to me is distinct from therapy. Most folks just included the single word “therapy” but a few were more elaborate. Some specified that they “include job search info when I check in with my therapist.” And one person identified that although they did not go to therapy, they received therapeutic support because “I’m grateful that my wife is a therapist. And one of my dogs thinks they’re a therapy dog.” These answers don’t provide a lot of specifics about how therapy functions as job search self-care, but from my own experience and understanding I might suppose that therapy offers the opportunity to feel support, to work through difficult emotions, and to find coping strategies that are specific to the difficulties of the individual. It is also a regular reminder to take time for oneself, that our thoughts and feelings are important, and worth our time and care.
Six respondents mentioned meditation as a strategy. Two of those mentioned no other strategies. The others mentioned meditation in context with other things, such as, “daily meditation, walks, keeping lists.” Only one of the six mentioned meditation in a spiritual or religious context, “I turn to the support of my religious community. I pray and meditate on the promises of God in the bible. I take some breaks from the job search, too.”
Seven people mentioned using rewards or treats. This was often after a particular task, such as the person who said, “For every three applications I fill out, I reward myself with something small.” Not everyone specified what kinds of rewards or treats were used but they ranged from little things, such as in this response, “Limit myself to applying to jobs only on certain days. Rewarding myself for submitting applications or completing an interview (this can be little things like giving myself time to read for fun during day, taking a long walk, or going to a nice coffee shop).” to more intangible things such as a little break, “Reward myself after an interview (positive or negative) with a little break of a few days so I can do something for myself, like indulge in a hobby, to remind myself that there’s more to life than this bullshit.” or just “something I enjoy.”
Six people specifically mentioned crying; enough that I wanted to separate it into it’s own category. Crying is an expression of despair and loneliness, “I sometimes just sit and cry in front of my computer and hope my wife doesn’t hear me when it happens.” but it also seemed like many who mentioned it were acknowledging a need to process through feelings “Cry when I need to, go to therapy, keep working on other skills.” One person named crying as an expression of their own personality “Crying? I am a very dramatic person.”
If you would like to cry but find it difficult, I recommend this classic song from my favorite childhood album, Free to Be You and Me. It’s Rosey Grier singing, “It’s All Right to Cry” (I grew up in the 80s and 90s, not the 70s, but we had this record).
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