Rebecca M. Gordon, PhD, is a moving image archivist and film/media studies scholar. She is currently wrapping up documentation and final reports for her work as the Systems Manager for the Sara Gómez film restoration and preservation project at Queen’s University’s Vulnerable Media Lab in Kingston, Ontario. Her scholarship appears in PUBLIC, The Journal of Film and Media Studies, Film Quarterly, The Journal of Reception Studies, Film Philosophy, and several collections.
Your Demographics and Search Parameters
How long have you been job hunting?
√ Less than six months
Why are you job hunting?
√ This is the next step after finishing library/archives/other LIS graduate degree
√ I need more flexibility in my schedule (to care for dependents or otherwise)
Where do you look for open positions?
ArchivesGig, LinkedIn, SAA, Society for Cinema and Media Studies, AMIA, Seattle Area Archivists
What position level are you looking for?
√ Entry level
√ Requiring at least two years of experience
√ Department Head
√ Clerk/Library Assistant
√ Other: Intern! — archives/libraries/museums/galleries were shut during Covid so I’m still trying to get hands-on applied experience to go with the theory
What type(s) of organization are you looking in?
√ Academic library
√ Public library
√ Special library
√ Other: Museum, National Parks Service, Government Archives
What part of the world are you in?
√ Other: Pacific Northwest and Canada
What’s your region like?
√ Urban area
√ Suburban area
√ Rural area
Are you willing/able to move for employment?
√ Yes, within my state
√ Yes, within my country
√ Yes, to a specific list of places
√ Yes, as long as at least some of my moving costs are covered
√ Other: I’ll move anywhere from Alaska south to Southern California and east to the Rockies, but I have to be close enough for elderly parent emergency travel
What are the top three things you’re looking for in a job?
Not Toxic, Sense of Purpose Shared by 85%+ of Colleagues, Unionized
How many jobs have you applied to during your current search? (Please indicate if it’s an estimate or exact)
What steps, actions, or attributes are most important for employers to take to sell you on the job?
√ Having (and describing) excellent benefits
√ Introducing me to staff
√ Having a good reputation
√ Funding professional development
√ Prioritizing EDI work
√ Other: Are honest about any problems in the organization that are already public knowledge
Do you expect to see the salary range listed in a job ad?
√ Yes, and it’s a red flag when it’s not
Other than not listing a salary range, are there other “red flags” that would prevent you from applying to a job?
Yes: if the person in charge is someone with a bad reputation from their previous position; if I’m told I don’t qualify but I’m the only one who applied and my qualifications *do* match the advert; there isn’t a deadline on the job ad but I apply and receive an email saying the position is no longer available
How much time do you spend preparing an application packet?
10-12 hours, depending on the job
What are the steps you follow to prepare an application packet?
Read the job ad carefully and highlight areas that are in my wheelhouse and those I’ll need to stretch to fulfill; Refresh my resume or CV; write a cover letter that addresses the highlighted bits; Refresh my list of references depending on the job; Refresh my DEI statement if one is required
How do you prefer to communicate with potential employers?
√ Other: both phone and email are fine
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
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?
depends; one to three months is fair for a serious job; three to six months is normal for an academic position unless something goes wrong, in which case I hope the candidates, including me, would be informed
How do you prepare for interviews?
I try to review what the organization needs; I am working hard on preparing succinct answers are about how I can serve/fill the needs of the organization
What are your most hated interview questions, and why?
The ones that ask me to talk about myself so they can get to know me: I have a weird, long background; I’m working on that elevator pitch (see above) so I don’t fall into a trap of my own making
During your current search, have you had any of the following experiences:
- Submitted an application and got no response √ Happened more than once
- 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 √ Happened more than once
- Turned down an offer √ Happened more than once
If you have ever withdrawn an application, why?
I was offered another job and was going to be asked to pay for my own travel for an on-campus interview
If you’ve turned down an offer (or offers), why?
I was offered another job and didn’t want to move to where that job was (though in retrospect, that was probably a stupid decision)
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:
Oh man. I was a Fulbright Fellow in Managua, Nicaragua, and scored an on-campus interview in January in Northfield, Minnesota. I accepted, and asked if I could have a day to go to the Mall of America to get a winter coat and some snow boots, and maybe other appropriate clothes. They asked me why. The search later failed, and no one told me so until I called and asked. Later, the person who had told me about the job said, “Yeah, I knew that one might be trouble.” — To which I replied, very curtly, “WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT? That is unconscionable behavior.”
What should employers do to make the hiring process better for job hunters?
Be super transparent. If they know that there’s going to be an HR hiccup, lay out in the job ad what hiccups might occur that are not the fault of the search committee, but could well occur. Lay out from the get-go what kinds of professional development training will, could, or will never be supported — and supported I mean both “paid for” and “understood to be important”
You and Your Well-Being
How are you doing, generally?
√ I’m maintaining
√ I’m somewhat depressed
√ I’m running out of money
√ Not out of money yet, but worried
What are your job search self-care strategies?
long walks, informational interviews, check-ins with my AMIA mentor(s), ask over and over and over and over again about volunteering and interning
Do you have any advice or words of support you’d like to share with other job hunters, is there anything you’d like to say to employers, or is there anything else you’d like to say about job hunting?
I was the Precarious Labor Organization Representative to the Board of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies for three years (2019-2022); the main thing I’d say to job hunters is for the love of God organize: join a union, or see if your professional organization has a precarious labor or contingent labor organization. And please don’t let yourself be siloed–be aware of what at LEAST one other professional organization is doing with/for its job hunters. And apply for NEH Summer Institutes! They’re awesome.
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?)
2022 coursework done; June 2023 is the graduation date
When did you start your first job search for a “professional” position (or other position that utilized your degree)?
√ Less than six months before graduating with my MLIS/other LIS degree, but still before I graduated
In relation to your graduation, when did you find your first “professional” position?
√ Hasn’t happened yet – I’m still looking
What kind of work was your first post-graduation professional position?
√ Other: Residency, I extended my MA residency for a few months because there was work to be done and funding for it, but I also was teaching two courses for the Film & Media Dept at the university where I was doing my residency
Did you get support from your library school for your first job hunt (and/or any subsequent ones)?
No — wasn’t a library school though: Toronto Metropolitan University’s Film + Photography Preservation & Collections Management program
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about searching for or finding your first post-graduation position?
…well, I’m glad I already spent 20+ years of my life with an English/Film Studies PhD looking for jobs in *that* field; this feels very familiar