R.C. Miessler took the Job Hunter’s survey on January 13, 2013.
His responses appeared as Check Out the Library/Institution (and the City) on Wikipedia.
How long has it been since you got your library degree?
I graduated in December 2012, so 2 years.
How many years of library work experience do you have?
Less than 2, I didn’t start working in a library until my last year of school.
How many years of work experience outside of libraries do you have?
How old are you?
Your Job Hunt
How long did it take you before you found your job?
I applying for librarian jobs in April 2012, so pretty much 2 years on the nose.
How many positions did you apply to?
How many interviews did you go on?
14 first round, 8 second round.
What was your work situation while you were job hunting?
In school for 6 months of the job hunt, and also working 60 hours a week between 2 jobs.
Were you volunteering anywhere?
Yes, in an academic library where I got my first master’s degree. That led to a part-time position there. I also volunteered for INALJ.
Did you travel for interviews? If so, who paid?
Yes. When I had to stay overnight, my rooms were taken care of by each institution, but only two institutions reimbursed me for travel expenses (and for one of those institutions, I had 3 on-site interviews for 2 different positions and only got reimbursed for 1 trip, so go figure).
Did you decline any offers?
I declined one part-time position as it wasn’t a good fit and didn’t pay enough.
What’s your new job?
Systems Librarian at Gettysburg College.
Is your job full or part time? Permanent or temporary?
Full time, permanent.
Did you relocate? If so, who paid?
Yes, from Indiana to Pennsylvania. The college reimbursed me for most of my expenses.
How did you find the listing for your job?
I’m pretty sure I found it via a listserv posting, it might have been on my radar via the ALA JobLIST as well. I wasn’t looking to relocate to PA so I wasn’t actively looking on PA job sites.
Did you meet all of the required qualifications? How many of the desired qualifications?
All of the required, 3 of the desired.
What was the application process like? How many interviews did you do?
It was an online application system, which I normally despise, but it was better than most of them. I had one phone interview, one on-campus interview.
How did you prepare for the interview(s)?
I studied the library’s strategic plan, as well as the college’s curriculum, and spent a lot of time reading up on digital humanities. I also read Engard & Gordon’s The Accidental Systems Librarian (2nd ed.) and Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think (Revisited), and reread The Killer Angels since I was getting the chance to visit Gettysburg.
Did you know anyone in the organization that hired you? If so, how?
Is your job commensurate with your skills, experience and expectations?
I believe so. What I don’t know, I’ve been willing and able to learn. It’s been a great fit for me.
Is the pay scale higher or lower than you were looking for?
A little higher than I expected, and very thankful for that.
What do you think was the biggest obstacle in your job hunt? How did you overcome it?
Relocating was one of the bigger obstacles. I didn’t really want to relocate, and if I did, it had to be somewhere that I really wanted to be and vice versa. The lousy job market didn’t help either.
What set you apart from the other applicants? Why did they hire you?
I think my strong general background in technology, IT support and intellectual curiosity were big factors. As much as I hated doing retail and call center work at times, I did get a lot of useful experience. I would say they had pity on me … but I think overall they hired me because I was a good fit for the position, library and college.
State of the Job Market
What’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve seen on a job announcement?
Any announcement that asks for letters of reference up front is ridiculous. There were a couple of jobs I didn’t apply for because of that requirement, not because I couldn’t get them, but it puts a burden on my references to have to create a generic letter and send it out, when an email or phone call after the fact is more effective and tailored towards a candidate. Overall, I think that most job announcements are too jargon-y and full of buzzwords, and need to be written like a human is reading them.
What was your favorite interview question? What was the worst?
Nothing stands out as a favorite, but I enjoy questions that let me tell a story why I am passionate about doing something and invite follow-up from the interviewers. I think a conversation works a lot better than a canned list of questions, and I was able to have real conversations in some cases (including the interviews for my current job). As for worst, super-generic questions that get asked at most interviews are awful. I think this post from The Oatmeal sums up my feelings: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/interview_questions
Any good horror stories for us?
One on-site interview involved several group interviews throughout the day, I think I met about 100 people and it was incredibly overwhelming. After my presentation one of the faculty at the presentation was very aggressive in their questioning and I kind of just deflated, and they weren’t involved with the hiring committee in any way, so it was kind of pointless to be putting me through the wringer like that. Another on-site interview tried to keep me away from the person I would have been replacing, but they found me anyway, and it was a rather odd and uncomfortable moment of my day.
Has job hunting been a positive or negative experience, for the most part?
I was fortunate enough to have jobs during my job hunt, and managers who knew my career path and were willing to let me take time off for interviews and even serve as a reference. There were a few hiring committee chairs who also took some time to talk to me about the interview, after I didn’t get the job, to encourage me to keep looking and to not settle for anything less than a professional librarian position. But it’s an incredibly discouraging process overall.
Would you change your answer to “what’s the secret to getting hired”?
I really think it’s right place, right time, along with hundreds of other intangibles that can’t be quantified, so I guess the secret is, there is no one secret to getting hired, and if there were, it would constantly change. Ask 10 employed librarians how to get a librarian job, you get 20 answers, and none of them are right for everyone. They might have worked for them, but like all job seeking advice, take it with a grain of salt. You get lucky with the right opportunity, right hiring managers, and how you present yourself. As I found, even knowing the people involved in the hiring process doesn’t guarantee anything. I really hate to say that willingness to relocate is important, since not everyone can for various reasons, but it does open up options. Casting a wider net just helps statistically, it doesn’t say anything about your work ethic or personality. It’s really easy to get discouraged, angry, cynical, etc. about finding a job as a librarian, and that’s ok. Persistence, a sense of humor, and a good support group are vital.
Anything else you want to tell us?
If you work for a non-profit and have federal student loans, see if you qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.