Ashley Stevens is a 2011 graduate of the joint M.A./M.L.I.S. program at the University of South Carolina. Currently, she works as an Archives Technician for the National Archives in Philadelphia as a part of the Reference and Education departments. Upon graduation, she worked as a contract Archives Technician for one year at Death Valley National Park. Prior to being hired at NARA (within the last two months), she had been looking for a new position for six months to a year, in Academic libraries, Archives, Library vendors/service providers, Public libraries, and Special libraries, at the following levels: entry level and requiring at least two years of experience. Here is how she describes her internship/volunteering experience:
I interned at the National Archives and Records Administration for a summer. And, I volunteered for a couple of months after graduating and I had not job. I volunteered in order to remain active in the field and make connections.
Prior to being hired, Ms. Stevens was in a city/town in the Southern US and was willing to move anywhere. To learn more about her, check out her website at http://www.ashleydstevens.com.
What are the top three things you’re looking for in a job?
I ask myself a series of questions when looking at job announcements.
1.) Do I have the skills to do this job?
2.) Would I like to do this job?
3.) How much does this job pay?
These aren’t ranked in the order that I ask myself these questions. But, question #2 is VERY important to me. Unlike most archivists, I like doing reference as well as any educational and outreach stuff. If a job includes some aspect of that I’m more likely to apply to the job. I do my research on the institution to get a sense of the environment. If they support it and do frequent activities or events I’ll definitely apply.
The other part to this question is I don’t waste my time applying for jobs that, if they called me, I would not take or I would begrudgingly take if I had no other options. It only increases the challenge for me to really sell that I want the job in the cover letter. And, do the same song and dance if I got an interview. More importantly, I think to myself that this could be someone’s dream job. It could be exactly what they want to do and, if I got the job, I would deign to take it.
Where do you look for open positions?
Graduate School listservs
Professional listerv (SAA)
Do you expect to see salary range listed in a job ad?
√ Yes, and it’s a red flag when it’s not
What’s your routine for preparing an application packet? How much time do you spend on it?
First, I print the job announcement, read it closely, and make general notes about what skills apply to jobs I have had previously. Then, with my detailed long resume, I look over all the jobs I have and determine which ones could apply to this job. Next, I edit each bullet point to reflect the appropriate experience and to use the job announcement’s key words. That can take anywhere from 30 mins to 60 mins on the resume alone.
After the resume, I work on the cover letter. If I have some time before the announcement closes, I will do a two-day session on the cover letter. I’ll start drafting it (not big in outlining that’s a personal preference). I could spend anywhere from 45 mins to an hour. Then on day two, I’ll review what I wrote and then fine tune it, edit it, polish it, in some cases completely redo it. Sometimes, this step can take a little longer than the first session but never longer than 1 1/2 hrs.
Before I send the resume and cover letter, I review it one final time. Making sure to read the text out loud. Sometimes, I find that hearing it read out loud can help me determine any grammatical errors.
Then I submit it.
Have you ever stretched the truth, exaggerated, or lied on your resume, or at some other point during the hiring process?
When would you like employers to contact you?
√ To tell me if I have or have not been selected to move on to the interview stage
√ Once the position has been filled, even if it’s not me
How do you prefer to communicate with potential employers?
√ Phone for good news, email for bad news
Which events during the interview/visit are most important to your assessment of the position (i.e. deciding if you want the job)?
√ Tour of facility
√ Meeting department members/potential co-workers
What do you think employers should do to get the best candidates to apply?
Offering incentives would help. I know that archives/library jobs aren’t the highest paying jobs in the world. If the salary is kind of crappy, add some incentives like professional development. If there is a local organization that doesn’t have extremely high membership fees, an employer could offer to pay the membership fees. Show that you have other things to offer if the salary isn’t the highest.
As a side note, get a sense of the field. Marketing a job as entry-level but requiring 5 years of experience is a huge slap in the face and an insult to job hunters. It discourages potential candidates who may not have that many years of experience AND an insult to potential candidates who may have the required years of experience but can’t afford to take such a cut in pay. Be realistic with your expectations.
What should employers do to make the hiring process less painful?
Either on the job announcement or during the online application process (if there is one) a estimated time line of what will happen next.
Job Announcement closes on September 1, 2012 at 5 p.m.
Review of Applications begins immediately
Selections will be made and Candidates notified 2 weeks after close of job announcement
Interview of candidates: 1-2 weeks
Follow up interview, if needed
Final Selection: 6 weeks after close of of job announcement.
I’m sure this could be better worded but this would give a potential job hunter an idea of the process and how long HR/the hiring department estimates the process should take. I know some HR/hiring departments would be hesitant to do such a thing but I think adding a disclaimer that its an estimate could alleviate that as well as call from job hunters wanting to know what happen to their application.
What do you think is the secret to getting hired?
Be flexible (in terms of geographical location and the type of job) For example, I took a full-time 1 year contract archives position that was great for getting experience and getting my foot in the door. I landed my first permanent position about 2 months after that ended. And, it was due by and large to that contract position.
Be creative (think broadly about your skill sets) The perfect job for you may or may not be labeled “archivist” or “librarian” but require the skills that you have and, more importantly, that you enjoy doing.
Be smart (in terms of making future plans) This is especially geared toward current students or individuals considering going to library school. Save, save, save! The economy is tough and there are a lot of people vying for the same pool of jobs. If you can, save money if you can and while you can in school. I entered grad school right when the economy was starting to go down. That’s when I decided to start saving my money. Lucky for me, I had a nice cushion when I graduated. So, I wasn’t immediately in panic mode of “I need a job now to pay my bills.”
Do you have any comments, or are there any other questions you think we should add to this survey?
Nope, glad that you guys are doing this!
This survey was co-authored by Naomi House from I Need A Library Job – Do you need one? Check it out!