New Year, New Job
Hard to believe I am two weeks in to my new job as an information professional, and its only January 15th. I have entered a new phase of my life. I have a job in my chosen field and am working full-time in an academic library, which is right where I want to be.
I started as Technical Services Librarian at John F. Kennedy University‘s Robert M. Fisher Library January 4th, 2012. It has been amazing… I am learning new things, in my element, and looking forward to the opportunities and challenges that come my way. That said, I have had a number of job seeking librarians, LIS students and paraprofessionals ask me how I did it.
While I wasn’t on my game every instant, and occasionally I let the job search get to me (who wouldn’t in today’s job market?), ultimately, my strategy paid off. I found a library job that suited me within the timeline I set for myself. Additionally, my efforts at social networking ended up providing me with contacts for support and further professional development.
How I Got My New Library Job
So how did I do it? I used a holistic approach. I wanted to understand not only the job market and the jobs I was applying for, but I also wanted to understand myself, what I wanted, as well as my strengths and weaknesses.
A False Start and a Reality Check
However, I should back up a little. At first I launched right in to the job hunt. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a plan or even a system in place to organize the search. Needless to say this approach didn’t work… And deep down, I knew it wasn’t going to. So, I decided to get serious.
Facing the reality of searching for a job during a time when state and local budgets have been cut and many libraries, archives and other organizations hiring information professionals have experienced hiring freezes, reduced hours, and other service cuts as a result, is daunting. I knew that I needed to get serious in order to find a job that I would really like. Honestly, I didn’t know that I would even have that luxury. I knew that the job market was so tough that I might not be able to pick and choose. But I hoped that I would be able to. I thought, maybe if I really focus, and work my tail off to get my name out there through social networking, refining my online presence and essentially develop a professional brand for myself, I just might be able to get what I wanted out of my first professional position as an information professional.
I started reading and thinking. I checked out online resources through my alma mater, SJSU School of Library and Information Science, I visited professional association websites and followed job resource listings on blogs and social networking sites. I read How to Stay Afloat in the Academic Library Job Pool edited by Teresa Y. Neely (which I recommend). Basically, I informed myself about how to look for a job. Not only did this process give me a much needed wake-up call, but it invigorated me. It gave me tools to formulate a plan and ultimately, to experience job seeking success.
It also made me realize that I would have to identify just what “job seeking success” would look like for me. So, in addition to my ongoing efforts to learn about the job market and job search strategies, I started to look inward.
Using Self-Awareness as a Job Search Tool
I began by thinking about the basics of my life. What needs did I have to meet in order to be happy and healthy. Food, shelter, health insurance, time with my husband, time to develop professionally through writing and leadership, etc. What did I want my life to look like down the line, say in five years, or ten years. After identifying what I wanted, I was better able to determine the kind of job I wanted. I mapped out an ideal scenario for myself, and set a deadline for getting a first professional position that met these criteria. I gave myself a year to get a job in a Bay Area academic library working in technical services (using my academic emphasis at SJSU SLIS) or reference (using my many years of customer service experience from the retail world). This wasn’t an arbitrary time frame. I chose something that worked for me based on finances. I also knew that after just a few months I would have to work part-time during my search in order to make ends meet.
Next, I began to evaluate myself professionally. I identified my strengths and weaknesses so I would be able to play up my strengths, and develop areas I perceived as weaknesses. The end results of this process of self-evaluation turned out to be a huge asset during my job search. I understood myself better, and in the end it became easier to identify jobs that were a good match for me. This meant that I could more easily show the search committee what I could bring to the job during the application and interview process.
In order for this to work, of course, I had to be honest with myself. And, I had to be optimistically willing to try new things. I found it was easy to “play up to my strengths”–I already enjoyed fine tuning my web presence, working on my website and finding relevant blogs to read through my Twitter feed. I could spend all day on those things. It was harder for me to reach out to information professionals in person. So, I decided to make a concerted effort to do just that. I contacted temp agencies and went on a couple of interviews. I collaborated with colleague Cyndi Varady of Dueling Librarians and co-founded the Information Professionals Social Club. I scheduled lunches with colleagues from school and reached out to some of my instructors from SJSU SLIS. All of a sudden, even though I was unemployed, I was legitimately busy.
I had heard it said before, but it wasn’t until I was in this position that I realized looking for work is a full time job. Applying for jobs, social networking, and professional development is a handful to juggle. Yet, I found myself happier as a result of keeping busy, feeling productive, and having the support of those in my growing professional network. I attribute much of this to my efforts to understand not only the job market, but myself.
Then, just when I finally had a handle on submitting applications, having professional lunches, keeping up on LIS topics via the blogosphere, and organizing the IPSC, I got a temp job. Game changer. This gave me more reason to prioritize and work at managing my time effectively. In Part 2 of How I Got My New Library Job I will talk about how facing this challenge changed my approach for the better.