This is the first post in our From The Trenches Series focusing on the archival job hunt. Please see the preceding link for more info and Sophie’s bio. Thanks so much for your contribution, Sophie! ~ ed.
Looking for a new job is never easy, no matter how you land in that position. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say they actively enjoyed it, whether they found themselves doing so voluntarily or involuntarily. While I never planned on staying at the position I had been at for several years, I certainly never planned on leaving it as I did. I was slightly blindsided when I had found out that my position was being eliminated. The economy has certainly been in sorry shape and my institution was feeling the effects, but I had been assured multiple times due to the nature of my library and our very small staff, my position was secure, simply because there wasn’t someone else in the department who could absorb those duties. “You’ll be fine because no one can do what you do.” I held on to that. But despite all earlier assurances, I was blindsided when I was gently told by a very upset manager that despite her best efforts, my position was being eliminated. After the various stages of shock, anger, and resignation, all I could ask myself was “Now What?”
Finding yourself looking for a job especially when you weren’t planning on doing so is harrowing. It doesn’t help that libraries, archives, and institutions which employ information professionals across the board are hurting, resulting in downsizing, hiring freezes, if not outright closure (which is what’s likely to happen to where I used to work soon). So… now what? I’m in a particularly fun situation (in both the genuine and sarcastic) sense in that due to my partner’s work situation, relocation is not really an option for me, so I’m confined to jobs within a certain area. I received my MLIS with an emphasis in archival studies and after almost two years of working as a librarian, I’m primarily gunning for archival positions, which has always been my primary interest. Especially after attending SAA 2009, I was reminded that being archivist is what I want to do, it’s why I stayed in library school and it’s what I love, so now what’s left to do dive in and hope for the best.
What I’ve done so far is update my resume, got my references in order, and put out some feelers through colleagues that I’m looking for archival work. I’m a Certified Archivist, so I’m hoping that’ll help given that my most recent experience has been working in a research library. I have resumes sent out and I’m waiting to hear back. This process is nerve-wracking in the best of circumstances, but now we have something else to contend with… archivists with more experience who have been forced back into the job market are going to be applying for the same jobs as those fairly new in the field and those just entering the field. I’d be lying if I said this didn’t scare me. Why hire me when they may get someone with more experience for less money? But you can’t think like that. I’ve been told this more than once, it’s critical once you’re applying for a professional job to see yourself as such. If you meet the qualifications, you have the education, you are a professional, not a student seeking an internship. Don’t brag or be overconfident, but this is not the time to be shy, not on paper in your cover letter/resume, not in the interview. I’m making a point to try and apply for jobs that I know based on past experience and my own personality I know I would enjoy doing. I’ve learned this the hard way that if you apply for something because you think you should, it comes across and usually works against you.
Now here’s hoping that I’ve followed my own advice and for good news as I wait to hear back from the places I applied. All the best.
One response to “From The Trenches: Now What?”
Sophie: good read. Can I assure you of one thing? I’m not seeing a lot of archivists with a lot of experience applying for positions below their perceived experience level. I was actually surprised at our last recruitment: qualifications were entry-early career, pay was mid, job description could have been any level. We received very few mid-career applicants. And a quick second point: when they do apply for positions below their qualifications, they aren’t performing any better–really–on the application materials or interviews. So the field for jobsearching is far more level than you might guess. Hang in there.