This post is part of our ongoing series From the Trenches, which focuses on the hunt for first time archival employment. ~ed.
One of the things I think anyone who has ever been on a job hunt has to deal with is limbo. There’s the time between when you apply for a position and wait to hear back, hoping it is a request for an interview. If the stars are aligned and it is a call for an interview, then following the interview, you end up back in another limbo waiting to hear back. Very very rarely have I heard of anyone getting a job offer at the end of the interview (although it has been known to happen). Most times, whenever I have gone in for an interview, I’ve known they still have more people scheduled, so regardless of what they thought of me, the panel will see more people. Following the interview, one of two things will happen: a) you get a phone call or some communication indicating the institution wishes to make an offer or b) a nice and/or terse letter thanking you for your time and wishing you the best of luck in your further endeavors. Then with other positions, the process resumes until hopefully the cycle ends with the offer an acceptance of a new position.
Limbo on either side of the application process can last for a long time. Especially in a market like today’s where there are not as many job postings and quite a bit of competition for those postings, especially if you’re confined to a specific area. What’s been helping me is doing volunteer work. Besides what I have heard so many people say about it being good for adding to a resume and for offering something to potentially discuss at an interview (I have had earlier volunteer experience actually give me an edge the last time I was looking for jobs), I think what helps me the most is that it keeps me focused. Doing something in my chosen field, even if it’s not paying, helps give a purpose. It also helps to keep up to date with what’s happening in the field. One way I’ve found to that is using Twitter. There are several archivists who are active users and it’s a great way to keep up with what other archivists are doing and what might be happening at conferences and work shops. If you’re not already a member of SAA and your local state/regional society, join up. The local society’s listserv is how I found out about a few possible job openings the day they were posted. The world’s becoming a lot smaller thanks to social networking and the like, and my experience has been that the network is very welcoming to newcomers and if you post a question, within a short time you’ll have others happy to answer it for you. Most societies will also offer discounted rates if you’re unemployed and if you’re a student, there are deep discounts available. Conference meetings and workshops are a great way to meet others in the field, ranging from those who are new to those who have been working for years. Keeping up with the newest developments in the field and taking opportunities presented to meet and interact with other archivists can help make limbo a lot easier to deal with.
Right now, I’m on both sides of the limbo I mentioned earlier. I’m hopeful and right now what’s helping to keep me sane is the hours I’m volunteering. All the best.