Category Archives: From-the-Trenches

From The Trenches: Dealing with Limbo…

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.


Filed under By-Sophie, From-the-Trenches

From The Trenches: Now What?

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.

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Filed under By-Sophie, From-the-Trenches

From the Trenches Series

We are please to announce the beginning of the new blog series, From the Trenches, an examination of two people’s journey through the search for their first jobs in the archival profession. Our From the Trenches bloggers, Jason and Sophie, will be providing semi-regular posts covering the ins and outs of their search. Both bloggers will be using pseudonyms, and only the NewArchivist editorial staff will know their true identity (like All the President’s Men, without the naughty nickname). We hope to have posts from them up very soon. A hearty thanks to Jason and Sophie for their willingness to contribute!

Please see the From the Trenches Series page for Jason and Sophie’s bios and more information.


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