Monday, May 23, 2011

Surviving the Job Search, Part III

Our guest blogger series on surviving - and succeeding in - the job search continues with Jessica Evans Brady, Visual & Performing Arts Librarian at Florida State University.

The job search can be daunting. It can sometimes feel like you are sending resumes out into a black hole. It can be a challenge to stay optimistic and continue to put your best face forward. Here is my story of how I survived the job search and finally found a position that keeps me challenged, inspired, and gainfully employed.

Start Early.
This is common advice. The job search is long; start early. Yet no matter how times I heard this, I was still surprised at just how long it was. Start to finish, my job search would take a full year. I should say that my search was focused exclusively on academic libraries which move notoriously slow in the hiring process. To give you a realistic sense of this process, it was approximately six months from the day I applied for my current job until the day I started. Prior to that, it took six months of diligent applications and interviews to get to this one. While my experience is specific to academic libraries, I get the sense that this overall timeline is fairly common given the current job climate.

Don’t Give Up.
Here I mean a number of things. Don’t give up in the practical sense. Keep sending out applications. Keep building and refining your skills. Don’t give up hope either. If you find yourself getting burned out, take a break or change your strategy. When I first started applying for jobs, I felt compelled to apply for everything that might possibly be a good opportunity. This is impossible. The more that I focused my search on the jobs that stood out as the best fit for me and spent my time carefully crafting each application, the better response rate I had. When faced with inevitable rejections, I tried to focus on the next opportunity. I reminded myself that there were always interesting jobs appearing in new places. I cultivated an openness to possibility and dove into the next application.

Stay Active.
Staying busy will keep you sane. It can also build your experience and your skill set, ultimately making you a stronger candidate. Throughout my studies and job search, I was always looking for opportunities to learn something new. Although I was primarily interested in art librarianship, I took an internship in educational technology at Penn Libraries because it sounded interesting and I needed a paycheck. I ended up discovering a new passion and building a skill set that I draw on every day. The internship led to a temporary full-time position, allowing me to grow my professional library experience and keeping me economically afloat while I continued my job search. I volunteered for ARTstor and the Print & Picture Collection at the Free Library to get more experience with specialized art libraries. I also joined the Art Libraries Society (ARLIS) where I attended local chapter meetings, traveled to the national conference, and kept up with the professional literature. When I finally did get that interview and was asked to prepare a presentation on the role of the art librarian at a research university, I was well-versed in the major issues, familiar with many case studies, and had several mentors to help me prepare.

Be Flexible.
Take different opportunities, even if they aren’t what you had in mind. You might find something inspiring. Even if you don’t, it might lead to a new opportunity. Move beyond your comfort zones. I hesitated to apply for my current job because it was in a part of the country I hadn’t considered living in, but which turned out to be nice. I am glad I took the risk.

Jessica Evans Brady graduated with a MS(LIS) from Drexel University in December 2009. She is currently the Visual & Performing Arts Librarian at Florida State University, and can be contacted here.

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