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Now that I have accepted a job here in Santa Fe, suddenly I’m being inundated with interview invitations. Sigh. I really like my job and know it’s an experience I would never get to have otherwise (particularly allowing me to stay in Santa Fe and get to meet people and experience the whole art scene here, which is amazing). It’s the right thing for me now, but it’s still hard to turn down some of the other opportunities that I applied for. Most importantly it’s a very important lesson learned – don’t lose confidence, as the opportunities will eventually come with determination and patience. The process will always take longer than expected. I’d like to develop these observations into an expanded description of lessons learned by the job searching process, and hopefully an article to help other anxious soon-to-be-grads in similar situations! Taking the plunge is worth it. I haven’t had time to do much writing lately as I’m finishing my last class (Intellectual Freedom) and swamped with papers and presentations, but that’s the next thing on the agenda.
It gives me a better perspective on how the game is played, and what works and what doesn’t in the application process, for the next time around.
I had a great conversation with Eumie Imm Stroukoff at the Georgia O’Keeffe today about how these things have a tendency to work out for the best, if in fact you end up taking the least predictable route. I really admire Eumie, and she and Jenni James have definitely become my mentors and art library role models. These internship experiences have been such valuable experiences for me, and I really feel involved in the New Mexico library community because of them.
This week I attended a workshop put on by the Special Library Association called “Building a Resilient Career – Agile, Opportunistic, and Sustainable.” The presentor was Kim Dority, who is both an LIS educator and an information consultant/freelancer. She is the author of Rethinking Information Work. It seemed like a good idea to check my expectations and experiences against this perspective. I took away a lot of important messages from the presentation and particularly an increased sense of energy and confidence towards my future in information work. Most importantly, it reinforced my knowledge of the MLIS degree as creative, flexible, and broadly applicable. My current job trajectory is a perfect example of that.
Here are some of the presentation highlights:
We need to take charge of the events of our own lives. Libraries tend to be in reactive rather than proactive positions, and need to harness some of the power for ourselves. This means creating agendas, knowing what will be gained in decisions, and how to move forward. Importantly, though we share the missions of our employers and the LIS profession, we are also competing as individuals against some of their interests.
2. Willingness to let go of perfectionism
I can relate to this one. I know it’s what limits many of the challenges I take on, and I know that’s a trait I share with many other librarians. That’s probably why as a profession we’re so slow to make changes.
3. Willingness to embrace change
Don’t fight against the power of change, but harness it.
4. Willingness to take risks
Again, I and many others have a great discomfort with incompetence, even though that is the impetus for learning.
5. Willingness to make decisions
Sometimes our professional neutrality limits our ability to make decisions, a quality that attracts the most respect in our society. If we want respect, we need to be decisive.
6. Willingness to accept (and respond to) reality
We talk way too much about the way things should be, how libraries deserve greater respect and support in society.
7. Commitment to focus on solutions
8. Willingness to reinvent ourselves on an as-needed basis
OK, that’s a tough one. But again, the best part about LIS is flexibility, if you’re proactive.
One of the most interesting ideas in the presentation was the “Impostor Syndrome” – that sinking feeling that you’ve been handed responsibility way beyond your capabilities and that you are going to fail horribly and publicly, that every day is just an effort to hide that incompetence. This is particularly common in a “female” profession such as librarianship. We’re not known for our confidence, and it’s a major effort to stretch beyond our comfort zone.
I came home yesterday to a hand-written note in my mailbox asking me to come in to interview at a Santa Fe gallery. Apparently my resume had cut off the pertinent contact information other than address (stupid printer), and they pursued me all the way out to Eldorado to set up an interview. I don’t think anyone’s ever gone to such lengths to contact me. I met with the Director today at one of the biggest and most prestigious galleries in Santa Fe (the first piece that I looked at was a $750,000 Georgia O’Keeffe painting) . I was a little worried they were going to ask me about my impressions of certain contemporary artists (I know pathetically little about the contemporary art market, though that may change), but luckily it’s a gallery of mostly historical paintings and Native American pottery. So those of you who know me know I was pretty much drooling at the idea of actually being paid to work at this place. It’s basically the kind of work I’ve volunteered my time for in my various internships and research projects – researching and cataloging the art in the gallery’s inventory. They get new pieces every day, so it will be very much like working for a museum or an auction house. I was basically offered the job on the spot (contingent on salary negotiation) and accepted this afternoon.
Finally gainfully employed – I’m so excited! I went into information work (originally Museum Studies) with the lofty idea that I would combine my love of art with my love of organization, classification, and cataloging, and find a job in a museum where I could combine these things. Being a registrar has always been a dream. This is also definitely a firm step in the right direction of being an art librarian, as I will get great experience with art research. And who knows who I will meet in the Santa Fe art community? Maybe Val Kilmer will come in and buy a painting. As long as I stay involved with the professional library side of things, I would say this is the best of both worlds.
That actually wasn’t my only interview of the day – I also survived phone interview #2 for a job at St. Olaf College in Minnesota. Yes, I keep moving further south from Minnesota winters for a reason, but being close to family is definitely a compelling draw. The interview went surprisingly well. Maybe I’m getting the hang of phone interviews. I got to talk about my ideas for implementing Web 2.0 concepts in academic libraries and making ILL and circ services more pertinent and useful to patrons.
Though the phone interview and all the other hoops I’ve jumped through have been good experience (I think this will all be so much easier the next time around), I am SO GLAD to be done with this process for the time being. It is no overstatement that job searching is a full time job. I have used more ink on cover letters than all the papers I wrote in college and grad school combined.
I thought I should send out public congrats to my friend and loyal reader Karin on her recent accomplishments – LITA scholarship, article publication, presentation, meeting Walt Crawford at ALA. Way to go Karin – you have my nomination for this year’s Movers and Shakers. You make the rest of us look bad!
Ahh, you gotta love the Annoyed Librarian. As you all probably know, there’s been a huge ruckus lately on the listservs about her recent snarky comments about the rather silly New York Times article about how we’re now a “hipper crowd of shushers.” Well, duh. Haven’t you seen our tattoos? Anyway, the nexgen crowd got all huffy about AL’s bad attitude. For heaven’s sake. Can we add sense of humor to the requirements for an MLS degree? AL responded with characteristic caustic aplomb. Seriously, if you need a breath of bibliographic fresh air and a much needed laugh in the middle of the day, AL is much better than those sort of tiresome library comic strips. As long as one takes her opinions in the vein they are obviously meant – tongue firmly in cheek. I think.
OK, so my dilemma for the day is this. In my growing discomfort with unemployment, I’ve been applying for all Santa Fe jobs even tangentially related to my interests in data management, reference, and the organization of information. In other words, filing, receptionist, data entry, etc. It’s actually surprising how many directions I could take my experience, though none of them paying much more than minimum wage (WHY did I not become an accountant?). I got an interview today at a medical records office, and it went really well – well enough that I got a job offer. So now I have to decide if I will take it temporarily while I continue my professional job search. If I don’t get an offer, it’s infinitely better than temping. They know I’m finishing my degree, but I feel uncomfortable starting a job only to leave it almost immediately. Of course, as I lamented earlier, the job search could stretch months and years into the future. So any advice? I’d get my own office…
I decided to avoid the fireworks crowds by driving up into the mountains on the 4th, only to get caught in a parade going down main street in Red River, New Mexico. I think they could probably tell that my Chevy Prizm was not a float, seeing as I had no neat pirate flags or stars and stripes banners and was glowering menacingly rather than smiling and throwing candy.
I finally made it up into the Sangre de Cristos and set up camp just in time to be bombarded with a 3 hour hailstorm. The temperature dropped about 40 degrees, and when I finally emerged from the tent, the seasons had changed from summer to winter.
I amazed myself by starting a fire, which felt like an unduly major accomplishment. Sometimes it’s the little things that keep pride going…
Anyway, the experience was a reminder of my independence and power to choose my own course. I could still be in Lincoln waiting for an opportunity to come to me, instead I have chosen the proactive route. Hopefully that will be rewarded. I did not enter this profession with blinders on, and I did not expect to have a job handed to me along with my degree. But I did expect that by diligently pursuing professional development, various library work experiences, internships, volunteering, and networking within the profession I would be fairly met with opportunities to work as a professional in the field. I am not yet giving up on this logic. I spent literally all weekend on applications and cover letters, and I know I would be a good match for these jobs. The jobs are out there and I’m out there. One of these days we’re going to meet in the middle.
My recent frustrations were brought to mind last week up in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains as I tried to light a fire after an afternoon full of rain, hail and lightning. Even the tinder was damp, and each time I patiently got a small flame going it would gradually smolder away. That’s a bit how I feel about my job hunt right now. I’ve had a few promising leads, but nothing is bursting into flame.
Just as I was weighing compromises and opportunities and lamenting my limited choices, I received a call to interview at a library in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Apparently in a mad batch of applications last month I decided Sioux Falls was a compromise I was willing to make. Anyway, this offer made me really question my limits. The fact that they were not willing to reimburse travel expenses made my choice easier, but I still think it was at least slightly beyond the boundaries of the sacrifices I’m willing to make to get a job in the field. It taught me a lesson about more selective applying, even when I get frantic and want to apply to every job advertised.
As I’ve made pretty clear, patience is not my primary virtue. I am at the point of getting creative with my job search, chipping away and finding what lies beneath the surface. I trolled dozens of individual city government sites this weekend, because often job postings don’t get any further than that. I’m also trying to come up with creative ways to keep living in Santa Fe if I don’t get a job offer by August. I put up signs offering caretaking and petsitting services, and I’ve been checking out living possibilities on Craigslist. This is my way of being proactive during a time when everything feels completely out of my control. I do believe that risk and confidence are rewarded in the end. It’s just a matter of where the end lands.