by Veda Darby Soberman, Head Editor, INALJ Hawaii
Throughout graduate school I also worked full-time (in a non-library setting). I spent many a sleepless night tackling research papers, only to get a few hours of sleep before heading off to a full workday. Time to do anything besides work or schoolwork came in precious little nuggets. I couldn’t even find any time in my schedule to complete a real internship. When my position was cut to half-time due to budgetary issues, I was disappointed by the blow to my personal finances, but excited…yes, excited, at the opportunities being partially unemployed would bring.
What I looked forward to was the time to immerse myself in the things I loved to do, the ability to pursue professional development opportunities, and being forced to be disciplined in my job pursuit.
Time is of course something that most of us would love to have in endless supply. While under- or unemployed, there is some time to fill. Why not take the time to pursue a new hobby, or rediscover a passion from the past which could possibly serve you professionally? Start with thinking about what would be your ultimate dream job, and dream BIG! Forget about any of your doubts and fears. Just imagine that penultimate career. Maybe it’s being a comic book museum curator, architecture librarian, or fitness blogger. Make honing your skills at something you enjoy your part-time job (your other part-time job being directly seeking a job of course). Schedule time to learn and do more of what you like to do. You may never actually get that fantasy job, but in the end, you’ve spent the time to become skilled in something you love. You never know, one day that dream opportunity to be say, an archivist of Southeast Asian folklore may actually come along, and when it does, you will be more than ready. This is helpful in keeping a positive outlook on a stressful job search and life in general. Finding or creating an enjoyable activity to do regularly will help to avoid boredom, feelings of aimlessness, and possibly even depression.
It is important to continue to better yourself professionally as well. Funds may be sparse during the time of unemployment, but take advantage of the free services at your local workforce development office to help with your professional development. The Workforce Investment Act of 1988 established workforce investment activities to increase employment, retention and earnings, and increase the occupational skill attainment by participants. Local workforce development offices offer a variety of training, access to community resources, and job search support. Qualified individuals may be able attend community college classes, participate in internships, and receive on-the-job training. And just because you have a MLIS, don’t scoff at the value of certificate trainings or community college classes. It is an opportunity to broaden your scope of education, and hence your value and knowledge as an information professional.
Honestly, being employed, especially in a job which may be out of your field, but with which you are comfortable, could actually be a hindrance to your moving on and hopefully up in your career. The job hunt may not be a priority when you are still receiving a steady paycheck. Getting rid of that pay could be the fire needed to really jumpstart your job pursuits. Whether stipulated by unemployment requirements or not, force yourself to apply for at least one job week. In my state, in order to receive benefits, claimants who are not part of a union must apply for a minimum of three jobs per week. In the library job world this may involve applying for positions you seem to not be qualified for, those for which you are overqualified, and maybe those which would require relocation, but this is fine. You can’t go wrong, as long as you are putting your best foot forward for all of the jobs for which you apply. More applications mean more practice with what works and what doesn’t. It could even lead to better and more connections within your field, which means more opportunity.
Hopefully this helps those of you who are currently under- or unemployed, or takes the anxiety out of the prospect of future unemployment for others. Honestly, my period of partial unemployment was not very long. In fact, it was so brief that I didn’t even get to spend much time at all on the things mentioned above, but it is a great plan for when I have another period of unemployment, and it definitely helps to make me feel that things will be okay during those times when fortune seems to shine a bit less brightly on my professional life.