by Amy Steinbauer, Senior Assistant, INALJ California
Supporting Your Friends Through Their Library Job Search
Congrats- you have a job! Bonus points if you are actually working in the field that you wanted to! I am one of those lucky ones. I have a library job, which (mostly) I love. I get to feel that bittersweet glee when I go to pay my student loans every month, bitter to see the money go, but happy that I am actually working for what I am paying for!
But my fellow librarians— we are not done with our work! We have graduate school friends to support, and co-workers hitting the job market again! They need our help and encouragement.
This task is a bit more delicate… you need to walk the line between inspiring and motivating your friends and not sounding like Pollyanna when they are frustrated and feeling lost. I struggle with the latter part the most. I can be a bit pushy, but with the best intentions! I remember when I was the one searching, and how annoying others’ attitudes could be. I know my friends and peers want the jobs, and are great librarians! However, they can’t control the job market, and some have location boundaries that can’t be surpassed.
You want to be a resource for people and not a parental voice telling them what to do. I tell everyone I know that no matter the field, job searching is a soul sucking process. You can easily feel like the job search is a Dementor taking all the joy from your life. I remember many many nights feeling like I was completely unhireable, and I had the rejection letters to prove it! However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but it is a long, dark tunnel, and the light that they often need the most is what comes from you!
Some tips or things to consider:
Don’t be afraid to push… a little.
The job search is overwhelming and depressing, and many people get a bit stuck in the process. Also, life can get in the way when you are job searching. Usually you have other work to do, and may have kids and or family that gets a lot of your attention. Having a friend to gently persuade you to keep going can be just what is needed to get back to it. Job searching is a commitment that takes both time and effort, and those are what you don’t want to do when you are stuck.
Your pushing can be an asset to them when you help review resumes and cover letters or even thank you notes. We want to tell our friends that we see how amazing everything is about them, but we also need to critically look at their documents if they ask for a look over of a resume or cover letter. Sometimes hiring committees are nit picky, and if you see something, say something. They would much rather hear it from you!
Read the room. (Or the person).
Sometimes my efforts to help don’t work out. My friends can be frustrated and/ or feeling lost, professionally, they don’t want or need me to remind them that they aren’t working librarians. It can be tricky to know when you have crossed the line. If I have sent them some messages checking in on their search and they haven’t replied or if they haven’t spoken about looking in awhile; I usually take a break from my job search support and switch to friend support.
Sometimes they just want to vent and wallow, and they are allowed to take that time. Be a friend. Listen to their troubles. Let them take a minute to go back to their lives and actually enjoy them. Getting rejected over and over does hurt! I remember that feeling as one of the first jobs that I applied for seemed like it was made for me.
It was a middle school librarian at the school that I had done my school practicum at. Middle school wasn’t exactly the age range that I wanted to work with, but I had already worked at the school and the library was going to be completely revamped. It seemed like a great opportunity to try something new! I got an interview, and I thought that I had aced it. However, the school went with someone else, and not just any someone, someone from my graduate program with less teaching experience than I had had. I was heartbroken. My friends rallied to support me, telling me that something better would come my way (they were right- more on that later), but it annoyed me so much! I didn’t want better- – I wanted this! And I didn’t get it. I wanted to just wallow in my feelings, and when my friends pushed for more, I pushed away.
What can you do to help?
When I have some extra time at the reference desk or am bored at home, I occasionally scan and search job boards. Just because I have a great job doesn’t mean I can’t look! I use this time to see what the market is like. I keep in mind my friends fields or location needs and send them things that look interesting. This is pretty well received. Sometimes my friends have already seen and applied for the jobs, but they now know that someone else is with them in the process. Or if they haven’t seen it or thought of that type, this can help cut down on their searching. Or you may be introducing them to different resources. Just don’t go crazy and overwhelm them! As I write this, I had just been searching for cataloging jobs– they are hard to find– for a good friend of mine, in either Texas or California. Let me know if you find something!
Most of the people that I am encouraging to keep going are friends from graduate school. Although if you were unfortunate enough to get stuck next to me the recent ALA conference then I most likely lectured you, too! The friends or peers from graduate school are easy to support– you worked on projects with them, you studied for exams together, you served on student offices with them. You know their strengths and weaknesses, and can rally for them! You already know that they are good librarians! You can advocate for them when you hear about jobs or serve as a reference if you have worked together. They can trust your support because they struggled and succeeded with you.
No matter how great you are at being a job searcher supporter, don’t forget that you are first and foremost a friend! When I forwarded a draft of this to one of my job-seeking friends she asked me to include the need for support twice! Life is hard and job searching is hard. Your friend needs a friend in both corners. It can be just as simple as sending a text or tweet to say “I’m here for you”, and then be there for them at any step of their process.
You are right (but, don’t gloat!)
As many times as you tell your friends that they will get a job, they may not really ever believe you. (I never believed mine). But they will! You will be right. Try not to gloat too much, when eventually their hard work and perseverance pays off! Instead, enjoy the success with them!
Best of luck to the job searchers! It takes time! You can do it! And to our librarian workers- let’s get our educated, qualified librarian friends jobs! We can do it!
Amy Steinbauer is the Early Childhood Outreach Librarian at Beaumont Library District in Beaumont, CA. It took her six months to find a job. She drives a Bookmobile, which is one of her favorite things! Amy has a B.A. in English from Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA and an MLISc from the University of Hawaii. She loves mermaids, and advocating for libraries; and will one day combine them both to take over the world! Until then, follow her on twitter @merbrarian.