The Importance of Saying Yes: My Job Hunt Story

by Sheela Sur, former Head Editor, INALJ Washington, DC

previously published on 3/25/13

The Importance of Saying Yes: My Job Hunt Story

sheela2After our first round of INALJ Head Editor articles were posted, I believe Kristen Jaques’s  (INALJ Maine Head Editor) “What I Learned During My Two and a Half Years on the Job Market” had one of the highest – if not THE highest – page view counts. And for good reason! This article was truly inspiring and left me feeling that I wasn’t alone in feeling absolutely crushed by my search for a library job.

In response, I’d like to write about my own personal job hunt story in hopes that you’ll find some solace in my struggles (spoiler alert – I get a job in the end) and take away some helpful advice – especially the importance of saying yes to opportunities.

I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t been all that active or successful in finding a fantastic library job since finishing my MLIS in April 2012.  In 2011 I landed an amazing and competitive co-op position with great public library system, and this made me believe that when I got around to applying for real jobs I would be equally successful.

Not so much.

I started out strong, sending out at least two or three job applications a week for the first few months after graduating.  But after months and months and dozens of job applications without so much as an interview (including at an organization where I had worked part-time for several years) I felt horribly discouraged and downtrodden.  Summer was ending; my friends were going back to school; and I felt like I was about to be trapped living with my parents in a tiny town forever.

On a whim, in early August, I applied for a music teaching position mostly because it was in a town I was visiting that week to see some very good friends of mine who were currently living there. Lo and behold, at the end of the month I got a call offering me the job! The only hitch – the job was just a few hours a week and they wanted me to start in FOUR DAYS.

So I took a deep breath, did some thinking, and said YES. I took the ten-hour trip to my new city the next day, found an apartment, and started teaching that week.

Now, it was early September and I figured that with the money I had saved and with what I was making with this new part-time gig I could survive on my own for three, maybe four months without another job.  I spent my first months in my new city applying for every library position that came up there and schlepping my resume around to retail and restaurant jobs (I worked for one day as a kitchen assistant in a very sketchy diner, but was quickly fired after they found out I already had travel plans on Thanksgiving weekend. I was not too upset about losing that position.)

Finally, around mid-November, I was mentally preparing to move back home with my tail between my legs when my friend sent me a Facebook message that her organization was hiring telemarketers to work evenings until Christmas.  Honestly, I thought it sounded like a pretty terrible job but – you guessed it – I said YES.

And I happened to be very good at it! The job entailed calling the local professional symphony orchestra’s previous donors and ticket subscribers and soliciting donations for this fiscal year.  Apparently people love giving me money over the phone, and I raised more funds than any other member of the telemarketing team.  I made such an impression on my supervisor that she created a position for me within the organization, and I started my new job there in January.

So there you have it, the story of how I became a music teacher and the donor relations assistant for a professional symphony orchestra.  When I apply for library jobs, I have a new wealth of experiences and qualifications to include. I’ve also discovered the world of prospect research and development (i.e. donor management), which is highly applicable to MLIS-types and, I’ve been told, is a growing job field for us. INALJ’s Naomi House shared a link to the APRA job board and it was amazing how many jobs are out there that I’m qualified for that I never would have thought about before!

I hope you might take away some key ideas from my story:

Say yes to opportunities – even if the situation isn’t ideal you never know where an opportunity can lead you and what library-applicable skills can come out of it.

Use your connections in any profession – network and hear about opportunities.

Even if you go into a job tentatively, work hard and make a good impression.  These positions could lead to other jobs, and it’s always good to have a supervisor on your side who could be a strong reference during future job hunts.

If you’re at all interested in work in donor relations and prospect research/management, check out the APRA Job Board.

If you haven’t already, read INALJ Maine head editor Kristin Jacque’s “What I Learned During My Two and a Half Years on the Job Market.”

And GOOD LUCK with your job search!

Naomi House

Naomi House, MLIS, is the founder and publisher of the popular webzine and jobs list INALJ.com (formerly I Need a Library Job) and former CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) of T160K.org, a crowdfunding platform focused on African patrimony, heritage and cultural projects. INALJ was founded in October 2010 with the assistance of her fellow Rutgers classmate, Elizabeth Leonard. Its social media presence has grown to include Facebook (retired in 2016), Twitter and a LinkedIn group, in addition to the interviews, articles and jobs found on INALJ. INALJ has had over 20.5 Million page hits and helped many, many thousands of librarians find employment! Through grassroots marketing, word of mouth and a real focus on exploring unconventional resources for job leads, INALJ grew from a subscription base of 20 friends to a website with over 500,000 visits in one month. Naomi believes that well-sourced quantity is quality in this narrow job market and INALJ reflects this with many new jobs published daily. She has also written for the 2011, 2012 and 2013 LexisNexis Government Info Pro and many other publications in the past decade. She presents whenever she can, including serving on three panels at the American Library Association's Annual Conference in Las Vegas; as breakout presenter at OCLC EMEA in Cape Town, South Africa; as a keynote speaker at the Virginia Library Association annual meeting; at the National Press Club in Washington DC; McGill University in Montreal, Canada; the University of the Emirates, Dubai, MLIS program and the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Naomi was a Reference, Marketing and Acquisitions Librarian for a contractor at a federal library outside Washington, DC, and has been living and working in Budapest, Hungary and Western New York State. She spent years running her husband’s moving labor website, fixed and sold old houses and assisted her husband cooking delicious Pakistani food. She is preparing to re-enter the workforce and is job hunting. Her husband is now the co-editor of INALJ, a true support!  She has heard of spare time but hasn’t encountered it lately. She pronounces INALJ as eye-na-elle-jay. 

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