Recovering from the Job Search

by R.C. Miessler, Head Editor, INALJ Indiana

Recovering from the Job Search

rcmiesslerI never thought I would say this, but I’m kind of sad the job search is over.

Well, sad isn’t the best word, perhaps. It’s more of a void, almost a depression. Now that I’ve been offered, and accepted, a librarian job, I’m not sure what to do with myself (besides packing, anyway). I spent so many Sundays writing and refining cover letters and tweaking my CV, telling people about who I am as a library professional, and anticipating a phone call or email to let me know about an interview or rejection, and now that is gone.

Don’t get me wrong. I am absolutely THRILLED at my new job starting this summer. I think it is a great fit for me and a great place to work. I am eagerly anticipating working with my new colleagues and starting life in a new town.

Yet, after the adrenaline rush of being chosen and the joy of telling friends, family and colleagues, doubt sets in. Why did I get the job? What made me stand out above all the other candidates? Am I going to succeed or burn out in 3 months? Will I live up to their expectations, or even my expectations? And the urge to call back and rescind the offer starts to creep up, settling back into the familiar routine of application and rejection instead of facing something new, unknown.

Thankfully, I am not alone in having these feelings. Karen Kelsky of The Professor Is In blog recently reposted a column about Job Market PTSD. Essentially, it is a general feeling of anxiety following the acceptance job offer after a particularly difficult search, and generally found in people on the academic job market. While the post is focused on tenure-track professors, I think it applies equally well to librarians of all stripes; we are, after all, facing a difficult job market with an abundance of qualified individuals. Some of us have been looking for jobs for months and years with nothing to show for it but a pile of rejection letters (if they even bother sending one). But once the offer comes, it’s not all pats on the back and feelings of vindication and self-worth; the trauma of looking for a job needs an outlet for release so we can move forward and be the best librarians we can be.

Kelsky’s post covers JMPTSD well; I recommend her article highly and have nothing to really add, except that I too have these feelings, and think it is indeed a real phenomenon. And that’s ok. It’s nothing to be afraid of, to be ashamed of. It does need to be addressed, however. It’s important to talk to others about the post-job search experience, to process the feelings and be reassured that you will succeed. And it’s ok to redirect some of that energy that was once focused on the search, into either some creative project or just taking time to relax and do nothing.

It seems fortuitous that I saw the blog post shortly after accepting my new position; it helped me understand that I wasn’t alone in feeling this way. It gave me the impetus to talk to others about how I was feeling and not keep everything bottled up inside. And part of that process of coping for me is writing this blog post as well, to try to bring some awareness to JMPTSD and reaffirm to myself that I will succeed in my new position, and let others know they will as well once that offer comes.

If some readers never experience Job Market PTSD, I am grateful that you are spared this. For the rest of us, you are not alone. And for those of you still on the job market, one of these days you’ll find what you are looking for. Just don’t be surprised if you have to deal with the trauma of the job search after the fact.

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