Getting Your Foot in the Door
At a library that I previously worked at, I started as a part-time assistant. I was really excited to get that job because I had been told that once I got my foot in the door, I would be able to work my way up to other jobs when they became available (1. I would be gaining experience, and 2. libraries do a lot of hiring from within, or so I was told).
After I had gained some experience there, I started keeping watch for full-time openings. I was aware of how rare they were and that there would probably be a lot of competition, so I always had a resume and an application ready to send in. I applied for many full time positions, some in my department as well as in other departments, but I was never able to break out of my part-time job. I seemed to be stuck in my position, and while I kept getting interviews none of the departments seemed interested in hiring me, and I started worrying that even though I wasn’t going to be fired, I would never be able to break out of that foot in the door job.
I finally made the decision to stop focusing solely on internal jobs and started to apply for positions at other libraries. Not long after I made that decision, I got some interviews and I was offered a full time librarian position at another library! Not as an assistant or clerk, but an actual librarian position! Apparently, or so I thought at the time, this was the way to get jobs in the library world and I should have been applying at other libraries all along.
I was at the full time job for awhile when one of the branch managers decided to retire (this was the first full-time position to come available since I had been hired). I kept waiting for them to post the job on the website so I could send the link to the INALJ.com boards, but it never showed up. Then I heard that the head of the YA department had been promoted to branch manager! And then one of the reference librarians became the new YA librarian, and the full-time assistant became the new reference librarian and then a part-time assistant became the full-time and then a brand new part-time assistant was hired! I felt like I was watching a game of dominoes. And then I started to wonder how in the world I, someone who had been completely outside of the library system at the time, had gotten my current position if there was so much shifting WITHIN libraries, like I had originally been told.
I finally realized that applying for jobs really is all about fit. In my part-time assistant job, I couldn’t seem to move on from that position, but I also never really fit in at that library either. I had different ideas, and a different vision for libraries than they had for themselves, and they weren’t interested in my weird ideas. My ideas were just too different from the direction they wanted to go. But the new library was apparently looking for something they didn’t already have, and they saw that something in my application. It matched with their plan and their direction and so they hired me because they saw me heading in the same direction. And I do fit. I can contribute, and I learn from the people around me as well as share what I know and they are interested in exploring my ideas, even if they don’t always think they’re feasible in the end.
So while it is an extremely good idea to apply to internal positions, if you’re not getting any of those positions, and you have a desire to move on from your current job, apply to other libraries. You need to find a library system that shares a vision (or at least a direction), and once you do, you’re a lot more likely to be hired.
What I finally learned was, yes, once you get that foot in the door, you will be able to move up, but just maybe it’ll be somewhere else. Apply at libraries where you feel like you belong.