Thoughts and reflections on the library job search

There has been a lot of buzz in library blogdom and listservs about getting that first job in this field. As librarians are always so committed to helping people, many have posted excellent tips and tricks for procuring the interview,  acing  interviews, and getting experience/networking to break into the field. And as a diligent and creative job seeker, I take appreciative heed to that advice. Yet despite attending conferences, completing internships/committee work, being flexible and geographically mobile, and seeking professional guidance from my mentors, there are a lot of factors that are out of my control.  What happens when “you do everything right” and yet things still seem so wrong?

Through God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26)

Last Sunday, I had to swallow my pride and had my pastor pray over me during this time, and to ask God to intervene on my behalf. I have seen the impressive CVs of new librarians, many of whom have already published 5-10 articles before even receiving their MLIS. Many of whom have completed the MLIS as a 2nd masters and have tons of teaching experience already under their belts. After sending out my 25th or so application, and getting yet another rejection letter in the mail, I realized that my faith in God was all I had. Only He would be able to open a door for me, to put the right person in my path, so that I can move on in this stage in my career.

I am fully aware that I am a high-risk hire. I don’t have the pages of documented experience that many others have, yet I have a plethora of job skills that can easily transfer into a library/information setting. Someone is going to have to take a chance on me, and I don’t blame employers for being risk averse, especially in these hard times.  My CV may not stretch to the moon, but I guarantee that if hired in the right place, I will go beyond the solar system in what I will bring to the table.  Case in point: my current employer took a chance on me, hiring someone right out of college with only summer jobs to my name.  What they got in return was a loyal employee, someone who was not afraid to take on new projects, someone who was ready and willing to pull up her sleeves and get the job done (and get it done on time). And I am still employed!

Yet with so many applications, employers are so bogged down and can only see the resume data front of them, rather than extrapolate a picture of the candidate that extends to more than a bullet-point list and a couple paragraphs of a cover letter. Most jobs for which I have applied receive 60, 70, or 100+ applicants per opening! It is this reason that I need to learn to rely on God to work on my behalf, which is a very humbling experience for someone who prides herself on independence and hard work.

Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Matthew 6:33)

Undoubtedly, every person who has undergone a long stretch of being single has heard the advice “You will meet the right person where you least expect it.” I strongly believe that the same advice applies to job hunting. Yet one’s first instinct is to balk at that advice.  “Am I supposed to sit around and wait for it rather than actively seek it?! How can I possibly not think about it when it is consuming every waking hour of my being, as I am in the world right now watching my friends and colleagues get married/get jobs/have children?!

The answer is in the scripture above! But what does that mean? After reflecting on that passage in Matthew, it means to make God’s word a priority in your life. Does that mean read your Bible more, tithe more, pray more? Not always, though if in doing those things you achieve what the passage is saying…seek God’s approval and a relationship with Him first, and not man’s. The career and the marriage, in this country, are sought after as  status symbols. Yet jobs can end at any moment, and so many marriages end in divorce.  All that is stable and true in this world is God.

After receiving constant rejection in my search, and wondering if I am inherently flawed, I have to step back and realize that it is not how God sees me, and not judging myself based on some status symbol. God does not tear people up, hurt them, tell them they are worthless because they lack a job title, money, or a spouse. The devil does plenty of that. But ironically, in truly seeking the kingdom and a spiritual connection to God, guess what? Those “worldly things” like the job and the spouse end up popping up.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)

A couple weeks ago, the movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was on TV (the 1970s movie, not the creepy one with Johnny Depp). It is one of my favorites stories.  In my current context, I was able to glean some interesting revelations in seeing this movie again. (As a side, this story has a lot more depth to it than people realize).

I distinctly remember the scene where Charlie goes to visit his mother as  she is doing laundry well after dark. This was after the 4th golden ticket is found. Charlie is very upset at this point, knowing how the odds are stacked against him. After all, millions of people all over the world are looking for these golden tickets, and most of them have the funds to buy a lot more chocolate bars  (hmm, how reminiscent of a certain job search…). He tells his mother to essentially stop hoping for him to get the last Golden Ticket, and he asks her how much longer will they have to keep living in poverty. His mother tells him the day will come “when you least expect it.” At this point of the movie, Charlie’s hope and faith are being tested.

As the story goes, the 5th ticket is found, much to Charlie’s dismay.  Disappointed, he looks to the ground, but then something happens! He finds some money sitting in a sewer grate. This is enough money for him to buy some food for his family, and to splurge a bit on his favorite item: chocolate. He walks into the candy store and non-chalantly asks the “candy man” for a Wonka Scrumdiddly-Umptious bar. As soon as he pays for the bar, he wolfs down the chocolate, as many of us tend to do when we are depressed and just need some physical comforts. Charlie then decides to buys a second chocolate bar for Grandpa Joe, who has has inspired him to keep dreaming and to never lose hope.

Charlie then exits the store, and there is a crowd of people around the newspaper stand.  Apparently, the 5th golden ticket claim was a fraud, and there was still 1 ticket out there just waiting to be found. With a small smirk and a glimmer of hope starting to come back, Charlie opens the 2nd Wonka Bar and sure enough finds the last golden ticket!

I describe this scene in detail because there are 2 important lessons received from this. One, you never know where and how the opportunity will come from. In looking at stories of people who have achieve great success throughout history, it often happened because of a life-changing event…because God led them through the fires to make them perfect and whole as people. And just as things could not get any worse, God comes through, just like He did for Charlie.

But this is not just a story about miracles. A fact I overlooked the first many times I watched this movie was the fact that the chocolate bar he bought for Grandpa Joe was the one that contained the golden ticket. What if Charlie decided not to buy the bar, and pocketed the rest of the money for himself? He would have missed out on the opportunity of a lifetime! Hence the passage above about not growing wearing in well-doing. Despite all the poverty and loss of hope he was feeling that day, Charlie still kept others in mind. And as we all know the story, it was Charlie’s selflessness and integrity that enabled him to ace the ultimate job interview…to be Willy Wonka’s successor.

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One Comment on “Thoughts and reflections on the library job search”

  1. missdisplaced says:

    ‘Cos I’ve gotta golden ticket!

    I love this movie. Everyone my age [Gen X’er] loves this movie, we grew up with the values expressed in this movie. Work hard, be selfless, good and generous and giving, stay positive, don’t lie, cheat, steal, be selfish, rude, or watch too much TV, and you too will get your golden ticket in life and win it all!

    Damn, was I disappointed because that is not what happens in life. In America, we only seem to reward the liars and cheaters and the selfish.

    P.S. My husband looked just like Charlie when he was that age. Little tow-head. Funny!


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