A list to aviod waiting in vain; or, job hunt woes

My contract ends next week, which means I am back to the job hunt! And by “back to” I mean my job hunt never stopped.

It’s been rough. You put out an ungodly amount of applications and hope for the best. Then you wait. And wait. And wait some more. Some you know you’ll hear back about quickly, some you know it’s a toss up and cross your fingers that you’ll hear something, and some you know you’ll never hear back from at all. It’s frustrating, time consuming, and mind absorbing. You wake up thinking about how you could have made that cover letter better and go to bed mapping out what sites to check in the morning and thinking about which would have the best chances for a new listing.

It drives you crazy every minute of every day that you don’t have a job set up. But you have to keep pushing through it until you have something set up.

I finally had an interview last week with a small(ish) county public library. I’m really excited about it. I heard from one of my references that they contacted her, so my hopes were high. It’s been a few days since then and I’m starting to lose my confidence, but trying very hard not to lose all hope. I’ll hear back one way or another–and my anxiety about the position can end.

A lot of the job search is waiting to hear back from someone–from anyone! So here are somethings that I do to help my mind focus on something else.

1. Work on that damned cover letter… again.

I’ve given advice about keeping several types of cover letters ready to go at any time. I have one for a general reference position (reserved for entry-level public library positions). I have one that highlights my time as an instructional designer. I have another one that talks about tech skills and gives examples of work I’ve done. I also have spare paragraphs that talk about how my youth is a huge benefit, one about communication, one about my “emerging management skills,” and yet another about my interest in diversity topics.

But there’s always room for more, and there’s always room for improvement. Part of the job hunt is gaining new skills to add to your resume and talk about in your cover letter. Since my time out of school, I’ve taken the time to use Codecademy to learn JavaScript and jQuery. I’ve also used those skills to make things. My time in this contract has given me shiny, new reference experience. My cover letter(s) should reflect that! I have some really awesome skills now and I want my potential employers to know that I have them and can demonstrate them on the job.

I’ve also learned new things about what hiring managers are looking for. I recently went to a career fair and learned that one library looks for previous library experience, customer service, and an interest in their library (through an internship, partnership, or volunteer work). If you have any of these things, it would be good to highlight them. Another hiring person told me to inject my personality into my cover letter. Give concrete examples that highlight the skills listed in my resume and prove that I would be a great addition to their team. Make the hiring people see that you would fit in with the other employees and make them feel like they’ve talked to you and like you.

It’s hard for me to write like that–but when I take a step back and think about the things I’ve done in a professional setting, I’ve realized that it isn’t as hard as I think it is to write a paragraph like that. What have you done to stand out from the crowd? What actions have other people complimented you on? Take those examples and write about them so you come off as a likeable and competent person.

2. Get new skills.

If you are sitting around, wondering what you can do to take your mind off the job hunt or what you can do to make yourself more hirable, think about expanding your skill set! There are a lot of things you can do, as a librarian, to make yourself a better candidate. A lot of people recommend volunteering–and that’s a great place to get hands on experience. Unfortunately, it’s hard to even get a volunteering gig in a library in some locations. Remember, volunteering doesn’t mean you’ll be doing real librarian work–it means you’ll be doing what the library needs help with. Sometimes this means shelving books. Sometimes it means helping out with programming by setting up chairs or counting patrons. Other times it might mean processing hold books. Whatever it might be, it will show that you’re willing to do whatever your library needs–and that’s a great thing.

Another way to volunteer is to contact your library’s virtual chat service. Sometimes these services need extra coverage, and this is a great way to work on your reference skills. Having done virtual reference myself, I can say it’s a lot of fun and it’s awesome to know you might chat with someone from across the nation.

Outside of volunteering, you can also take advantage of many free virtual classes. I mentioned above that I learned JavaScript and jQuery using Codecademy. This is a great site that has free online classes for coding languages (like HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, Ruby, Python, and so many more) that makes learning easy and gives you projects to solidify your understanding of the code. This isn’t the only site where you can pick up introductions to coding. This article from Tech Crunch has a list of 5 Ways To Learn Code From The Comfort Of Your Own Browser, which I definitely recommend you check out.

Additionally, American Libraries Live has a great archives of past episodes with interesting and educational content that will help you learn new library-related things. You should also keep an eye out for lists of free online learning opportunities, which pop up on blogs from time to time. For example, Ellyssa from iLibrarian has great posts about upcoming webinars for librarians. In fact, following blogs is another way to update your skills. Some of my favorites include ALA Techsource, the Digital Shift, iLibrarian, Tame the Web, and (please forgive the blatant advertising) iDiversity.

3. Do something for yourself.

Sometimes the best thing to do is distract yourself. Do something you like doing–for no other reason than it makes you happy! Lately, I’ve been making some extra time to watch TV with my family and knit. It’s calming and relaxing–and has absolutely nothing to do with my job hunt! Yesterday, while waiting to hear back about this public library position, I took sometime to read Mansfield Park. It took my mind off my phone and helped me from diving down into a place of insecurity.

4. Remember, you are awesome.

When you are waiting to hear back from a job, it’s easy to forget the fact that you are indeed an amazing human being. I need reminding of this perhaps once an hour. Look at your resume and say “I did this at this position, and I did it good.” Remember all the compliments your co-workers have given you and all the hard work you’ve done to build up your skills. If you don’t get a job, it’s not because you aren’t qualified or good enough. It’s because there are many other people out there who have the same skill set and they are applying to the same jobs as you. I recently heard that over 300 people applied to one open position at a public library.

Sometimes your resume may get passed over because you don’t meet their weeding criteria–and that can sometimes be the luck of a draw.


Remember to stay positive. You’ll end up with a job some way or another–even if it’s not exactly where you saw yourself when you began your search.

Good luck!

EDIT: I forgot number 5!!

5. Work on your networking.

I’m going to bullet this one, because I’m lazy.

  • Design/print out some business cards already!
  • Update your LinkedIn profile and add some new contacts. Don’t be afraid to add some strangers who work at places you’d like to work at–or at least send them a message.
  • Get involved with organizations! Volunteer, pick up an officer duty if one’s available.
  • Get a Twitter.
  • Get a tumblr and follow/join the tumblarian community.
  • Start thinking about a library elevator speech and get people interested in what you’re doing with your life.

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