It felt easier to job search when I didn't have a job
August 27, 2019 4:25 PM   Subscribe

It's time for me to find a new job for a variety of reasons, but I find myself feeling generally unmotivated and pretty negative about my "stupid" career choices (imo). How do I get it together and just job search!? And if I made a career mistake, now what?

First of all, I confess that I recently got an MLIS so I am trying to find a librarian job (I know, I know, I told you so), and I'll just say that it seemed like it made sense at the time for me? I don't know what else to say! I've been working in a school library for almost 5 years and generally enjoyed it, but wanted something a bit different. Other library technician jobs weren't quite offering what I wanted, so it made sense to get my MLIS, and I did. [I'm also in Canada, if that makes any difference.]

Ever since completing my MLIS, however, I have been completely unmotivated to apply for librarian jobs. First, my personal life has changed since I began the program and I really can't apply for jobs that are too far from the city I currently reside in. It sucks and I know it limits my job search by quite a bit, but it's the reality. I can maybe move to a different city that's about 4-5 hours away, but another province or moving to the opposite end of the country is completely unrealistic. I'm also not that confident about my experience in school libraries, it sort of makes me feel unqualified for all public and academic libraries? Experience-wise, I do have skills that are more suited towards public libraries (especially regarding Children's services), but I also have strong cataloging skills (not that that's really a thing anymore, but whatever). I'm kicking myself for staying with a decently paying job w/ benefits, instead of getting... I dunno any sort of student job? I guess because of these factors I just look at my resume and look at the job postings and think to myself "who cares? you're not going to get a job anyway!!!!"

Okay, while that may be true... I still have to get a new job. I've reached the point at my current job where I really can't stay there beyond a year, I'm just really tired of it. Really, really tired of it. It doesn't suit me for a number of reasons (all unrelated to the library aspect of it). Between working and my actual life responsibilities, I feel like the last thing I want to do on a week night is write a cover letter or update my resume, you know? But I have to, and I just can't figure out how to motivate myself enough to do it.

How... the hell do I do this? I mean, I've accepted that I'll have to stay at my job longer than I'd like to and accept a loooooooooooong job search, and on some level I do have to expect that I'll just never get a librarian job because I can't move. If I can't get a librarian job, when is it okay to throw in the towel? A year? Two years? I can't even begin to imagine what I'd do at that point, I don't feel qualified to do anything else.

In the meantime, how do I force myself to apply for jobs and put together resumes when I just have this voice telling me, all the time, that "you'll never become a librarian! who did you think you were by trying to become one?!"
posted by VirginiaPlain to Work & Money (5 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
The library job market is weird and capricious and arbitrary and that is INCREDIBLY DEPRESSING (literally, a month and a half ago I was an unemployed librarian and INCREDIBLY DEPRESSED.) You will apply to jobs you're super qualified for, have what feels like a great interview, and get a form letter two weeks later that someone else got the job. But by the same token, sometimes that weird capricious arbitrary thing will work out in your favor. Most of my experience is in public libraries, and I'd been applying to both public and academic jobs thinking that an academic library would never hire me - here I am managing a (very small) academic library! Because it's not geographically an area where a ton of people want to live, and I think they were a little desperate. So - I get how hard it is to keep applying in the face of rejection after rejection, but you just have to put a LOT of resumes into that black box to get a good job to fall out.

Your library skills may be more flexible than you think, both inside the library world and outside the library world. I find that large public libraries generally don't need people with cataloging skills because that's so heavily outsourced, but academic libraries do, especially smaller and less well-funded academic libraries. (I just started a community college librarian job where cataloging is a big part of what I do.) Think in terms of what you already have and how it could take you at least part of the way to something else - if you have experience with libraries and working with children, does that get you part of the way to a job with education or children's nonprofits? Arts admin jobs where children are part of the target audience?

Are there ways (webinars, online classes, in-person classes) to pivot or increase your library skills - expand your skillset in a way that would give you more flexibility with academic or public libraries?

If I were in your shoes, I'd think about pursuing a three-pronged approach:

a) Look for the kinds of jobs that you're already qualified for, that are already close to what you're doing, and apply for those.

b) Figure out what could bring you closer to the library job you WANT - what kinds of skills, what kinds of experience, do you need? How could you get those?

c) Figure out what a plan B looks like - what would it look like to not have a librarian job? You don't have to decide to go for it right away, but - if you can't begin to imagine what else you'd do, maybe it's time to try beginning to imagine it. It is okay to throw in the towel in a year. It is okay to throw in the towel RIGHT NOW, if you want. But there's no point in throwing in the towel until you have some idea what else you'd want to pick up instead.

To me, at least, motivation seems easier when I have different things that I can do. Maybe you're not up to writing a cover letter - can you write one paragraph of a cover letter? Can you write some bullet points of things you'd want to cover in your cover letter? If not, maybe you can work on a library-related skill, maybe you can work on a not-library-related skill, and do that cover letter the next day. Sometimes it's working on that skill development that convinces me "Yeah, maybe I'll get that job after all!" and then it's easier to write that cover letter.

I'm not in Canada, but I've been on the library job market very recently and I've faced a lot of these issues, so please do feel free to MeMail me if you have other specific questions or just want somebody to vent to!
posted by Jeanne at 5:37 PM on August 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

I was in a really similar situation to you ~10 years ago! Got my M(S)LIS, and by the time I was done (having worked for several years in academic library paraprofessional positions) I was some combination of burnt-out and jaded about my prospects. I didn’t want to move, and I didn’t really want to work at any of the libraries in my city.

One weekend after a particularly rough week at my paraprofessional job I sat down and applied for any job that seemed remotely acceptable - basically a kickoff to a really intense and focused job search. I ended up getting a professional librarian job about two hours from the city where I lived.

It would be nice if I could say “And that job turned out to be awesome and I continued to be a librarian forever!” but in fact, after a few years there, I realized I was never going to be OK with the lack of options and mobility in the library job market, so I chose to retrain for something that would give me more options (in my case, it was web development, but it could be anything there’s a good market for in the place you want to live).

Anyway, my career path hasn’t been the most linear or efficient but I’m happy with what I’m doing now. Keep looking for library jobs, apply for things even if you’re not sure and give them a chance to convince you, and yes, think about what else you might want to do. It will all work out one way of another.
posted by mskyle at 6:04 PM on August 27, 2019

Look into knowledge management for large corporations, specifically content management. Most of the content managers I work with have MLIS degrees - they have to be very comfortable categorizing and managing large amounts of content with identifying metadata.

Edited to add this bonus - it is really not unheard of for these positions to be remote/telework.
posted by heigh-hothederryo at 8:06 PM on August 27, 2019 [2 favorites]

Can you take a day or two off work to devote to job search/applications? That's what I would need.

You can do it! Librarians are rad!
posted by PistachioRoux at 3:39 AM on August 28, 2019

Throwing this out there from the non-librarian world... job searches and hiring are pretty random and arbitrary in general (at just about every stage of the filtering process). I work now for a company that didn't even interview me a year earlier when I applied the first time. The best I've found is to put yourself out there in any possible position and hope for the best. One thing can turn into another or point the way to the next thing (or at least reveal some info to help you see what you want and maybe how to get there).
posted by kokaku at 4:55 AM on August 28, 2019

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