Twenty Thousand Applicants Under Review

Recently the Society of American Archivist (SAA) Student and New Archives Professionals (SNAP) hosted Q&A on Twitter concerning job hunting. While I missed the conversation (it was probably a good thing because I would have been the biggest Debbie Downer), I read over the responses. In a small and competitive field it is easy to feel like you are the only one dealing with a problem. There is a Facebook page for archivists (and another for librarians) to discuss issues and ask job related questions. Usually, those pages will feature a new student or professional asking for tips on resume or cover letter writing. However, new students and job seekers rarely (if ever) are honest about the difficulties of job hunting. It was really nice to see fellow job seekers have a safe place to talk.

Outsider trying to get in

When I began job hunting my inbox was full of rejection emails (from those kind enough to email). After graduating and expecting a job (foolish I know) only to get what felt like dozens of job rejections, I was devastated. My family and friends continuously encouraged me to keep applying and treat every application as one step closer to an interview. Like one SNAP participant, @tara_carron smartly stated, every rejection is you making the most out of an opportunity. 

Reading comments like theirs reminded me that I was not the only person struggling to find a job. Not just any job, but a position in our related field and a position that felt meaningful. I have no clue if these fellow job hunters are searching in or out of network, but clearly it is not easy for anyone. Now that I’m a seasoned job hunter, it is easier to get over the job rejections. They still sting and the rejections after an in-person interview hurt the most, but I am getting closer. I can feel it.

The Call Back

It took two tries to land my current part time library job. I applied with the usual self doubt and was excited to get an interview. I walked to the door with confidence but came to the table with nothing. The questions really threw me for a loop and one of the interviewers didn’t look at or talk to me throughout the interview. I walked away feeling completely defeated.

About a month later, the same job was posted. I couldn’t believe it. How could they not hire someone? Of course, I applied again because you cannot have any shame when re-applying for a job. I may have been on a short list because I was asked for an interview immediately. Another SNAP participant, @justarchivistth suggests that we should “apply for jobs with the confidence of a mediocre white man”  and I can attest to that statement! 

Not only did I prepare properly for the interview, I also repeated to myself over and over again on my way to the interview, “I am an archivist. I have xy, and z ideas for your program. I have strong patron services and reference skills. And I know x, y, and z programs”.  I like to think that worked because I walked into the interview and fucking killed it! I walked in and out with so much confidence that it completely drained me for the rest of the day (I honestly don’t know how mediocre white men do that everyday).

How much is the job worth?

One of the most interesting questions and answers from the series was question three concerning economic thresholds. A current issue and ongoing debate in the archives community is whether job posting on the SAA job list should reject positions that do not provide a salary or salary range. At first glance, this may seem like a no brain-er. And the participants of SNAP voice the most common opinions.

Many professional associations reject job listings without salary ranges believing it is unethical to potential applicants. However, there was some debate among members of SAA if this is a fair policy to institutions that do not have the funding but still need professionals. 

The two sides both have valid concerns. As an employee of libraries and archives, I can attest that many institutions do not fund their repositories as well as they should and that leads to poorly funded employees (and job postings). The Twitter participants made great points about being transparent when interviewing. But how many times has that question seem inappropriate or embarrassing to ask? As a young woman, I find this question to be very hard to ask and I find myself feeling too aggressive (my inner mediocre white man coming out). 

I had an interview recently for an academic archivist position. The salary was not posted on the job call and I was asked to provide a salary requirement. The email from HR requesting an interview included a reality check of their salary range. That salary range was $15,000 under what I had asked for. I felt so embarrassed and a little ashamed. How could I, a paraprofessional archivist/librarian fresh from grad school, ask for so much money? 

Apply for it all

After I was rejected from that job (not due to the salary requirements, just plain ol’ lack of confidence and other variables), I found the answer to my question. I need a livable salary like every person on the fucking planet and I shouldn’t feel ashamed about it! However, I do not expect libraries and archives that are underfunded and underappreciated to be able to support a livable salary. I also do not expect them to post a salary range (it’s probably embarrassing to them too). Especially in a time when so many people have student debt it seems impossible to have a livable wage.

Fellow job seekers, my only words of wisdom (if you can call it that) is to apply for all the jobs that are remotely of interest to you. I just applied to the U.S. Census Bureau because it sounds like fun and it was easy to apply to. When you limit the amount of applications sent, you are limiting your opportunity to practice writing and editing cover letters, adding more to your resume or CV, managing anxiety before an interview, sharpening interviewing techniques, and putting yourself out there in general. I promise, it gets a little less shitty with practice and remember that you are not alone.

Take any encouragement that you can!

Keep going. Take short breaks. Be kind to yourself. Be a mediocre white man. And apply for it all!

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