5 Stages to a Job Search — Storytime with John

To those who don’t know I am back in the UK: Now this is as wonderful as you may expect; I’m seeing family and old friends, walking around familiar streets and experiencing our tropical climate – however it is also becoming increasingly frustrating. This is for one reason and one reason only: I’m on a hunt for […]

via 5 Stages to a Job Search — Storytime with John

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Never Enough Time

“The best laid plans of mice and men…and Henry Bemis…the small man in the glasses who wanted nothing but time. Henry Bemis, now just a part of a smashed landscape, just a piece of the rubble, just a fragment of what man has deeded to himself. Mr. Henry Bemis…in the Twilight Zone.” -Rod Sterling, The Twilight Zone


There are days when I’m on top of the world and days when I’m at the bottom.  More the latter, it seems.

Honestly, where did everybody go?  I had minor surgery and concentrate so much on job searching, I’ve only just recently noticed several writers I followed on WordPress have either left or locked up their blogs to selected readers only.  Is there something going on with WordPress no one has told me about?  It’s like a scene from The Twilight Zone where a man wakes up and finds everyone gone.  I hope I don’t break my glasses.  Where ever you all have gone, I wish you well and hope you stay in touch!

My erratic and anxious mind makes it difficult to explain if I am doing well or not.  I have a hard time looking at my success and failures from an objective point-of-view.  I am still applying to jobs and it feels hopeless at times, yet I am getting interviews this year for the first time since 2007.  I have dozens of jobs on my Indeed.com list and I spend some days just staring at the list with the feeling I have no enthusiasm for any of these positions.  Sometimes I apply and sometimes I don’t apply at all.  Even the library positions provide me no zest.   My computer used to give me joy, but now I see it as just a job search kiosk.  Whether I get up early in the morning or sleep late well into the day, there’s never enough time.  I have a hard time having fun or enjoying anything until I’m assured of a job.  Ironically, this anxiety makes me postpone applying and I just surf the Net for hours.  It’s a Kobayashi Maru problem.  It’s June and I thought with my new vigor and job hunt strategy, I would at least have a part-time position now.

My job coach has encouraged me to apply to non-library jobs in addition to librarian jobs.  I’ve gotten several interviews for retail jobs, but I can’t help thinking that my bachelor and master degrees weigh against me in those positions.  It doesn’t help that I’m an introvert and I have trouble showing “enthusiasm” for anything, even if I genuinely enjoy it.  You just have to believe me when I say I want the position and would do my best at it.  My word is all I have.

The myth I’ve been told about libraries refusing to hire people with Master of Library Science (MLS) degrees due to pressure from the American Library Association (ALA) apparently isn’t true.  I have been getting calls and invites to interview for paraprofessional positions now.  The fact that they are considering me means something has changed in the library world.  In academic libraries in my area, you have to have an MLS for part-time positions.  A few years ago, even a year ago, this would have been alarming.  I’m not sure what the ALA thinks of these new developments, but I’m always glad the ALA gets proven wrong.  Being a ALA member certainly hasn’t given me an edge or opportunity.  There’s also a greater chance those in my position who got their degrees from the height of the Great Recession might have a chance at a job now.

It’s a mixed bag with this blog post.  Some hope and some despair.  It’s better than my last post, but it could be brighter.  I suppose things will get better in time.  I feel, though, there’s never enough time.  For anything.

 

Erratic

“Of course, no man is entirely in his right mind at any time.” -Mark Twain, The Mysterious Stranger


My apologies yet again for the long hiatus.  My grand plans to post more often and add more content have not gone well.

My job search, Photoshop class, and my anxiety issues keep me feeling that I cannot do anything fun.  I hate job searching.  It is so easy to procrastinate from it (like right now), especially when I am being encouraged to find work outside of my specialty areas of libraries and museums.    Everyone says job searching is the worst job you will ever have.  I have no idea or measure if I am on the right track.  For example, should I be working 8 hours a day searching?  5 hours?  As I am able?  I have started getting interviews, however.  One at a retailer (that ended in rejection) and two librarian job interviews.  I supposed that means I am doing something right.  I apply to every library-related job in my geographic area I can find.  I even applied to jobs in far-flung places in the state, though I stopped doing that months ago.  Employers are not too keen about helping with moving expenses or compensating job candidates (unless you’re a bigwig) for traveling anymore.  Also, I honestly do not want to move too far away from my family.  The poisonous rhetoric against the unemployed and the condescending, contradictory, and confusing job search/interview advice further tear me down.  I no longer read any job advice on the Internet since it drives me mad.  I over-think and over-analyze to a point of sickness.  At some point, you have to “publish or perish” your cover letters and resumes until something sticks.  You have to make a stand like Leonidas at Thermopylae.

I spoke about my anxiety in a previous post.  There are days and moments when I feel so ready and accomplished.  Then, there are the days and moments when I am despondent and unable to focus at all.  I lean towards a depressive and anxious nature, though I do hide it well in public.  That is one of the reasons Mark Twain is one of my favorite authors.  He had a humorous and funny side, but also a dark and depressive side.  An erratic nature runs in my family and it frightens me that I may get worse over time instead of better.  I keep chugging along and try finding something to do that makes me happy, like volunteering.  I wish I were more successful at it.

Now, if you, dear reader, do have any advice for my predicaments and even have a link you want to share, feel free.  If you have any questions you want to ask, feel free.  I have no problem with it.  If you have any job leads, want to network, etc,. let me know and I will see what I can do.

As with my previous post, I will try to update the blog more in the future.

 

The Ring Master, the Panic Elephant, the Doubt Lion, and the Rage Monkey

“In my age, as in my youth, night brings me many a deep remorse. I realize that from the cradle up I have been like the rest of the race–never quite sane in the night.” -Mark Twain, Mark Twain’s Autobiography

“Forgive me, Lisa. There’s a monster inside of me ” -Silent Hills Playable Trailer.

“Readers, friends, if you turn these pages
Put your prejudice aside,
For, really, there’s nothing here that’s outrageous,
Nothing sick, or bad — or contagious.
Not that I sit here glowing with pride
For my book: all you’ll find is laughter:
That’s all the glory my heart is after,
Seeing how sorrow eats you, defeats you.
I’d rather write about laughing than crying,
For laughter makes men human, and courageous.

BE HAPPY!” -Francois Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel

Imagine going to a circus.  No, I mean as an audience member… not as a circus member.  You see the ring master with his whip and chair.  He has his stereotypical top-hat, jacket, and striped pants.  Before him is a free lion, free elephant, and a caged monkey.  The master does look in control, doesn’t he?

But wait!  The lion, called the Doubt Lion, leaps at the master.  The master can sometimes hold the lion back with his whip and chair.  Sometimes, however, the lion succeeds in knocking the master down and pawing him around like a ball of yawn.  Always, the ring master gets back his chair and whip while regaining control over the lion.  The audience and ring master both breath a sigh of relief before cheering.

But wait again!  The elephant, called the Panic Elephant, has awoken and begins charging wildly about the arena.  The ring master does his best to get out of the way.  There’s no way to stop that elephant.  Sometimes, the master gets trampled.  He does get back up, but he is weary which gives the Doubt Lion an opportunity to pounce.  The ring master does regain his composure, yet it takes a good deal of time and energy to do so.

But wait yet again!  There’s a Rage Monkey in a cage (no rhyme intended) tearing at his bars.  That monkey has never escaped.  However, the ring master does fear, once in a while, that that monkey will escape and attack the audience should the ring master one day fail to keep the Panic Elephant and Doubt Lion at bay.

Are my metaphors effective and comprehensible?  I’ve tried many times to explain my anxiety problems in plain speech, yet it never comes out easily.  My logical, happy, and rational side is the ring master.  Doubt and panic are my constant opponents.  I can rationalize the doubt away many times, only for panic to set in.  For example, I doubt I will find a job that will make me happy and take care of my basic needs to live and thrive.  My rational self calmly explains that with time, patience, persistence, optimism, and networking, the job(s) will come.  Then, I panic and do something silly like applying for a job without checking my cover and resume properly or applying for a job I’m not really interested in or far outside my comfort zone.  We all have the Rage Monkey within us.  It depends from person-to-person whether he gets out easily or not.  Thankfully, I have the self-control to keep him caged, even with my struggles.

Years ago, I took anti-anxiety medication that helped.  However, I had problems with sleepiness and memory loss which, ironically, made it harder to relax.  It eventually started to lose it’s effects this year and I came off them under a doctor’s supervision.  No one wants to take medication, but I can honestly tell you it helped.  The doubt and panic have made a resurgence.  It will take some lifestyle changes, like cutting way back on caffeine, finding exercise time, socializing more with people, etc.  I may very well have to talk to the doctor again or see a counselor at some point.  Still, things are far better than the time before the medication.  I sincerely hope I’ve reached a manageable plateau.  When I’m out taking a class, working or volunteering, I feel so much better.  I feel worthwhile in learning new concepts, connecting with people, making people happy, and more.  If I can get out there more, I think those three animals will hibernate more.

However, it does bother me that I’m not “right” in my own mind.  I do enjoy solitude and working on my own, but then I’m overcome with panic and doubt even when I’m dedicated to putting something stressful out of my mind.  These struggles take time and energy away from me, and I need that energy to live and thrive.  How do I get my energy back?  How do I preserve it?  How do I get more?  These are important questions I’m trying to find out.  I’d honestly like to shoot that lion, elephant, and monkey, though I recognize that may not be possible.

It may seem like a weakness to admit having these mental issues.  It’s not.  Years ago, I read webcomic artist Mike “Gabe” Krahulik’s post regarding his anxiety battles.  It took about two years before I recalled that post and decided that a visit to the doctor was needed.  One of my relatives fought depression and supported my decision.  Just like Gabe, I was given anti-anxiety medication (though I was never given an official diagnosis).  Posts like Gabe’s and mine break down the stigma of mental illness and mental health problems.  We need more of these posts, not less.  I know Gabe has been a controversial figure, but I owe him one.

At least one or two my past posts were influenced by the Panic Elephant and the Doubt Lion.  Should you come across such posts of mine in the future written that way, you can understand why.  Don’t be afraid to tell me I’m being too negative.  I can be off-putting or standoffish sometimes, yet I never forget a kindness or a promise.  The strange thing is that some of the greatest writers, artists, and actors have had mental health problems and were able to make the greatest works in the world.  I try to write when I’m anxious or depressed, and I have a tough time writing anything.  Going forward, I’d rather write about happy subjects or even weird subjects.

To everyone with their own inner circus problems, I’ll quote the immortal comic Red Green and say “Remember, I’m pullin’ for ya.  We’re all in this together!”

 

Meta note:  Good news!  I’m using tags now to get a wider audience.  I should have been using them from the beginning.  D’oh!

 

 

The Customer is Always Right

“The primary rule of business success is loyalty to your employer. That’s all right–as a theory. What is the matter with loyalty to yourself?” -Mark Twain


Four years as an undergraduate, less than three as an undergraduate college tutor, three years as a library science graduate student, an internship, and, now, the end of a year of web design college work.  Where am I?  Where should I be?  The answer to the latter is, according to society, something akin to an entry-level managerial role.  Perhaps a full-time librarian job?  Not that?  Perhaps full-time museum work since History is my other love (please don’t call it my “subject”)?  Working in a web design firm or doing major freelance work as a successful web developer?  Well, society would be wrong.  The former question, “Where am I?,” has an unsatisfying answer.

Like many thousands (millions?) of U.S. citizens, I am applying for any job I can.  Volunteering can be rewarding, and I do volunteer, but volunteering does not provide the money.  Again, like many people, I’m going for the entry-level retail jobs that tend to populate around the holiday season.  I’ve never applied for retail jobs before.  Librarian jobs tend to be government and education affiliated.  I know I made a few mistakes on the first two applications I sent.  “When can you work?,” says the online application.  “Oh, I can work anytime, but I’d like Saturdays off,” says I.  Oh!  I wish I could take that back!  One does not do that when going for retail job, particularly during the holiday season.  They want people to work weekends as those are the best times for customer sales.  I keep kicking myself for that lapse of judgment.  I have been more studious with subsequent applications.  “Yes!  I will work for you whenever you wish within legal limits!  Just give me this job!  I need this!”  You can’t exactly say that as you come across as too needy.  I worry about being perceived as desperate, though I really do need a job even if it isn’t the American Dream job I thought I would get.  Whether it’s a temporary or permanent job, I would work my hardest at whatever job or task given to me.  I would not have applied if I wasn’t dedicated to the chosen job.  I wish hiring managers would understand that.

Librarian work involves a great deal of customer service.  Retail workers and librarians share similar environments, though the former focuses more on products while the latter focuses more on service.  They both involve working with patrons/customers.  I hammer on this fact every time I can in my job applications.  I never worked retail, but I’ve done a similar job.  People would come up to me and ask for help finding information.  I would work with them to find that information, whether it’s in the library catalog, the online databases, or in the stacks.  Does that not ring some familiarity with retail work?

The most nerve-wracking, with some exceptions of humor, has been the online “pre-screen assessment” tests every retail store seems to love.  There’s a lot of multiple choice questions and you have to choose the answer that is “most appropriate according to you.”  They want you to be honest and many of the questions would, to a reasonable person, have multiple correct answers.  Unfortunately, all the questions have the precise “right” answer.  Many of the questions are about how you view yourself or how you think others view you.  How on earth can you know the “right” answer to such questions?  Are they really looking for the most perfect Type A personalities in the known universe?  I passed one, think I passed two others (they didn’t tell me if I passed), and I failed one (at least, it told me I failed, but after it crashed at least twice during my session).  I would advise patience in doing online retail applications as you will experience crashes that may or may not erase everything.  If you fail, you have to wait 60 days to create completely from scratch another application and take the test again.

One assessment did impress me with a virtual simulation.  I had to listen to customers and a supervisor give me information and respond with choices.  In many cases, I had to input information in a mock website or inventory sheet while being interrupted by customers, managers, and co-workers.  Some activities required me to listen intently to key information in order to input the information and ensure the customer would not have to repeat his/her self or otherwise there would be dire consequences.  I had to prioritize and get stuff done while being respectful to everyone and trying to make everyone happy.  The virtual simulations, I think, should replace the multiple choice questions.  I knew I had to be completely engaged and it give me the feeling of actually being in those real-life situations.  I felt tense in the tense situations, and happy in the light-hearted situations.  It was as close the real thing as you could get!

Unfortunately, in one scenario, an irate customer wanted me to hurry up and get his product that he had ordered for pickup.  I, of course, went to the store database to find it and he pointed out the item in question from my screen.  His pickup item, however, was unavailable and I asked him to wait while I figured out from the database what was going on.  He was getting hopping mad when another customer came running up to me wanting to ask a quick question.  This brought up a menu with choices I had to rate by an effectiveness score while also choosing the best answer to solve the dilemma.  I politely asked the second customer to wait while I flagged down a co-worker who could help her while I helped the first customer.  Well, the second customer interjected “But it’s a just a quick question!” which resulted in the first customer yelling at the second customer to wait her turn.  The second customer responded with a tense “But it’s just a quick question!”  Mentally, if this were a real situation, I would be thinking “S–t just got real!” and “Do I need find a place to hide and avoid being nailed and/or shot?”  New choices came up with an effectiveness scale and I chose the “Please, I am working to help both of you!” or something to that effect.  That eventually resulted in the simulation calling in the manager.  I’m thinking it was a Kobayashi Maru scenario with no answer, though I could be wrong.  No answer I could give to the second customer could have pleased the first customer since he demanded my full, undivided attention or he would “cancel his order” and, I assume, never shop there again.  I couldn’t be rude to the second customer or she would never shop there again.  Maybe it was a test of my personality in a tense situation?  Given the Black Friday madness, I’m not surprised they would have such virtual scenarios.

Anyway, back I go.  I wonder when the recruiters will call me in the next 6o days?  Will they call at all?

The Race to the Bottom

“Thou hast said enough.
Beshrew thee, cousin, which didst lead me forth
Of that sweet way I was in to despair!
What say you now?
What comfort have we now?
By heaven, I’ll hate him everlastingly
That bids me be of comfort any more.”
-Richard II, William Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of King Richard the Second. Act 3, Scene II


If you want to understand my and other unemployed librarian’s frustrations, read this man’s posts and read them well!  Then, you will finally understand why my heart is flagging in finding a library job and looking elsewhere.

I blame myself for not researching the librarian field more effectively.  I would have found out that shelling out for a Master of Library Science degree was not a wise idea.  I’ve always gone with what I love or what I thought I would love.  I do not regret my education, in case one may be thinking that.

The only way to get a full-time librarian job is to have experience.  How do you get experience?  Volunteering and entry-level part-time jobs.  Well, if you have the MLS, some libraries may not accept you in those positions as it “dilutes” the profession.   In defense of the non-snooty librarians, a hiring library manager has to worry if you’ll leave immediately once that hard-to-find full-time librarian position opens elsewhere and you get it.  The Great Recession starting in 2007 meant a lot of libraries closed branches, cut hours, and let go much of their staff.  Things have improved since then (and statistically, the Great Recession is, I think, over but good luck explaining that to ordinary people in the U.S.) and yet libraries are still struggling.  When they do determine a need for a position, they may prefer non-benefited, part-time workers as opposed to full-time librarians.  Cheap, but a real bummer.  The library science schools are also cash-cows for colleges, so there’s a flooded market of MLS graduates in addition to laid-off professionals fighting for limited positions.  It’s an employer’s market. Also, don’t get me started on “applicant tracking systems” with shifty software and reducing you and your employment history into data points.

I have a dark theory about public libraries, too, and why funding (which provides job positions) can be hard.  I don’t think public libraries have much respect by upper middle class Americans and politicians as they can buy the books or information they want.  So when public libraries ask for more money, politicians do not see much benefit for them and their middle class financial backers.  That’s mean, but politics and money are involved with libraries just as with anything else.  Just go to your library board meetings and eventually you’ll see something wonky, even if board members try their mightiness to stay above the fray.

My focus has primarily been on the job woes with public libraries.  State-funded and private colleges and museums that hire librarians were hit hard during the Great Recession as well.  They particularly prefer specialists with graduate degrees, so just a bachelor’s and an MLS will likely not be enough.  Oh, and the experience!  You need it first!

I suppose the best advice I have for aspiring librarians is you have to love libraries to death and not just “like” them.  Computer science, computer engineering, database management, etc… anything in those areas will undoubtedly get you a library job as a systems librarian, automation librarian, or digital archivist.  So, love (not just “like”) technology.  I failed my Visual Basic class, so you have no fear of competition from me at least.  Libraries seem to love “customer service” experience and, believe me, you’ll deal with the best and worst of customers/patrons.  It helps to like people or at least pretend to like them.

Good luck to all those searching.  We’re going to need it in this race to the bottom.