At the Gates, Without the Password

“You’re really well prepared. Most resumes for new MLIS grads need padding – yours is full of really great stuff.”

That was really nice to hear during the ALA resume review service two weeks ago. I had just gotten a callback for a second interview, and by the end of the conference had scheduled an interview at another location. One month before graduation, and everything seemed to be going really well.

This week I got my first “real” rejection letter. I’ve gotten them before, of course. I spent a few years out of college working, and it’s virtually impossible to find someone who hasn’t gotten a rejection letter or two in their careers, especially in this economy. It was a bit like the thin envelope/fat envelope feeling from college acceptance: as soon as I got an envelope from them, I knew it didn’t contain a job offer. I was a little more crushed than I should have been.

I’m in a situation that many, if not most, of my fellow ML(I)S grads are in. We’re finished with the degree, our leases are up, and we have nowhere to go. Some have significant others that tie them in place, creating an artificial abundance of librarians-for-hire, driving down the likelihood of getting to stay in place. Others of us have family we can fall back on, albeit reluctantly, to house us while we continue our job search. The consideration that I might be part of that group brings on eerie-sounding choruses of articles heralding my generation as the lazy generation that lives at home. We have masters degrees, and I don’t think there’s many of us that relish the thought of being under Mom and Dad’s roof.

So we look elsewhere. We apply for administrative jobs, some of us in cities where supply and demand mean that an administrative assistant makes more than a public librarian. Part time clerking positions, maybe, if we’re lucky enough to get our foot in the door in libraries. We keep looking, and we try to keep our resumes from looking padded. Maybe, we think, if they were padded with other things, they would look better.

Some of the most intelligent people in my program, the one’s with the most attractive resumes, are taking part time positions. Maybe they aim too high in their applications – perhaps a more conservative judgement of our potential, like a backup school, would serve us well. Maybe we’ve been listening to the wrong people, and should have chosen more realistic critiques to listen to. Maybe we interview badly.

We’re followed by a million maybes. What ifs. I should haves. We apply and have nightmares of a typo in our cover letter. We were told hard work and experience would be our in, but it seems like the Gates of Moria and we don’t speak enough Elvish to know the password (there was bound to be a geeky reference to Tolkien somewhere in this post).

Graduation is a time of anxiety. Of loss and new beginnings. We’re all ready to be done. But we’re not all sure what we’re starting.

6 Replies to “At the Gates, Without the Password”

    1. Thanks. I didn’t mean this to come across quite as hopeless as it did. I still have interviews and such, and places to go if they don’t work out. I think sometimes though that people think they should have done more, done something else. That not getting a job is their fault (or flipside, that they have no responsibility in that situation).

  1. There are so many posts like this from so many MLIS grads, and each one makes me feel a little more discouraged. I’ll be graduating next year, and I can’t help but worry that, when I walk across that stage, I’ll be thinking about how I should have gone to trade school.

    1. I worried a little bit about that when I was posting this. Pitt has a one year program, so we started at the same time. I had to be honest with myself and say that I knew this was a major possibility, and that I was going to school because I honestly couldn’t envision another career for myself. One thing I regret not doing was diversifying my skill set a little more. I can do a little bit of everything that a public library might need – programming, budgets, circulation, collection and all that jazz, but I didn’t get too deep into databases, knowledge management, programming, or any number of hard skills that would help my numerous soft skills find a paycheck.

      So on that note, I wouldn’t be discouraged – I’d be alert. You know graduation is coming, and you can do a lot with an MLIS, not just libraries. Keep that in mind even as you’re getting it, and you’ll be ok. (See above – I’m pretty sure all the people I talked about in this post will be ok too).

      1. I’m definitely trying to keep that in mind, yeah. I would still like to work in a public library more than anything (because of course I want to go for the area where jobs and money are both thin on the ground), but I know I landed my current job largely because the skills I’m learning as an MLIS student transfer well to an office environment- there’s a lot more versatility in this program than people think! Which, in fact, was a point made repeatedly by professors during orientation last year. We won’t all end up where we thought we would, but we WILL end up somewhere.

  2. I really identify with this. I’m a year out of my MLS program now. I thought for sure I would get a “real job” and be moving on by now, but I’m still here in the same place, working two part time jobs. It could be worse–both of those jobs are library related, so I’m getting more experience. That’s the only reason I haven’t moved to a larger city to find work as an administrative assistant or something else.

    I’m sorry to pile more discouragement on! I still believe it will work out in the end, it might just take a little longer than expected to get there.

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