This post is primarily for graduate students in LIS that are looking for some anecdotal information about what it’s like to look for work in the information field. It’s a pretty nasty proposition. In general, this post is like many others in an emerging genre, prompted by Melanie Stefan’s “A CV of Failures” and Johanes Haushofer’s “CV of Failures,” which attempt to shine a spotlight on all of the things academics apply for and fail to get, be it a grant, scholarship, publication, or job. As Johanes Haushofer writes, >most of what I try fails, but these failures are often invisible, while the successes are visible. I have noticed that this sometimes gives others the impression that most things work out for me. As a result, they are more likely to attribute their own failures to themselves, rather than the fact that the world is stochastic, applications are crapshoots, and selection committees and referees have bad days.

I kept a detailed record of applications throughout my job hunt (including institution, salary, career-level, location). You’ll find a summary of that data illustrated below in a few different ways. If you’re interested in the specifics, including copies of cover letters, get in touch (although you’d only be getting a copy of something that was ultimately unsuccessful).

When I first started to look for work in academic libraries in November 2017 I was hopeful about the entire process. I was selective about the positions to which I applied, choosing only those that really resonated with me — geography was no barrier. Starting in January 2018 the rate at which I submitted applications increased. At the same time, my criteria for an ideal job which at one time was pretty specific gradually became less so. As months passed and successive interviews resulted in absolutely nothing I started to question that initial confidence. I also accepted that the value system within the academy doesn’t necessarily translate outside of it. It did not really help that well-meaning and kind individuals would say things like, “You’ll find something in no time!” or, my personal favourite, “Someone will snap you up soon!” Perhaps if potential candidates were all entered into a large pool, and hiring committees scrutinized all of their CVs in some systematic and equitable way, then the concept of “snapping you up” would apply.

Job hunting while still in school is an altogether different predicament than job hunting while unemployed: the stress of joblessness is negated by your student “status.” For example, as a student, you can rationalize that first pint at the graduate pub as a post-class treat and the second as an intellectual exercise (how else can you tolerate the term ‘Kafkaesque’?) When you’re no longer a student there’s very little to shield you from the physiological and financial stressors of joblessness (apart from friends and family, and for me, an aging labrador retriever named Samantha). That’s where I found myself from May to late-June. Here’s what that yeilded, in numbers.

The numbers

Desc #
# of Applications 27
# of Interviews 4
App/Interview rate 6.75
# of Skype/Video Interviews 3
Average salary 61,000 CAD
Most common career level Junior
Of these, # of university posts 18
Of these, # in digital scholarship 4
Liaison 6
ScholCom 4
Other 4
College posts 5
Government 1
Non-profit 1
Private 2

Geography

map of applications

We speak so seldomly as a community of professionals about this kind of stuff that it makes it difficult to get a general idea of what is considered an average experience. Maybe the notion of ‘average’ doesn’t apply to this. All I can say is that I struggled. As I got more and more frustrated I had to broaden what I considered ‘the ideal job’ and compromise with myself — that’s ultimately what led to the position that I recently accepted.

And finally, I hope that if I’m ever in position to hire someone — as part of a hiring committee, maybe — I think back to these experiences and affect some sort of change to the hiring process. For example, emailing candidates with intermittent updates, or informing candidates that the position has been filled. It might seem like a small thing, but these gestures free up some much needed mental load for jobseekers.