Adriana Flores is one of our participants in our Year in the Life series, which follows new archivists in their first professional position. We will be following Adriana for a year. You can read her previous posts here.
As I mentioned in my previous post, my two-year work anniversary at HGARC was this month. With that anniversary approaching, I gave a lot of thought to my professional and personal goals when the New Year rolled around. Most of my family lives in Washington State, as well as my boyfriend, and being away from them has been difficult for me over the past three years. With two years of professional work under my belt, I was hopeful that I could find a job closer to my loved ones. I made a resolution to find a new job this year and was fortunate enough to have that happen. This post is all about my job search, application, and interview process and I hope it helps other early professionals prepare for the crazy process themselves.
Knowing that the job search can take many months, I began casually looking at job postings in late December and officially started my search in January. My goal was to get a new job by the time my lease was up at the end of the summer. Part of my daily routine became checking job-posting websites and listservs. Additionally, I emailed all of my professional contacts in Washington letting them know I was looking to come back home and see if they knew of any job prospects. That step paid off big time. Multiple people contacted me when they learned that my alma mater, the University of Puget Sound, was looking to hire an Archivist and Special Collections Librarian. With that in mind, I worked on revising my CV and waited for the job posting to go live.
The job was posted in late January and I spent a few weeks working on my application materials. I continued editing and updating my CV and had multiple friends look over it. I also worked hard to perfect my cover letter and make sure it highlighted my work experience that Puget Sound was most interested in. Once everything was ready, I applied in mid-February. After applying, I emailed a few past professors and supervisors who were still on campus. I informed them that I had just submitted an application and asked for their well wishes, as well as any advice they may have for me during my application process. I figured the more advice I received, and the more supporters I had on campus, the better. In March, I was informed that I had a video interview near the end of the month.
Then came the interview preparation. I spent hours on the Puget Sound Archives & Special Collections department website looking at their mission, current programs, and collections. I was lucky that they provided me with interview questions to prepare for, so I wrote out my answers, condensed them to multiple talking points, and memorized them. The Puget Sound IT liaison gave me the opportunity to do a practice-run for my interview (I was using a new software I wasn’t familiar with), and I was so glad that I took him up on the opportunity. He gave me some great tips that helped my interview run smoothly. When the day came for my video interview, I was nervous but felt very prepared and excited. It went well and I was later informed that I was invited to campus for an in-person interview in late April.
My on-campus interview at Puget Sound was the first time I had ever done a full-day interview. They flew me out to Washington, took care of my local transportation, and put me up in a hotel. Before I arrived, I received an itinerary and I did everything I could to prepare. I brainstormed questions they might ask, and questions I could ask them, for each meeting. I knew most of the people I’d be meeting with (from my days as an undergrad), but I still looked up their profiles on the University website to learn more about their professional interests and goals. However, the thing I had to prepare for the most was my 25-minute presentation/job talk. My designated topic was “The Role of Archives and Special Collections in the Liberal Arts.” I created a presentation using canva.com, showed it to multiple friends/coworkers, and practiced presenting it for a friend who was also going through the job search process. When I set off for Washington I was still incredibly nervous, but I was comforted knowing that I was prepared.
Since my interviewers knew that I’m originally from the area, they scheduled my flights so I had a few extra days in Washington to see my family. I arrived on a Thursday and went straight to campus for a meeting. I had some free time in the afternoon, so I had scheduled a few coffee breaks with friends of mine who work on campus. Mixing interview meetings and friend-time on campus really helped me stay calm and relaxed during an otherwise stressful process. Friday was my full-interview day, including my presentation, and it all went well. That night I had dinner with my boyfriend and his parents at a restaurant nearby. On Saturday, we spent time with my family and I got to attend my first Seattle Sounders soccer game and I flew home Sunday afternoon. It was a weekend full of stress, excitement, and hope. I knew I’d have to wait a while until I discovered the outcome of interview, but I also knew that either way it was a valuable professional experience and I was lucky to spend more time with the people I love.
In the end, I was offered the position, we went through negotiation, and I accepted. Although I’m sad about leaving my current position (and my coworkers) that I love, I’m excited about what the future holds. Looking for jobs is a nerve-wracking process, but I survived and came out with a wonderful new opportunity. Here are a few pieces of advice for others going through the same process:
- Keep applying for positions until you’ve accepted a new one. You never know what will come up and you don’t want to close any doors.
- Cultivate your professional network so that you have people to help you during this process. So many people contributed to my success, but I had to be willing to reach out to them first.
- Be open with your current boss, if possible, about your job search. My bosses at HGARC have been very helpful and supportive of me during this process because I’ve always been honest with them about eventually wanting to return home. I was never secretive while applying for new jobs and now they’ll be prepared when it’s time for me to leave.
I was incredibly fortunate to go through the job search and secure a new job in five months; I know that doesn’t happen for everyone. My success was a mix of good timing, preparation, and the support of my friends and professional network. Good luck to all of you who are going through the process and comment below if you have any resources or tips for others!
Helpful websites for job searching:
- Archives Gig
- Indeed (search terms: archiv*, librar*)
- SAA Online Career Center
- ALA Joblist
- INALJ (I Need A Library Job)
- Be sure to look at regional lists, like the Pacific Northwest Library Assoc
Websites for job applications and interviews:
- Simmons Career Toolkit
- Example Librarian CV
- Library interview questions
- Hiring Librarians’ Interview Question “Database”
- Hiring Librarians blog: What Should Candidates Wear?