Tag Archives: employment

Demystifying Government Jobs with The Gov Geeks

SNAP 2022 Webinar Series:
Demystifying Government Jobs with The Gov Geeks, LLC
Javier Lopez, MSA, PCC, and Karen Lopez, Co-Founders, The Gov Geeks, LLC

Organized and hosted by Lourdes Johnson, MLIS, Provisional CA (Certified Archivist), Steering Committee Member-At-Large, SNAP Section, Society of American Archivists 

On January 28, 2022, the SAA SNAP section welcomed Javier Lopez, MSA, PCC, and Karen Lopez, Co-Founders of The Gov Geeks, LLC, who spoke about Federal jobs, including searching for jobs, resume tips, and the application process. We thank Javier and Karen for sharing their time and expertise with us!

The biggest takeaways of the webinar:

  1. Reformat Your Resume to Work with the Government ATS (Application Tracking System)Applying for government jobs means you need to spend a significant amount of time reformatting your resume “Federal Style.” For example, if you are applying for government jobs on USAJobs, make sure you are using the resume builder feature.   
  2. Write Your Resume to Focus on ResultsWhen writing your resume, focus on describing mission statements rather than producing bulleted lists.
  3. Use the OPM Handbook of Groups and Families—This one was the biggest golden nugget! Before writing your resume, check the OPM (U.S. Office of Personnel Management) first. Search the occupational family and group series that relate to the position you are applying for. For example, if you are applying for an archivist job, you want to go to group 1400 on page 98, click on the “Archivist” link to access “Position classification standard for archivists series GS1420”. You should aim to write a resume that is consistent with the position description from the OPM—the requirements are all there in black and white!

Webinar Highlights and Links:
0:00 Welcome and Speaker Introductions 
Lourdes Johnson (She/Her), MLIS, Provisional CA (Certified Archivist)
Member-At-Large, SNAP Section Steering Committee
Javier Lopez, MSA, PCC, and Karen Lopez, Co-Founders, The Gov Geeks, LLC

5:15 — Why be a Federal Government Employee?
9:30 — OPM General Schedule of Salaries and Wages, opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/salaries-wages/2022/general-schedule
10:50 — A-Z Index of U.S. Government Departments and Agencies, usa.gov/federal-agencies
11:30 — Federal Pay Grades on Education Level
13:13 — Competitive Hiring Process
19:30 — Resumes at-a-Glance
28:30 — What Interests You?
34:15 — Find Your Job Series Number, OPM (U.S. Office of Personnel Management) Handbook of Occupational Groups and Families, See page 98, number 1400—Library and Archives Group. Google “OPM occupationalhandbook.pdf” or go to
35:30 — Resume Strategies
36:00 — Resume Strategies: 1) Use OPM’s Position Classifications, OPM (U.S. Office of Personnel Management) Handbook of Occupational Groups and Families
42:15 — Resume Strategies: 2) Show Impact! The STAR Method
45:00 — Resume Strategies: 3) Formatting is Key
(A resume template is available by signing up for “Gov Geekdom” at thegovgeeks.com)
45:00 — Resume Strategies: 4) Use USAJOBS, USAJOBS.gov
54:40 — Summary
1:01:15 — Bonus: GSA Advantage, GSAAdvantage.gov
1:06:00 — Summary of ResourcesWebinar Q&A
1:08:00 Points for Grading Positions 
OPM.gov > Position Classification Standard for Archivist Series, GS-1420 (defines job roles and positions), 
OPM.gov > General Schedule Supervisory Guide (hiring factors and point levels)
1:13:30 Hiring Process Turnaround
Advice on expected timeframes, direct hire positions, and lateral transitions for existing Federal employees.

Javier Lopez, MSA, PCC

Javier Lopez, MSA, PCC, is the Geek in Chief and Co-Founder of The Gov Geeks LLC, a learning and professional development endeavor committed to helping public servants get in and get ahead in government. thegovgeeks.com

Karen Lopez is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of The Gov Geeks, LLC. A native Texan with a passion for public service, she combines her love of science and human behavior to successfully implement programs within the Federal Government. thegovgeeks.com

[Note: The SAA does not endorse products or services; inclusion does not imply endorsement.]

Thoughts? Please let us know!

As SAA-SNAP kicks off its 2022 webinar series, we would like to know your thoughts on the types of topics you would like to see and what days and times are most convenient for you to attend a live webinar. Please complete our short survey!

If you want to present in our webinar series, contribute with a blog post, share with a member a project you are working on, please contact us at newarchivistsrt@gmail.com. We want to hear from you!

Academic Library/Archives Job Interviews – Generalizations That I Hope Are Helpful

This post is written by Kate Crowe (contact information at the bottom!) and originally was posted on her blog here. Last year, she wrote about her professional journey for the SNAP blog (linked below). This post was inspired by the November 9th #snaprt on Twitter; chat flashback here

First, my sympathies that you are on the hunt for a job of any kind. Like any activity where you “put yourself out there” (dating, your rec softball league, etc.), you face some amount of upfront emotional labor and potential rejection. Unlike dating or a hypothetical softball league, this rejection is also directly tied to your ability to pay your bills (and maybe other people’s bills) and get a regular meal – so the stress is ramped way, way up. Virtual hugs to you – my guess is, you need them.

Second, who the heck am I to tell you what to do on an academic library/archives job interview? I’m the Curator of Special Collections and Archives at the University of Denver, and I wrote about my professional journey on a series of blog posts for SNAP last year. If you want to know more about me and what passes for street cred in the academic archives world, check ’em out.

What follows is based on my experiences on several library faculty search committees, as well as personal observation and experience at an academic archives / as a hiring manager for the past decade (2007-2017). Continue reading

[Ask an Archivist] Q: Two tricky archives situations

We’ve had two situational Ask an Archivist questions come in recently. Below you will find the original questions and the Ask an Archivist joint response to these situations. Please feel free to add to the dialogue in the comments section below!

Ask an Archivist Question 1:
I work in a college archives. There are a lot of boxes to start on and I feel like I will have a lot of questions if I want to appraise records and implement best practices in my work and for the archives. I would like to have a mentor, but I am not sure where to go except for SAA and SNAP.
1) There has been a habit to keep multiple duplicates of yearbooks, catalogs and most publications. For example, I open a document box and it has three years of catalogs and a total of 2 or 3 of the same one. Is this normal? I have been told that we keep items “just in case,” but I was taught just in case is not a good answer. I think if I protect and preserve records properly, we can preserve one copy. What happens in 5-10 years when we have space issues? Should I not make the decision now? If there is a good reason to keep 2 copies I am very willing to do so; I just want a logical reason.
2) An office closed down and 30+ boxes came to the archives, no survey or appraisal was done in office. I assume I will not keep everything. Another worker assumes that everything will be kept. Although I am now the college archivist and need to make the decisions, I am not really sure what battles to fight.
3) Do archivists work on their computers 40 hours a week? I know that there are donor calls and some email requests, but I do not know what else one does on the computer–especially one who does not do appraisal, processing, arrangement, description, fundraising, outreach, or web stuff. So what else is there?
What am I to do? Is there another outlet mentor program?

Ask an Archivist Question 2:
I have a professional dilemma as a new archivist and am not sure what to do. The archivist (a historian) has been taking items from an office and adding them to his artificial collection instead of following provenance and respect des fonds. When I was told to process the collection by my director, the archivist came down and told me to remove those items to but into his collection. I said I saw no reason to break provenance. We had a meeting and I argued to keep the collection together to stand as evidence of the function of that office as a whole, even if it is an interdisciplinary office. The archivist comment was that they were already filing things from that office by subject into his collection (as an example) when they received accretions. I said that I do not believe it is possible to properly document the office and collection if we do not keep it intact. Am I being too literal when it comes to office of origin and provenance? I offered to make an intellectual connection to his artificial collection so that it was still accessible in our finding aids. The upshot was that the collection was obviously too complicated for me to work on. He then happily showed me his collection and the records from that office now in his collection and said he was adding more today.
What do I do? If I am forced to work on the collection, do I track down all of the separated items? Do I work on the collection knowing that I can’t do the work “correctly”? What do I do the next time a perceived professional value and ethic is openly not practiced? There seems to many . . .
Perhaps the overarching question is how do I get along in a work place where archival practices and fundamental principles do not appear to be respected.

Continue reading

Advice from a Seasoned Archivist, Pt. 3

In this final post in our series from Mark Greene, he addresses some common job hunting woes in a straightforward manner. 

In addition to the poster who was piqued because it seemed entry level positions required experience not offered in internships or practica, during recent discussions on the SNAP list, several members of the roundtable expressed frustration over the present hiring situation:

  • “If organizations are willing to hire non-traditional employees with little or no archival knowledge and then require them to gain that training while on the job, why are organizations not willing to hire graduates of MLIS and/or Archives programs who have the educational knowledge & technical skills while allowing them to gain experience on the job?…”
  • “The new digital world will eventually give young archivists opportunities to use these skills without having to have a background in a given field, but research archives (as opposed to corporate or purely institutional) will probably always seek employees with a background in research or a specialized field.”
  • “Although I hope at sometime in the future to get a job in archives, at this point I doubt if it will happen. I have applied for archival type positions but there is always someone with an inside advantage even if they have less education than you” [emphasis added].
  • “I’ve applied to projects that I literally just did the exact same thing as, talked at length about it in the letter, had a fantastic reference from it – and didn’t even get a rejection back….”

Let me first respond briefly to the specific bulleted statements and then offer some thoughts on the broader context of job hunting exasperation:

  • I know of few repositories who hire applicants without graduate archival education and train them into professional archivists.  That is simply no longer the path into our profession, though it certainly used to be.  And while entry level positions for MLS/archives graduates may not exist in the same quantity as the graduates themselves (an issue beyond my purpose in these posts), entry level positions with no experience required are available.  To take but one example, in the past seven years my repository has hired six entry-level positions, filling all six with MLS grads with a year or less of experience.  Reviewing the jobs posted on the SAA site not long ago there were two positions requiring no experience.
  • I’m not sure where this impression comes from.  At the same time I perused the SAA jobs list there were three positions open for digital specialists, all at research archives.  As a combination research archives and institutional archives, I can say for certain our research side requires e-records expertise just as desperately as the university archives side, and we’re doing our best to acquire it.
  • I can appreciate how frustrating it must be to have even one position filled by an insider with less education, but to even imply that this is “always” or even widely the case is simply incorrect, at least at professionally run repositories.
  • As maddening as it is to not even get an interview for a project you are clearly qualified for, it happens all the time.  Why?  Because there are many individuals equally well qualified—even over qualified—for posted positions.  That’s one reason. Another is that despite an individual’s perfect qualifications, his/her resume or cover letter may stand improvement.  I speak from a great deal of experience reviewing cover letters and resumes for a variety of positions over nearly 25 years.  There are plenty of senior archivists more than willing to give career advice and advice on resumes and cover letters, either as part of an informational interview in your area or as part of SAA’s annual meeting career fair, where experienced hiring managers staff tables specifically to review application materials and give what career advice they can.  I can say from experience that this service is quite underutilized.

My general advice to all potential job candidates, at the beginning or the middle of their careers, is that it never hurts to apply, and that as long as you apply only to jobs you actually would accept you’re better off applying to more rather than to less.  In the wide majority of cases job postings are what they purport to be—no shoe-in internal candidate (particularly not for entry-level positions), no requirements for experience for a first-rung position, and rational explanations why what seems like a slam-dunk to the applicant is much less obvious to the hiring committee.  Stick-to-it-iveness is the watchword here, I believe, as vexing as that may be while student loans begin to come due.

For my part, I’m more than willing to respond to questions or receive comments.  The best way to reach me is through email.  And to those of you currently seeking employment, sincere best wishes and best of luck.

Thanks, Mark! We appreciate this series and your willingness to discuss these issues from the perspective of an experienced archivist. 

Advice from a Seasoned Archivist, Pt. 1

Today’s post comes to us from Mark Greene, whom you are undoubtedly familiar with through his countless archival publications, perhaps most notably MPLP with Dennis Meissner. You can read more about him in his SAA bio. Mark has offered to write a series of three posts for us addressing the job market, internships, and preparation for entry into the archives profession. 

My name is Mark Greene, and for the past decade I’ve been director the American Heritage Center (University of Wyoming), a 75,000 cu. ft. mss collection, university archives, and 60,000 rare book library. We serve 5-6,000 researchers each year, from all 50 states and a dozen nations. Our digital collections, mostly with metadata at the folder level, total north of 100,000 items. Prior to arriving in Laramie I was Head of Research Center Programs at the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village, curator of mss at the Minnesota Historical Society, and lone arranger as archivist for Carleton College. I have been in positions to do a fair amount of hiring and I have also been an official SAA Mentor (and for several years have helped staff the career fair booth at the SAA annual meeting). I also spent some time in SAA leadership in the 2010s, after serving as a Section and Roundtable chair in the previous decade.

I occasionally monitor the SNAP discussion list (there’s a LOT of traffic, which I’m afraid I can’t always keep up with) and read the most recent newsletter. Based on these experiences, and over the next three posts, I’d like to offer some thoughts about best pathways into the archival profession, internships, and hiring practices. Speaking as someone with a quarter century plus in the profession, who’s repository supports (usually) one or two interns a year, who’s been hiring other archivists since the mid-80s—and as someone who does sometimes monitor the job postings on the SAA site, I am willing to say that there seems to be some misconception (or perhaps misperception) about these matters that, with luck, I can help to clear up.

Let me start with an important caveat. While what I am about to say in these three blogs is, to the best of my knowledge, largely accurate for a significant majority of hiring scenarios, no such account can be universally relevant. It is least pertinent, perhaps, to situations where non-archivists are hiring archivists and in some government employment situations, where antiquated (in my opinion) personnel practices hold sway. And even among archivists hiring archivists there are outliers who do not conform to what I’d consider usual practices. But just because one or two institutions may have frustrating, illogical, or infuriating hiring practices does not mean that such practices are common throughout the profession.

So, you want to get your first professional archival job? Should you get an MLS w/concentration in archives administration? Yes. This has become the de facto entry-level credential for most positions, plus it gives you the flexibility of a library position if, as seems true, there are too many MLS/archivists coming out of grad programs for the number of entry-level positions available. Should you get a joint MLS/MA (history, public history, American Studies) with concentration in archives administration? Yes, this will give you even more flexibility in the overall job market, but it often comes at the cost of an extra semester or year of grad school.

What about an MA in history or public history with a concentration in archives administration? Yes, but I’d be careful here; there are only a handful of existing programs with sufficient stature to ensure the marketability of their graduates. In any of these scenarios, including a practicum or internship is a good thing. What about a public history, history, or American Studies MA with no archival concentration but an internship in an archives? I wouldn’t advise it, even if you’re able to qualify for archival certification. Graduate archival education is almost a universal requirement. I’m not saying this is good or bad, only that in my experience it’s the way it is.

Stay tuned for two most posts on this subject by Mark Greene. Please utilize the comments to have an open, honest conversation about these topics.