Reflections on Job Hunting

As anyone around my age (young adult) should know, it’s hard to find a job right now. Then if we do have one, it’s often part-time and/or not in our field. In fact, of all my friends from high school, college, and graduate school, I can count on one hand the number who found full-time jobs in their chosen field.  In fact, according to a Chronicle of Higher Education article out today, “the study, ‘Why Are Recent College Graduates Underemployed? University Enrollments and Labor Market Realities,’ [states that] out of 41.7 million working college graduates in 2010, 48 percent—more than 20 million people—held jobs that required less than a bachelor’s degree. Thirty-seven percent held jobs that required no more than a high-school diploma.”  The article goes on to add, “those who graduated from elite private institutions fared better than those from state flagship universities and other public universities” and “the number of college-level jobs is growing at a slower pace than the number of college graduates.”  Pertaining to just libraries and archives, as mentioned in an older post “several recent studies (1 2 3) demonstrated, less than 20% of the positions in my field are entry-level, and even then most are filled with experienced candidates instead of recent graduates.” If these studies and their facts aren’t enough, then a look at Hiring Librarians’ Researcher’s Corner. It summarizes these and other studies.

Part of not finding a job can be geography. When the economy first tanked in 2002, my area lost a lot of jobs. Over a decade later, it hasn’t recovered; only worsened. It doesn’t help that by the year’s end that my area’s biggest employer will shut its doors. I spent six summers looking for a summer job from high school through college and only succeeded once. One of my uncles has been out of work just as long after his school shut down. By the way, did I mention this was rural America? Yep it is. If I could have renewed my lease where I went to graduate school, I should have. I would have had a greater chance at finding a job, but the lease stated I have to be an enrolled student. If I know you and you are thinking, “But her address says…?” keep in mind half of the southern part of my county has that city as its mailing address. I don’t live in it and another town is much closer (and is served by the same post office). Plus I can be in the next county south in about five minutes. I’m sure many places, not just my area, are experiencing the same types of problems.

Lauren talks summer job hunt strategies on Canada AM

“Lauren talks summer job hunt strategies on Canada AM” by Talent Egg; From Flickr

Another part is simply the economy. Every job has way more applicants than it would have a decade ago. This means more applications are reviewed by applicant tracking software and not seen by the human eye. This often hurts a job-seekers chance because if specific key-words are not used, the applications will never see human eyes. Additionally, synonyms and having used similar programs don’t count in those systems. To look at my experience for a minute, about 80% of the interviews I’ve had were from places that didn’t use the software and over 3/4 of the institutions I applied to do use the software.

Appearance is a critical part once an interview is obtained. Professional dress, preferably a suit, and well-groomed is always best. All job resources agree on this. However, what if part of your attire doesn’t fit the culture? For example, someplace very conservative might not favor a candidate with wildly colored hair or multiple visible tattoos. Or what if you don’t look your age? I know this is a problem with me. I look like a junior high student playing dress-up. When I walk into a room, it can lead to shocked expressions from the hiring committee.

A fourth part could be you. Maybe your qualifications don’t fit just right. Maybe others have more experience. Maybe you don’t write or interview well. From experience, you’ll always questions this part more than the others. You’ll wonder “Did I do something wrong?,” “Is something wrong with me?,” and/or “Am I unemployable?” There may never be an answer to these questions. I know. I’ve struggled with these myself, asked for opinions from those who know me and my skills best, and still cannot begin to answer them.

I can’t answer questions about why young adults are not finding work. I won’t even attempt it. I simply shared some thoughts and observations. Maybe someday when I have a job, I can provide further insight and/or tell a few stories about job hunting oddities. But in the meantime, here’s a list of favorite job hunting resources available on the open web:

For everyone:

  • Careerealism (blog)
  • Career Rocketeer (blog)
  • Glassdoor – Blog (blog)
  • LinkedIn (professional networking)
  • (job postings)
  • The Savvy Intern (blog)
  • Simply Hired (job postings)
  • List of resources I curated for the library student organization while in graduate school. It’s a bit dated, but the posts were handpicked by myself and colleagues from the resources listed here and others. Most resources apply to every job, but some are library-focused.
  • For graduates of higher education, be sure to check what career resources your institution provides. Many offer search assistance, resume reviews, and other services.

For future librarians and archivists:

For those investigating careers:

Employers, if you are reading this, please remember three things. First, often those just starting their career have great ideas and a drive to continue to learn new things. Second, we were taught the most recent skills and procedures. Third, with many in the workforce being older, employing younger adults helps to ensure future generations of workers have experienced leaders. Otherwise we have the lost generation Andy speaks of in his library-themed blog, Agnostic, Maybe, in all professions.

Does anyone wish to add a favorite job-hunting resources? Or does anyone wish to share their job-hunting experiences?

Further Reading:

Why You Can’t Get a Job (Even When You’re Qualified and the Company is Hiring) by Jena McGregor, Washington Post (2012).


1. Detmering ,Robert and Claudene Sproles. “Forget the Desk Job: Current Roles and Responsibilities in Entry-Level Reference Job Advertisements.” College and Research Libraries 73.6. 543-555. Chicago: American Library Association, 2012.
2. Tewell, E. “Employment Opportunities for New Academic Librarians: Assessing the Availability of Entry Level Jobs.” Libraries and the Academy, 12(4), 407-423. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012.
3. Maata, Stephanie L. “Placements & Salaries Survey 2012: Explore All the Data.” New York: Library Journal, 2012. Online.

Edit:  1/28/13 @ 0930. Pulled down a half-hour after release and reposted to add the Chronicle of  Higher Education information.  It was too important and timely not to add.
Edit: 1/29/13 @ 0830.  Added further reading.


16 thoughts on “Reflections on Job Hunting

  1. Hi Amy,
    This is a thoughtful post on the state of job-hunting today. How are you keeping your skills sharp in the meantime while you search for a professional position?

    • Meridith, that is a good question! And it gave me an idea for a future post!

      I do several things to keep my skills sharp. I took the Power Searching with Google MOOC in July and am currently taking the Advanced Power Searching.course. I have attended over a dozen free webinars and have five more scheduled this spring. Additionally, I volunteer with a digitization project and serve as a substitute library aide and teacher at my local school district. For anyone looking for work in libraries and archives, one can pursue volunteering opportunities as most places are grateful for any help. Plus, there are plenty of free webinars to take advantage of!

      And thank you for your kind words!

  2. My view is that employers go over-the-top when asking for experience. With few if any entry level jobs available, how can educated people get this experience?

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