Q: I am a certified public librarian for approximately a year now. While we all know it’s not the best area for a career due to all the funding cuts, I chose this career because it’s the only thing I can honestly say I love doing. This is my second career, and I spent the past 13 grueling years getting educated for it thinking I would graduate and get a job. I wanted more security, and wanted to be able to retire with a decent pension. Now there are very few full-time positions, and most libraries are taking full-time positions and cutting them down to part-time positions which do not include benefits. It’s really frustrating. But what’s even more frustrating is knowing that I am very competent, but constantly get overlooked. Just recently there were some positions available in my library that were never posted, and ended up in the hands of “friends” of our director. It’s really very upsetting to be an individual that does not know that many people, therefore, a job is not in the cards for me. Everyone in my library is aware of this, but are all afraid to speak. It happens right in front of us and I just want to cry sometimes because there is really nothing I can do about it. I took the civil service exams, but recently learned that the director’s know their way around those lists as well. They can hire anyone they want to have that just by just pulling a few strings and knowing how to do it. It’s that simple. Therefore, there is no security for me, and many other hard working librarians. It’s very unfortunate, but I don’t think there is anything I can do.
I am currently experiencing some medical problems that are requiring very expensive testing. I make less than $25,000 a year, but I am not eligible for low-cost insurance because I make too much money, therefore it’s going to cost me thousands. I get killed in taxes because I do not own anything, and probably won’t at this point. I barely put food on my table, but in order to get somewhere I have to know somebody. So my question is, at this point, what can I do with my degree other than be a librarian? I thought about going back to become a digital librarian, but at this point, I am knee deep in student loans, and would hate to invest in that and have it become ineffective in the way of getting a job.
I’m sorry if I sound so negative, but I am a single woman, and really put all my heart and soul into getting this degree. I am feeling a bit discouraged right now, and it doesn’t help when you find out a position was filled at your library and you never even had a chance because it was another case of nepotism. What makes me think I will ever have a chance?
Thank you for listening. I am looking forward to your advice.
TA: I don’t mean for this to sound tough, and perhaps written communication isn’t the most effective way of sharing this message for either one of us, but the tone of your question comes across as negative, overly dramatic, and very discouraging, and this isn’t how you attract potential employers. I’m sure you’d never strike this tone with an employer, but be careful how you frame your situation.
First, you talk about how much you love being a librarian, but describe your education process as “13 grueling years”. I can’t say as I’ve heard of a degree program that takes that long, so my guess is it wasn’t getting your degree that was grueling, but probably the circumstances preventing you from finishing it in a timely manner. Still, the vibe you put out there is all about struggle. You need to flip that thinking (and your vocabulary) into more about development, accomplishments, and success.
Second, I would guess that it’s probably more perception than stated, accepted fact that your director works around policy and puts people into positions solely based on nepotism. The problem with perception is that sometimes it’s actually right, which leads people to conclude that all their assumptions and perceptions are correct. If the director is actually guilty of nepotism, then yes, you’re going to want to find another place of employment for advancement opportunities if you’re not in that inner circle. If however, it’s just your perception that he or she is guilty of nepotism, that sure is an easy way out of having no accountability in terms of your own advancement and growth. It’s a lot easier to sit back and blame than it is to identity and take ownership of deficiencies and do something about it.
Third, think carefully about how much information you share and why you’re sharing it. Your medical tests, your taxes and your marital status probably have little to do with your professional struggles, but you put everything out there and it really muddies the water. If you read your question carefully and pull out the job-related information, your questions boil down primarily to two things: 1) What can I do with my degree, other than be a librarian; and 2) Will I ever have a chance at a promotion? In response to Question 1, check out the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook entry for librarians (http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos068.htm#related), specifically the section on related occupations. And in response to Question 2, take some time to reflect on what you have to offer, what you want in the short- and long-term, and what skills and abilities you’ll need to acquire to achieve that. Compare that with what your current employer offers, and what else is out there. Then make a plan and chart your course. Don’t sit back and wait. Aim for success, not stagnation.