Q: [Edited] I am a 2007 MSIS graduate. A month after finishing library school I was able to start in a contract position with a large non-profit hospital. At the time I thought it was an amazing opportunity; now I’m not so sure. After marrying a member of the military I was able to continue in the contract position and transition to telecommuting. This is a part-time, non-traditional library position, and I doubt I’ll have many further opportunities for growth or for learning new skills. I am concerned I missed out on the opportunity to start my library career off on solid footing. My job title is contractor and I don’t know how to make it more attractive a description to potential resume readers without raising questions. I’m now actively searching for a full-time position with benefits, but have had not succeeded in getting so much as an interview in two years. Could the non-traditional nature of my experience be hindering my search? I am very active in two professional library organizations, but my spouse is now planning a long-term military career, and I’m concerned that even if I get the chance to gain some experience in a traditional setting I’ll have to rebuild a professional network and job hunt every time we move. Is it time to consider leaving librarianship? Would more or different training help?
CNW: Careers are only one aspect of our lives, and balancing career and family needs is a challenge for many people. For the time being, it seems as though you have found a flexible role that can accommodate your spouse’s military career growth. There’s no reason to feel that you have gotten your career off to a bad start. It sounds like you have done very well in finding a role that makes use of your specialized training but is flexible enough to accommodate your family’s needs.
Since you have already been on the job market for two years and you’re not getting interviews for traditional library roles, it’s a possibility that your contract status is making you appear less attractive to prospective employers. However, you may also want to revisit how you are framing your skills and work history. Since employers want to hire the most qualified candidate, it would be a good idea to reach out to your professional network for help with framing your qualifications in the most attractive light. Note that I don’t advise fudging details of your employment or experience, but articulating clearly and concisely how your skills relate to the specific traditional library job you want. This means tailoring your resume and cover letter for each job application and telling the story of how your unique skill set qualifies you for the position.
Since you are still relatively early in your career, more training could benefit you in the long run but it won’t necessarily help your library career. I recommend that you look closely at your reasons for wanting a traditional library job. If you will be moving frequently, you will likely find it frustrating to uproot your career repeatedly – and in the long run this pattern could make you a less attractive candidate to traditional employers who value stability. It sounds as though you have outgrown your current gig and are ready for new challenges and professional experiences along with the benefits that come with a full-time job. Full-time, location-independent roles do exist for librarians, though you are more likely to find them in a nontraditional setting. Consider building on your nontraditional experience by looking for a full-time job that can flourish in tandem with your spouse’s career – wherever that may take you.
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If you are a military spouse, try to get a job in one of the military libraries. If you can get a federal position, all the better as you may be able to “transfer” or go on LWOP when your spouse moves onto another assignment. If there are no job openings in the libraries on post, volunteer so they get to know you and your work. You will also have a family member hiring preference, but makes sure you know the rules for using this. Army General Libraries will require you to do everything from story hours to circulation. Abroad you generally have a Supervisory Librarian, a Programming Librarian and a few techs. In the U.S. you may also have Catalogers and Reference Librarians, but these will be at larger Posts/Bases. Good luck.