I’ve never had the temperament of a leader, or someone who really likes to be in charge of things. I do like to be in charge, to a point, but once things get a bit difficult, I like to be able to foist responsibility onto someone else better equipped to deal with it. This is probably quite an immature attitude to have, and probably something I should be working to remedy, at least that’s what I’ve been thinking since I became a professional librarian, and began the quest for a professional “grown-up” job.
At this point in my career, I should be hustling, and networking, and making contacts, etc. I should be wowing people on a daily basis, and thinking outside the box. The problem is, I just don’t think I can operate that way, and I can’t decide if I’m being lazy, or just realistic. Even though I love my job and the people I work with, it’s not full time. Does the fact that I’m not breaking my ass to find full-time work mean that I’ve given up, or just that I’m aware of the economy?
I was talking to another girl who graduated library school around the same time as me. She is another one, like so many librarians–including me, who floundered around for a while not knowing what to do with her life, and then got an MLIS. After a few months of post-graduation unemployment, her mother finally asked her something like, “are you finally going to get a real job?” My friend then had to explain that yes, she would love a real job, but there just aren’t any. Even though that’s 100% true due to the fact that most public libraries are working under extreme budget cuts and can barely afford to keep the doors open, most colleges and universities are in hiring freezes, and private libraries and archives never have money in the best of times. It’s all true, and none of it is our fault, but we still both feel like we’ve failed somehow.
After I graduated I had a similar conversation with my mother where she basically said, “You told me that you were going to get your degree, and then get a job. Why are you now saying you’re not going to do that?” The fact that I really like where I live, my friends, my boyfriend, didn’t seem to matter to her. Why should it though? When I tell people “my boyfriend is in a PhD program for another three years at least, and I like being around him” it sounds pathetic even to my ears. It makes me feel like I’m choosing relationship over career, even though I’m not.
My mother also clings stubbornly to the idea that as long as you have a degree, that’s all that matters, not what the degree is for, which is just not the case anymore, of it ever was. She drilled that idea into my head throughout undergrad, and I repeated it to other people as well. I’ve since figured out that the degree may matter less, but the work experience is what people really want, and that people only want to hire you to do what you’ve already done.
I started working at Dairy Queen when I was fifteen, and it took nearly ten years for me to get away from food service. Then, naturally, I wanted a food service job again last summer, and my experience seems to have expired. Even when I decided that I was sick of food service and went to a temp agency, the woman tried to hook me up with a new cafe that had opened at a truck stop, “I told them about you, and they’re really excited!” she promised. When I told her that that was the opposite of what I wanted to do, that I wanted an office job where I could wear nice clothes and not smell like baked goods or a fryer at the end of the day, her face fell and she told me that that would be a much harder sell. Even though the qualities she had espoused to the truck stop people were some that could apply to any industry, I had passed my typing test like a pro, and had plenty of computer, filing, and multi-line phone knowledge, she was not willing to go to bat for me because I had never worked in an office.
Similarly with librarianship, I’ve got a lot of experience, but not a lot of professional experience, and practically no experience working in an academic library, which is where I ultimately want to end up. I spoke to the Dean of Libraries of a small college in Massachusetts last week who told me flat out, “If I see a resume, and there’s nothing but public library experience on it, that person won’t get an interview.” Basically, I’m working in public libraries to gain experience that won’t parlay into the kind of library job I want. It’s like my career has stalled in year one, and all I can do is hope that not all deans of libraries have the same attitude as her.
I’ve accepted that it may take a while to get a full-time job, and I’m also damn lucky to have a job in my field that I actually love and that’s not just a filler position to pull in a little bit of cash. Being poor is boring as hell, but never having had a real job, at least I don’t know what I’m missing. I just want someone else to acknowledge that it’s not me, and that I am capable of getting a real job; or maybe I need to accept that it is me after all.