Thursday, May 28, 2009

Employment Drama, Part II

Part I is here.

So, there I was, in my temporary decent hours although feeling somewhat underemployed at my perfectly nice although job-posting-challenged Suburban Library System, and buckling down for at least the medium haul there since the coveted Big City Library System had announced a hiring freeze this January, when...

Big City Library System posted a job.

And not just any job. A cool, interesting, challenging, unusual job, working not at a reference desk but out and about with members of marginalized communities, especially those who might not ordinarily be inclined to come to the library. That kind of job could be really bad news if if's not well-thought-out, and/or if the Powers that Be aren't supportive and expect the moon and let librarians burn themselves out. But I didn't get that sense in this case. Just before the job was posted, in fact, I'd been to a workshop presented by members of the team doing this job, in which they'd talked candidly about the difficulties and frustrations as well as the rewards. I came out of it excited and energized and inspired and wishing like hell my job was more like that.

Then, the next week, the posting went up, an exception to the hiring freeze because this area is a high priority for the city.

I pulled out all my notes from my last debriefing and applied them: added more items to my resume; went over the posting and highlighted the important buzzwords; pounded out the most impassioned cover letter I've ever written, without even bullshitting.

The next week I got an email asking to schedule an interview for barely a week later.

I went into a flurry of preparation. I'd started a temporary once-a-week gig at BCLS for a month or so, filling in for another librarian who hadn't started yet. So the week before I had the interview, I spent some time at the end of the shift talking with the person in charge of the program, who confirmed my sense that it was well-administered, that the supervisors had a clear idea of the potential toll and issues and worries people might have about it. I left her office feeling even more sure that not only did I want this position, but I could do a good job at it.

The weekend before the interview, I spent a day putting together and practicing my assigned presentation, running questions with RW, and henna-ing my hair.

And the interview was great. I knew and liked the interviewers, and I felt prepared to answer the questions. They kept nodding and scribbling things down, and they were engaged during my presentation. The written question was on a totally unexpected topic, but once I took a few minutes to absorb it, I wrote like crazy and pulled up ideas I hadn't even known I had. I didn't come out of it feeling like I'd nailed it, but I felt like I'd done pretty well and even sort of had fun.

I didn't think I would necessarily get the job, though. Since seniority goes by hours worked at that library system and not by months worked, or by years of overall professional experience, even a new graduate who'd worked at BCLS as a student could leap right over me with the 10% seniority boost.

Which, as it turns out, is exactly what happened.

It was close enough that just a day before the "you were not the successful candidate" call, Human Resources phoned me to get information about more references, and close enough that both my interviewers went out of their way in the following week, both during the debriefing and at other times, to tell me how well I'd done and what a good addition I'd be to the library staff, and to urge me to hang in there and wait for the end of the hiring freeze, probably in the next year. HR even offered me an eight-month full-time position , which I turned down after agonizing about it for a few days, since the end of that temporary term could leave me without steady employment at all if the freeze didn't lift.

All of which was reassuring, and lovely for my ego, , but somehow I've taken this whole process harder than any of the others. Maybe because the job was so unusual and exciting, or maybe because the interview-preparation process was so particularly demanding that I got even more invested than usual. The fact that I've been working regularly at the library during the whole process, and getting to work with some of the players in a regular day-to-day way, might have something to do with it, too. Or maybe it was just that it was so very very close.

Anyway, it's not such an exciting story to anyone else: I applied for a job, I didn't get the job. But I feel almost like I did at the end of summer camp or the high school play or even a crush. It was an intimate experience. Even though I didn't talk at all about my personal life during the application process, what I said during the interview and wrote on my cover letter and in the interview written portion tapped into some of my deepest passions. I barely know them, but the people who read my application and saw my interview got to hear and know me in ways that not a lot of people do, and that was fulfilling all on its own; who doesn't want to be heard, known, appreciated?

And now, you know, that's over. The show closes, and you go back to barely saying hi to people in the halls. Camp ends, and maybe you write to a couple bunkmates every once in a while. And now that someone has been chosen for the posting, the job of the administration at BCLS is no longer, for the time being, to hear and know and appreciate me; they have lots of other work to do.

So, things go on. Eventually, the hiring freeze will lift. Eventually, I'll accumulate enough on-call hours at BCLS to have some chance of having seniority on my side, though at the rate I'm going, it will take a long time. Or maybe eventually the other finalists will blow their interviews enough that if I do really well I can beat the seniority advantage. Or someone at Suburban Library System will retire, or move, or maybe even another job will be created there, and I'll have a good chance at it. Whichever system finally does offer me a permanent job in my specialty, that's probably where I'll be for a good long while.

Today was the last of my weekly fill-in sessions at BCLS, though I'm still on their on-call list. The person who got the job started this week, so she was there, and I congratulated her, because it's the grownup thing to do, to pull it together to be warm and gracious to someone who beat you out for a job, because, you know, the professional world is small, and what else can you do? She seemed nice and smart and enthusiastic and I'm sure will do a great job. Really.

But still, I found myself unusually tired today.

15 Comments:

OpenID feralgeographer said...

Unusually tired? Yes, I'd believe it! I'm sorry that it didn't work out (for now)... And I love your "end of summer camp" analogy.

(As an aside, can I ask you a question about libraries? In my home city on the big island near you, the public library catalogue uses subject headings as a vocabulary for all materials, including fiction. But in the big Australian city where I'm currently residing, the fiction collection of the public library is only search-able by title or author. Is there a standard for this sort of thing?)

2:01 AM  
Blogger Songbird said...

I'm so sorry about how this ended. Libraries are odd institutions. I don't think the public library here has advertised a position outside in ten years (other than when looking for a new Director), because they hire from their subs or part-timers (one of whom used to be me).

4:03 AM  
Blogger Phantom Scribbler said...

I'm exhausted just reading about all the prep time these interviews took, and for jobs that you would, of course, enjoy, but are not exactly going to pay you handsomely, you know? Bah, my inner socialist gets irritated when the amount of time (potential) employers expect of you is in no way commensurate with the amount of money (potential) employers expect to pay you!

It takes awhile to get over that burst of intense connection after it's gone, though, doesn't it? Sympathy and lots of it.

6:15 AM  
Blogger elswhere said...

Phantom--Yeah, BCLS does require an unusual amount of hoop-jumpage, especially considering how much of it is decided by seniority anyway. Once you're in, though, you're protected by a relatively strong union (hence the seniority and all the point-system scoring).

Songbird-- same here, for all the library systems in the area. New library-school graduates often sign up to work as substitutes in three or four systems, just so they can qualify for internal postings. It's kind of crazy.

feralgeographer-- I'm not sure what's up with Australia. Fiction subject headings, especially for adult fiction, tend to be sort of bizarre and unreliable, so maybe that city just decided not to use them? The trend in general seems to be towards more subject headings, not fewer, though.

And all-- thanks for the sympathy. It's been a couple of weeks since I heard, so I'm thinking I really should be over it by now. But I guess sometimes things just take the time they take.

8:03 AM  
Blogger liz said...

I am just so sorry about this.

That 10% seniority bump sounds so very excessive to me.

10:50 AM  
Blogger Phantom Scribbler said...

I guess sometimes things just take the time they take.Ah-yup. I reckon so.

It would be nice if you could dictate your own schedule for getting over things, though.

4:51 PM  
Blogger chasmyn said...

Wow, that all seems like so much of an emotional roller-coaster. I think it says a lot about the people like you who keep going through it, who keep at it - what an amazing bunch! Before knowing you, I had no idea what it took to be a librarian, although I always thought it would be a wonderful job to have.

I cannot help but think that this is just the beginning of some sort of self-discovery for you, and that when your job does finally come along - and it will - that it will be fully amazing, and better than you'd even guessed way back when (which would be now).

In other words, this or something better. It is on its way.

6:09 PM  
Blogger Pamelamama said...

Ugh, I can feel it coming right through the screen. When you feel like something is just perfect for you and you know in your heart that it belongs for you and then somehow, it doesnt. It reminds me when we saw the perfect house in NY and I knew we'd get it. I got the call we'd been outbid and I stood in my classroom and cried. Because you see it all, you see yourself going there, making it your place, being excited and energized about it, making it your life. And then poof. No fair! Sorry E!

10:46 PM  
Blogger susan said...

I was so hoping this post was going to end differently--but no wonder you're so tired. The application process--and even the very helpful debriefings--promote attachment and investment, which makes is even harder to process the outcome. I hope your time comes soon.

6:33 PM  
Anonymous cheesefairy said...

Echoing everyone else, yes, of course you are exhausted. I too hoped for a happier ending. I want to believe that the things people want are the things they will have.

...maybe the person who got the job will suck / hate it and they will call you?

my sympathies to you.

8:30 PM  
Blogger Abacaxi Mamao said...

I feel your pain. After I went all-out applying for something, waiting forever to hear, and being rejected, I spent two days in bed. I guess you can't really do that if you have a kid (and a job). I felt a little bit better after that, and with some distance (several months after applying, 1.5 months after hearing), I feel like it would not have been the right place for me and it's therefore for the best that I was rejected.

That isn't always the case; sometimes I've been rejected from things that *were* totally right and the pain really persists for awhile. I have found, though, that rejections often lead, in one way or another, to new doors being opened. After being rejected for a fellowship that I *totally* should have gotten and that I risked a tremendous amount of my self/person/privacy to apply for, and being angry for awhile, I ended up applying for two scary, long-shot gigs, and receiving them both, attaining if not fortune, the some small amount of fame (read: public exposure) as a writer. If I had not been dirt-poor and desperate for money, I would never have put myself out there for these gigs, which will, I hope, lead to other good things in the future. (Also, I used one part of the kick-ass fellowship app essay in my profile on a dating website and have met some interesting, quirky guys that way.)

There are also always the things that you learn about yourself from the intense process of preparing and applying. Not things like "I really should have gotten that job," but things like, "Wow, I was so brave to apply and so kick-ass in putting together such a complete and kick-ass picture of my immense skills and talents." Also, you can probably recycle parts of your work for this job in future job applications.

I have applied for so much over the past 12 months that I hardly had to write anything new for a recent application.

I am still sorry that you didn't get the job.

3:30 AM  
Blogger Anna said...

I'm really sorry it ended up that way, after all that work. :( It sounds exhausting and demanding and yes...a major letdown, to expose yourself for...nothing. You have every right to be down about this...but I hope you feel better soon.

11:35 AM  
Blogger Jackie said...

I interviewed for a teaching position three years ago, and I had a very similar experience-- all day long, I had the inner conviction that this job was mine, that this was the perfect place for me and that it must be as obvious to them as it was to me-- and of course, they offered free tuition to teachers' kids, so I was imagining my girls there too-- and I didn't get the job.

I've got another job now that I love, but that still stings a little, to be totally honest.

1:36 PM  
Blogger elswhere said...

Jackie--yeah, exactly. I've applied for a lot of jobs in the past year, but none of them seemed quite so right as this one. I think it will fade some after I get a children's librarian job for real, but maybe not entirely.

8:26 PM  
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12:02 AM  

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