Reflections on the Job Hunt

I have been hired!  (Pending board approval…)  I look forward to sharing all the exciting projects this new position will bring with it, but I am reluctant to do so right now for two reasons.  First, I am still technically only a temporary employee until my appointment is approved by the board.  Second, I have not begun training yet, so I have no idea whether my new employer has a social media policy or any other things that I should know about!  So for the time being I’ll keep those thoughts to myself rather than be presumptuous and risk sharing anything that I shouldn’t.  That said, I’m completely psyched to get started and to be able to share what I learn!

The reason I hadn’t posted for some time before this happened was that I was pretty discouraged.  I went on interview after interview and was told time after time that I was the runner up to someone with more experience.  As hard as the process was, I came out of it with some important lessons worth sharing:

1. Use – I don’t know what it was about this site or my application on it, but I was called for an interview for every single job I submitted my application to.  When I registered for the site I did so to apply for a job that I felt was realistically too far away, so my profile and cover letter were very straightforward and generic.  As jobs were posted I submitted immediately, intending to go back and upload tailored letters to each district, but in every case I was called before having the opportunity (somewhat impacted by the fact that quite a few of them posted at the beginning of my vacation).

2. Tailor your cover letter, but don’t go overboard.  My impression has been that districts aren’t really looking to get a feel for your personality and fit from the cover letter.  I had three districts that I felt really strongly about, and I spent HOURS agonizing over my cover letters, having others read them and making sure that my passion and commitment to the district’s values came through.  I did not get an interview at any of those districts.  I did get interviews in the districts where my cover letter was simple and made it easy for them to evaluate whether I had enough relevant experience. 

3.  Speaking of experience, get some.  Seriously.  I do not lack for library experience.  I have worked in library settings from the day I went back to school to pursue this career.  However, I underestimated how important teaching experience is for school librarian jobs.  Principals want teacher librarians, not librarians who teach.  If you don’t have an education background, substitute teach, or find another way to get in front of a class.  Your practica just don’t cut it.

4. Be meticulously accurate, and keep good records.  You’ll be surprised when you start filling out applications how hard it is to remember certain things about your past employment.  For example, one of my positions started in October, although my hire date was in September.  Although I remember that, I don’t remember which date I thought was more significant when I filled out a particular application – so I found myself panicking when it came time to fill out more paperwork for that employer.  Do yourself a favor and make a master copy of your application information, right from the very beginning, and refer to it for every application.  It’ll save you time, and keep things consistent.  

5.  Try to enjoy the interview process.  It’s not easy, particularly when you really care about a certain position and you’re nervous, but it can be fun.  Trust that you have the knowledge and the wits to answer anything they ask you, and take advantage of the chance to talk to educators from many different districts.  I was surprised at how differently each district prioritizes education.  Be sure to ask questions about how you will be needed (particularly if there are teachers present), what has been done in the past that worked and what a successful first year would look like.  You’ll get a sense of what their hopes are for the position and whether you can meet their needs.

I am relieved to be done with this process, and a little sad that summer is almost gone.  Things could be much worse – I could be entering late August without a position! – but I am definitely looking forward to having a few days off before starting my new job.  Turtle tanks need to be cleaned, paperwork needs to be filed and sleep needs to be caught up on!  I’m sad to be leaving Fayetteville.  It didn’t hit me until after I accepted the position that moving on really does mean not working there anymore.  I have four days left, then on to new things.




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