Career Strategies for Librarians
Slow and Steady Wins the Race: Preventing Burnout during the Job Search
by Alexandra Janvey
In today’s difficult economy, recent library school graduates and librarians still searching for employment
should be preparing for a marathon, not a sprint. Librarians are currently struggling to find work, but
many are not truly prepared for the toll that such an extensive job search can have on their life. As the
search for employment is likely to be lengthy, it would be beneficial to treat it as such.
It is easy to quickly become overwhelmed, frustrated, and caught up in the hunt for employment.
Managing your time and stress is critical to maintaining an effective and productive job search as well as
keeping yourself healthy. There would be no point to landing an interview if you’re unable to perform at
your best. Likewise, it would be pointless to land a job and not be able to keep it.
Like many new graduates before me, I delved into the job search headfirst, eager to succeed and defy
the employment odds. Almost all my time was spent sending out job applications and I rarely got out of
the house. This proved to be a mistake when several months later I found myself mentally exhausted
and with nothing to show for my efforts. I hadn’t received a single reply to any job applications sent
during this time and my confidence suffered. The experience forced me to change my approach to job-
hunting, which all helped me get a job. The following strategies will assist job seekers to be effective in
their search for employment without allowing it to consume every moment of their life.
Quality over quantity
There is only so much time an individual can afford to allocate for writing cover letters, resumes, and
related job-hunting activities. We all lead busy lives whether it’s working current jobs, taking care of
family, or doing both while still finishing library school. That’s why it’s so important to use the time you
have efficiently. Resist the urge to send out as many cover letters and resumes as possible, especially
those that you don’t possess some of the qualifications for. This is an inefficient use of a large amount
of time and will most likely get you nowhere.
Instead, be selective in the positions that you apply to. Choose the jobs that you have some of the right
experience for, would be a good fit, and are genuinely interested in. This doesn’t mean you won’t
eventually be sending out hundreds of job applications, just pace yourself. If you come across five job
postings one week and don’t have time to apply to all of them, then don’t. Select the two or three jobs that
are the best fit, do a little research, and spend your time wisely constructing a well thought out,
customized cover letter and resume. Focusing your time on crafting quality cover letters and resumes for
this select group will create much better results than just answering all the job postings that you come
across. Employers receive so many applications for each position that they have to pick the best of the
pile. Give a great first impression with a job application that makes you stand out.
Get out of the house
Spending all day on the computer, writing cover letter after cover letter, and incessantly checking e-mail
for responses will drive you crazy. Downtime is essential to maintaining mental health and a productive
lifestyle. Taking breaks from writing cover letters, resumes and job searching in general is perfectly fine.
In fact, I recommend it! Even though there is immense pressure to find a job, don’t feel guilty for needing
to take break. This may involve stepping away from the computer to exercise or accepting a friend’s
invitation to dinner. Taking a quick walk outside to breathe in the fresh air always helps me when I need
to give my eyes a rest. This won’t be a waste of time, but will provide respite to recharge and refocus your
mind. You might be surprised at how many obvious errors you catch on a cover letter or resume after
returning from a break or how much easier it is to continue working on job applications.
Another reason to get out of the house is to network! An effective job search can’t be done exclusively
from behind a computer. Networking is a critical part of an effective job search. Attend local librarian
gatherings, professional organization events, and even training workshops or larger conferences. I can’t
express enough how important it is to meet and talk with fellow librarians in the field and become
known. I’m still new to the librarian field (two years) and have already been asked numerous times to
recommend someone for an open position. Where did I meet these people I recommended? I met all of
them all at professional organization events and knew from our conversations that they were looking for
Don’t just focus on networking with employed librarians; it’s useful to meet and talk with fellow job
hunters too. Sharing experiences, success, failures, advice, and frustrations can help with your own job
search. Hearing about other other’s experiences can also help to put things in perspective. Knowing
about other’s difficulties and knowing you’re not alone can provide motivation to continue working hard.
Use the relationships formed with other job seekers to provide a network of support for each other.
Having this support system will keep you going during the job hunt, even when feeling down. Exchange
e-mails and agree to look over each other’s cover letters and resumes. This is mutually beneficial and it
can’t hurt to have another set of eyes to catch errors others may have overlooked.
Don’t worry about what could have been
We are often our worst critics, and this is no exception. If you discover a grammatical error or spelling
mistake in a cover letter that was just sent, make a note to proofread your next cover letter an extra time. If
you feel that an interview didn’t go well, be better prepared next time; write down some of the unexpected
questions that were asked, come up with good answers, and remember them for future interviews. You
never know when these questions will be asked at another interview. While it is good to learn from
mistakes and make improvements, don’t nitpick at everything thing you do. The truth is that there are
going to be times you may never know why your resume didn’t get a response or someone was chosen
over you for a job, or why you didn’t get a job after a particularly good interview. There simply could have
just been a more experienced applicant who the interviewer felt fit better or the final decision could have
been affected by something totally out of your control. Don’t spend a great deal of time nitpicking over
every little thing that you could have done better or think you did wrong because it isn’t productive and will
prevent you from moving forward in your search for a job. Know that you did the best you could and
continue to get those job applications sent out.
Above all, be persistent and don’t give up. You may only go on one interview after sending hundreds of
resumes. It has nothing to do with your performance; it’s just the way things are in the current job market.
Persevere and remain focused.
About the Author
Alexandra Janvey is currently a Librarian and Archivist at Long Island University in Brookville, NY. She
received her MSLIS from the Palmer School at Long Island University and a BA in American Studies from
Muhlenberg College. You can find her on twitter at @Alliebrwneyez.
Article published March 2013
Disclaimer: The ideas expressed in LIScareer articles are those of their respective authors and do not necessarily
represent the views of the LIScareer editors.