[21/1/05: I have followed up on this post here]
Well, I am settling into Sydney. I’ve found a place to live in Alexandria and I started my job last week. This job is going to be quite a challenge at first, as it’s a special library position in an industry which I’ve never worked before, electricity.
This blog may start looking more at special library issues, which don’t seem well represented in the blogosphere. Why is that? I don’t really know. Not only can a special library be so different and unlibrarylike when compared with regular libraries, but a special library can also completely different from other special libraries.
But before I move on, I would like to pause and reflect on the chapter of my life which has just finished. I’d like to write a little about my experience of finding a librarian job in Australia.
This job search was unusually challenging for a few reasons. Firstly, although I had been educated in Australia, 99% of my relevant work experience had been in the US. Particularly with the law library positions, I needed to convince employers that I would be able to hit the ground running in Australia. Secondly, once I decided that I would look for jobs on Mainland Australia while being based in Tasmania, I found that this strategy – although ultimately successful – was not without difficulties. One of the major placement agencies told me that I was basically wasting my time and wasn’t very helpful at all. I am glad that their main competitor (Zenith) had a different view and that I eventually found a position through them. Still, it would have been a lot easier if I had been living in the city where I was looking for work. I could have then applied for the numerous short-term temp positions that were also available.
The Australian library job market is different from the American job market because of the role of placement agencies. These agencies don’t just fill the short-term temp positions, but they also fill a number of good permanent positions, especially within the law library and special library fields. As I mentioned before, I eventually found work through Zenith and I’d like to say a big thank you to Garry, Sally and Marian.
Still, even if you use a placement agency, you would be a fool if you delegated all of the job seeking to them. Set up automated searches on the job sites like Seek, careerone and mycareer. Seek was my favourite one, which had librarian in their list of occupations, but use careerone and mycareer as well (I’m losing my familiarity with the US resources, but still remember Monster). Remember that not all librarian positions have the L word in their job title, especially in the Special Library world. My current job title is Information Centre Officer. A previous special library position I had was called Corporate Research Analyst, but the weird job title didn’t make it any less of a special library position. So how do you catch these positions? The tried and true low-tech way is to browse the actual Saturday newspaper (Sunday if you’re in the US) and see what turns up in or near the spaces where the librarian jobs usually appear. This wasn’t an option for me because it’s difficult to buy the Sydney Morning Herald in Tasmania. So I had a few automated searches on the job sites for the different targets. I even had one big nasty hairy beast of a search for just “library”. This one gave me a lot of false hits, but once in a while I found a gem buried in all that crap. A job search is one instance where you don’t to be too selective or narrow in your search strategy. It’s a numbers game, so the greater number of prospects that you find and apply for, the better the chance will be that one of them will work out.
Don’t forget the professional associations. ALIA’s website has a jobs page, which also has an XML feed. Having been spoilt by news aggregators, I’m not a fan of traditional email lists, but during a job search, I’ll join as many relevant ones as possible, such as the Australian Law Librarians' Group. Because I absolutely suck at networking, this is one of my only ways of tapping into the less formal unadvertised job market. Look around and see if you can find any other local resources for finding. For example, if you’re looking for library jobs in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, you can’t go past the Metronet jobs page.
I’m not totally slagging networking as a job seeking technique. If it works for you, go for it – you’re lucky and I hate you (no, not really). This is one of the things I like about the role of placement agencies in the Australian library job market. I’d rather let the professionals play the networking game for me. I also think that their gatekeeper role which provides some initial distance between the employer and the job seeker, can work to the advantage of the network-challenged like me.
My point in this tangent about networking is this: If networking isn’t one of your strong points, there is still some hope for you (unless you’re looking for a librarian position in Tasmania). If you stick at it, you will get there eventually – it will just take longer, and you’ll have to send in more applications, and get more rejections.
All of this has mainly been about just the first step in the job searching process, finding the positions to apply for. Although this is a crucial step, it’s also the easiest step. The really hard work is still to come, sending out the applications, having interviews and keeping motivated in the face of the inevitable rejections. That’s what I’ll write about in the second part.