Mary Richardson is the Project Archivist at Yale Divinity Library. She earned her MLIS from Kent State University. Her research interests include Pop Culture, Feminism, and Punk Rock music.
Recently, a good friend of mine started the perilous journey of acquiring a job after gaining a Masters in Library and Information Science. I went through an epic quest myself to obtain employment after grad school, but that is another blog post for another day. I’m not going to lie to you. Getting that first job can be incredibly difficult. You can do all the right things and still not get the phone interview. It’s a rough job market out there, and it’s not getting better for us archivists. Having a sense of humor and a sense of adventure will get you through. When giving advice to my friend, I said, “treat this as a role playing game.”
In any RPG, you create your character and explore a fantasy world. Usually, you are on a quest of some sort. In this case, the character you are creating is going to be your professional self in the job world. Most RPGs start off with rolling for skill sets. You don’t have to do that because you’ve got your degree, so all of those classes, research, and internships put you at an even ability point range. Level 1 archivists are students, and the recent grad can consider herself/himself a level 2 archivist. Your quest is to get that job!
In addition to your base skills you can also have modifiers. Modifiers are numbers that are added to your base skills. So for example, let’s say I have an intelligence skill of 12, but I know a foreign language which gives me an additional +3 making my intelligence 15. Think about all the stuff you know how to do. You are trying to create your best professional self, and part of that is marketing your skill sets. Can you code or maintain a website? Have you taken a workshop on preservation? Modifiers bump you up a little. Don’t be afraid to brag on yourself either.
One of the most boring parts of applying for jobs is filling out those pesky online HR forms. The entire time you’re doing it, you’re asking yourself why you even have to attach your resume because you have spent the last half hour navigating through screen after screen inputting your work history into tiny boxes. This part of the job search is tedious. I consider this the level grinding part in the quest. Level grinding occurs when you don’t have enough experience points to take on the big bad so you wander around completing smaller often monotonous tasks that give small amounts of experience points (or XP in gamer speak) in the hopes of leveling up to then complete your main quest.
When exploring caves and dungeons in a RPG there isn’t always going to be loot, and sometimes the loot you get isn’t what you were hoping for. Sometimes you’re going to get the phone interview, but the opportunity for an in-person interview may not happen. Do not be discouraged! This means you have now acquired the phone interview feat! It’s always nerve-wracking on the first go, but the more times you conduct this audio adventure the more skilled you will become. Even negative experiences still net you level-building XP, because you can learn from them and then adapt the next time that situation presents itself.
Now I realize all of this isn’t going to get you the epic job. However, if you take some time to gamify the process, then the boring parts may not be so tedious. A sense of humor can get you through this arduous task, and onto the next stage in the game. I will tell you the RPG doesn’t have to stop at acquiring employment. I’m playing a new RPG right now called Professional Development!