Job Searching with a Significant Other

The job search process is stressful. I’ve been perfecting my materials, scouring jobs boards, and taking in as much advice as I possibly can. Luckily, I’ve received a ton of advice since starting my search for library jobs after graduation. The vast majority has been extremely useful, especially because I’m new to the library job search process and it’s more complicated than I thought; however, there are some pieces of advice that I feel work better for people without significant others, families, or location restrictions. This advice includes applying nationally, to not being afraid to apply for that job in the middle of nowhere, and to be open to relocating if necessary. Library jobs, especially academic jobs, aren’t always conveniently located in your city, and I’ve watched several of my colleagues move across the country to take a position. While I think this is great and can increase my chances of nabbing an academic library position, there’s other factors I’m considering in my own job search.

I’ve been with my significant other for over three years. He has a job that he enjoys, and he is also trying to kickstart his own career. We’ve had several conversations about my job search and what that might mean for him. When I look at a position out of state, I consider if it’s viable for both of us to live there. What’s the overall job market in this city? Can he get a job too? Will we both be happy in this state? A lot of times, what’s perfect for me may not be perfect for him.

My job search situation is not unique. Some people have families to consider when searching. Others are caretakers and cannot leave their city. Some may need to live next to a major hospital due to health considerations. Other people may live the opportunities certain locations afford them and would consider their quality of life diminished if they had to move. All of this makes the library job search a bit harder. It’s not impossible, but I won’t deny that it’s been difficult.

I’ve thought a lot about my own job search and what strategies will be helpful. Staying local or being picky about locations isn’t a guaranteed career ender. I’ve been given some ideas, and have been using some myself, to balance my career aspirations with my relationship.


This seems so obvious, but it’s been important in my own search. My partner and I have communicated so much about jobs recently that we’re kind of over it. Communication is important in any relationship, but it’s been especially important as I’ve applied to jobs. Several people I’ve talked to have mentioned that they sat down with their significant other, pulled out a map, and marked locations that they were both willing to live in. While I haven’t used a map, we’ve both been clear about where we absolutely are unwilling to move. I’ll also send job postings to my partner for feedback, will let him know what prospects look like for him in the area, and try and remain as open as possible about what I’m applying to and when I’m applying. He’ll do his own research as well. The academic library job search is also a complete mystery to him, so I have to be cognizant of this as well. We haven’t always been perfect communicators, but we’re figuring this out as we go.


There has to be some element of compromise during this process. I think compromise looks different depending on the couple or the individual. Do we compromise on a career? Can we agree on a location? Do we live apart for a year? There aren’t always easy answers to these questions, but we’ve had to ask them.

Expanding Horizons

I asked a panel of library professionals what advice they had for people job searching with location restrictions. A piece of advice I received was to be open to all possibilities. This might mean searching for a public library job when you really prefer academic, or considering alternative careers. Some recommended volunteering in libraries while working a paid job. Essentially, it’s easier to find a job in a location you want if you’re patient and willing to look at all possibilities.

Professional Network

Networking is incredibly important in libraries because our world is so small. It’s especially important if you want to stay in your local community. Many places have local organizations and networks that put on cool events and are worth joining. Getting to the know the library community in the city you want to live in might be the edge you need to land a job.

I don’t have all the answers when it comes to job searching with a significant other. I’m still feeling out this process for myself. It’s sometimes difficult and stressful, but we’ll see how everything plays out.

What challenges are you having with your own library job search? What are your experiences with job searching with a partner?

Cover photo: “I wanna hold your hand” by Josep Ma. Rosell. Licensed under CC BY 2.0

Melissa DeWitt is an MLIS student at the University of Denver. You can find her on Twitter

Categories: Job Searching

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5 replies

  1. In my experience of job searching with a partner, my husband’s field was much harder to find work in than mine – he has a PhD in English. It’s from one of the top universities in the world, and he was their top-ranked student in all of Humanities, plus he had many publications and presentations, plus he had over a decade of teaching experience with stellar evaluations and a recommendation from the then-President of the Modern Language Association. That and $5 will get you coffee at Starbucks. Though he tried for a solid year after his PhD to land a teaching position in the US, Canada, UK, and Europe, he was never successful. I found work – and not only work, but I’ve become a Dean at a research institution. He did adjunct and contract teaching, but never got past that, and frankly, as he is older than me and experiencing health issues, and then he went through a period where he was not legally able to work for some years while we were sorting out visa issues (neither of us is from the US), he eventually simply stopped trying to find anything. And no, he didn’t want to do technical writing or public relations or anything like that – he did a PhD because he wanted to be in academe. Trying to find 2 jobs is difficult enough. Trying to find 2 academic jobs was near-impossible. We’ve now been together close to 30 years, and fortunately, I make more than enough money for us, but it was not easy on his self-esteem. He was and is, frankly, better in his field than I’ve ever been in mine – but I got all the success. I wish you good luck.


    • Thank you for sharing your experience! I had a hard time researching this topic, though I think it’s fairly common in librarianship. Your story sounds similar to the “Two-body problem” in academia where two spouses are trying to find work together in academic institutions. Navigating dual hires sounds difficult and tricky.


  2. My partner and I are also in this current situation, but we’ve chosen to live separately. We are both library professionals, he is more toward data and research side while I went the public library route. I completed grad school first and was hired as the head of an Adult Services department in another state. I am in Ohio while he is in Wisconsin finishing up grad school. This is not our first rodeo. Back when we first began dating, he moved to New Mexico while I was in Illinois. We lived in a small oil town in south east NM. Two hours from everything. But I was determined to get a job at the library. It took me a few months but I was persistent. It was a challenge but back then we made it clear to each other that we would support each one another now matter where our job prospects took us. We have a goal of living together but when your dream job opens up it can be a hard choice to make. I never wanted to be an anchor to someone I loved, nor have I ever to be tied down because of this. This can be hard for people to understand. I agree that communication is a key player in all of this. What are you willing to compromise? I followed my partner to the desert of NM and now he will be looking for work in the valleys of OH. Is it ideal? Hardly, but we make it work.

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  3. This is something my husband and I have been struggling with over the last couple of years. It is difficult to find advice for people with families. When my first daughter was born, my husband decided to go back to school after being laid off, and I worked. It was nice that he got to stay home with our daughter for the first two years of her life. Now, he is working and I am back in grad school. He is ready to move up the ladder and looking for a new job, and we had been open to moving up until recently. After two years of searching, he is still at the same place. Eventually we decided to buy a house as it was more economical than renting, and we just had another baby and I can stay home with her while I’m finishing up my degree. However, now that my oldest is in school (one of the best in our state), and we are more “tied down”, my concern is that our options are limited. I am really trying to focus on networking, however that can also be difficult when you have a young family. Once my infant reaches toddler-hood I think this will be easier though, and I have started volunteering at a local museum. Even though its only three hours a week right now, I’m hoping it will help me to 1. gain some experience hands-on, 2. provide networking opportunities, and 3. possibly open me up to an internship or if I’m lucky a job later on, as they are planning on expanding within the next five years. Either way, I completely agree with the importance of networking, especially if you are planning on staying more localized. My goal for 2018 has been to get out and network, so it sounds like I might be on the right track!

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