Finding Your Fit: From the other side of the job search

With this post I’m thrilled to announce that earlier this month I began work as the Scholarly Communications Librarian at the West Virginia University Libraries. Now that I’ve made it through the process of applying for jobs, going through interviews, and landing a position, I want to take the opportunity to share my experiences with others.

I began the process of applying for jobs fairly early (I believe my first deadline was in early October) and got my first phone interview in November for a position at a large Midwestern university. This was my first time doing a phone interview of any sort, and I was cautioned that the whole process is inherently awkward for everyone involved. But honestly, I didn’t think it was that bad. In fact, I felt like it went pretty well. And apparently it had, as a few days later I was invited for a campus interview.

Preparing for the campus interview was a pretty exhausting process. I was given a prompt for a presentation, and spent hours studying the library’s website to read up on different programs and areas of focus at the institution. I created slides, practiced my presentation, made revisions, and practiced again. Some of my colleagues and mentors at work were even willing to watch me go through a practice run. This enabled me to get some really valuable feedback, but of course it entailed another night of revising and practicing more. Nevertheless, I felt prepared as I headed off to the interview.

The interview itself was an exhausting process, but also quite exciting. I got to go to a city and state I’d never been to before and see a beautiful campus. I also got to meet all sorts of exciting people, share my ideas with them, and learn about their library and university. I found myself falling in love with the library over the course of my day, and when I got back home I couldn’t help but look at apartment listings in the city and imagining a life there.

While I was waiting to hear back from this Midwestern school, I was invited for a phone interview for my current position at WVU. This was obviously good news, but it put me in a challenging position, that of setting aside thoughts about how my first interview had gone and focusing on a different library in a different part of the country. But I really benefitted from experience, having done a phone interview before now, and at least having a clearer idea of what kinds of questions could come up.

Obviously, the interview must have gone alright because, well, I got the job. I was invited for a campus visit to West Virginia the day after my phone interview. The campus visit would be late the following week. Meanwhile, I found out that another candidate had been offered, and accepted, the position at the institution in the Midwest. While I was disappointed not to get an offer, in retrospect I think it was helpful to have some closure before embarking for my interview at WVU.

Although the West Virginia job was a different type of position, I benefitted from having gone through a previous on-campus interview. Once again, I prepared, practiced, and revised a presentation. I researched the university, the library, and the librarians. I got to travel to a city and state I had never been to before. And I got to meet all sorts of wonderful people and tour a beautiful campus.

I’ve already spoiled the story by revealing that I got the job, but the point I want to emphasize is that my interview experience at the school in the Midwest really enabled me to appreciate how wonderful my interview experience at WVU was. This is not to say that my experience at the first school was bad, or that I wouldn’t have appreciated my experience at WVU had it been my first interview. But it was quite revealing to be able to compare the two experiences. In short, it allowed me to appreciate that WVU is a much better fit for me than the Midwestern school would have been.

I’d heard many times before that job offers often come down to questions of fit. And what is fit? In my experience, it’s intangible, but you know it when you feel it. It’s the reason for job interviews. And while it’s easy for me to say, from the position of having a job that I’m already in love with, I think it’s important to keep in mind that, when you don’t get a job, it’s not because you’re unqualified, or because something’s wrong with you. It’s simply because you’re a piece that belongs to a different puzzle.

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