Surviving and thriving and getting that professional archives position.

Welcome. If you're here, you're probably wondering how to get some job--maybe the perfect professional archives position or maybe just something you can use as a springboard--and you're seeking advice on how to do that. From searching for advertisements to writing a resume or cover letter to making it through the interview. And hopefully even beyond.

No guarantees, you probably already know a lot of this, but maybe some help from a lot of people who want to make sure that good candidates get good jobs. If you've got better advice? or need further explanation? Please share in the comments.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The elusive advert

One of the first substantive questions--and by that I mean one of the questions I thought would directly correlate to advice for the jobseeker--was about where these recruiters are advertising the position.

Here's the results for the more commonly used--at least 2 mentions. I wasn't specific enough in my query between regional archival organization websites and regional archival organization listservs, so I've combined the two because not all respondents clearly differentiated either. Many did, bless them for outthinking me, and those that did were about evenly divided between websites and listservs. For the Archives school job centers, we're talking about Simmons or UM's or similar. I also note that in the past when I've sent advertisements myself to LibJobs, the University of Michigan's job center has always picked it up, so some (all?) of the LibJobs respondents may be considered to be advertising that way too, albeit unintentionally.

Of the 67 people who answered this question, only 5 provided only one option. Two of those advertised on their institutional site only, one said A&A only, 1 said local newspaper only, and one said word of mouth only. I think you can assume that the one that said A&A only, his/her institution is still trying to reach a national audience, but I'm guessing the rest are not. So if you are willing to move, you'd have to do a lot of research to find those and it may or may not be worth it. For clarification: the individual who said "word of mouth" was from an academic institution and said s/he does most of the recruiting in-house, looking for specific people for specific projects. So probably not something the avid job-seeker is going to either find or be hired for. I think that qualifies as an outlier--a response we can probably cut out of the mix.

Oh, and other stuff I'm not going to go into in-depth. 86% of respondents indicated that they advertise via their institutional website. I'm not sure how helpful this is in terms of targeting a search. Often this is simply a HR matter. Since many application processes these days require that you go through an online application form, this may just be a relic of that. Certainly some robots pick those up (I had one weird inhouse redo of a job status about a year ago that ended up being advertised nationally even though it was clearly not posted as such). Same for the 13% that use their departmental site or publications to advertise. (If you're reading this and one of those people who assume these will reach a wider audience than people who know to look for the job, will you please submit a comment clarifying how that works for you? Thanks.)

Back to the more popular answers--ones that are clearly aimed at getting an audience beyond local or internal candidates--and some more number crunching with them. Of the 61 respondents who are clearly trying to reach more than an in-house or very local audience, 93% are advertising on the Archives & Archivists listserv, or as one respondent put it, "the always loving and entertaining A&A." 44% are advertising on the SAA Career Center site and 31% are advertising on the LibJobs listserv. 97% are advertising on at least one of those three. 56% are advertising on 2 or 3 of those sites. So that's a pretty high return rate on keeping an eye on those distribution routes, if we can assume that the survey respondents are somewhat reflective of the broader world of archives recruiters.

Oh, and lastly, some of the one-hit wonders. These are sites--specific or otherwise--that only one respondent mentioned that they use. I'm providing them because you may find them useful or they may serve as a suggestion to search routes for you. Hotjobs, Monster, ALA, NEA, RecMgmt listserv, subject matter listservs, ARSC (Recorded Sound), and relevant SAA roundtable or section listservs.

And I'm going to close with one more point, something I failed to ask in my survey. See? I'm really not very good at this whole survey thing. I didn't ask whether or not recruiters held on to older applications or took in unsolicited applications to be held for future openings. I've had a few discussions about this and listened to a few others discuss this, and I'm not sure this is an overly reliable search mechanism, either sending in unsolicited or hoping they keep your previous app. I'm not saying "don't send unsolicited," it just seems to me that there's some pitfalls in this. Sure it's flattering to know somebody wants to work for me or at my institution, but I want to see resumes and cover letters that are targeted. If you don't know specifically what job I have open or might open up next, how can you possibly make sure you've hit all the high notes with whatever you send me? Then again, I have a small shop in a very big shop and the big shop has procedures for applications. And I can't do anything with cover letters and resumes sent directly to me even if I have an opening: apps have to be submitted in response to a specific position through our online application system.

So what I'd tell somebody taking this approach is not to send me application type materials, but maybe to shoot me a short email introducing themselves and telling me about their interest in my archives. I've had a few people do this. And while I may not have remembered to email them back when we had an opening, I have usually responded at the time and let the person know what advertisement routes I usually use so they can keep an eye on them. Then again, there are people who do like unsolicited applications but I'm betting they'd like them just as well--and probably will say yes--if you contacted them via email first and asked "can I send you my info?"

Oh, and yes, I'm suggesting contacting me/other potential recruiters via email if you're going to do the cold-call route. I probably shouldn't be speaking for the rest of those people out there, but in my case? About the only unsolicited phone calls I like to get anymore are from donors, co-workers, friends. The call from the person who may want to work for me and who I've never heard of? Not so much. At a conference sure, but when I'm at work? You're probably interrupting something else, even if I'm too polite to tell you that. With email I can respond at my own leisure and if it is important to have voice conversation, I have more control over scheduling. Or possibly saying no. But again, that may be just me. Maybe people who feel otherwise will add a comment or two. (hint, hint.)

Next up, a look at the ad itself. What to watch out for, what common terms mean, and so on.


  1. I've found cold calls (well, emails) quite useful. I think this is particularly useful if you're interested/willing to go somewhere where there aren't a lot of other archivists--like, say, much of the west (or, really, any place rural). I've tailored my last few recruitments (not the jobs, just how I advertised) because I knew there were a couple of qualified folks already in town just waiting for an opening. In one instance, I was even able to do a direct hire when a project suddenly had a personnel emergency. Knowing there were some great candidates nearby allowed me to save money on recruitment, which consequently made some points with admin. So, I would say go ahead--send an informal email. I don't need a resume and I definitely won't/can't keep them, but something brief with basic qualifications and interests is great.

  2. Good point Anne! Yes, if you're targeting a particular geographic area, this might be the way to go. I would emphasize the point Anne is making about the rural areas. The big cities in the west are more likely to have large populations of unemployed or underemployed archivists but sometimes the places in smaller cities or towns that are a little off the beaten track have a hard time filling positions. And some of them pay well or have such a low cost of living that the pay is reasonable. You might be able to live on 35K in Helena, Montana. Well, significantly better than you can on 50K in Manhattan, DC, or SFO, anyhow.

  3. Hi Arlene -

    Apropos of your posting, I've been thinking a lot about the wide-ranging places where archives jobs may be found on the internet. I'm newly in charge of posting archives positions to our local SLIS job listserv, and like you mention - there are tons of places where these announcements hide out. One of my big considerations is that I'd like to reach a wider audience than just the 30 or so UW archives students, so I made a job announcement blog. It is still in its infancy (I just posted the first batch today), but check it out!


    PS - I'm also compiling a list of helpful job hunting resources for archivists. I linked to here.