Monthly Archives: August 2011

The lady or the tiger?

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Each day the New York Times pummels my inbox with news alerts that describe, in gut-wrenching detail, the rapid decline of the global economy. Here in the United States the super-rich are insulated from the specter of rising taxes (which is a great big load off my chest; I was worried about those folks) but, with no influx of money into the coffers, budgets are being slashed in programs funded at the local, state, and federal levels– though “slashed” is not violent enough to describe what is being done to them. Let us instead say that these programs are being disemboweled.

No. Let us say that these programs are being defenestrated. I must seize the opportunity to use a word that almost never comes up in casual conversation. (“So… how was your weekend? Defenestrate anybody?”).

The unemployment rate is soaring, nobody’s hiring, the social safety net is disintegrating, and I think I’m going to quit my job.

This will take some explaining. Bear with me.

I have been a professional librarian since I got my master’s of library science six years ago, and I have been at my current job for five of those years. During these six years I have garnered some formidable work experience. I’ve got solid experience with all the normal stuff (collection development, reference service to the public, readers’ advisory, programming, writing, classroom instruction) as well as more specialized experience (web design, service on committees, conference presentations). Oh, and also I wrote a reference book in library science. La.

Taking my current job was absolutely the right choice for me five years ago, moving into a respectable public service job at a library with a national reputation for its work in readers’ advisory, but now I have a dilemma. I have painted myself into a corner. I cannot move up in my library. Any position higher than mine would require supervisory experience. And while I have five years’ experience supervising volunteers, along with six weeks’ experience at my previous job supervising paid employees, it is not enough to qualify me for advancement.

I am at a dead end.

Now if I were happy with my life, my dead-end job would be just dandy. As it stands, however, I am desperately unhappy and very depressed. (“Unhappy” and “depressed” are related but separate conditions. I have both! Hooray!) My status quo is no longer acceptable.

The very obvious solution here is to seek employment elsewhere. To that end I have been job hunting for the past year and a half. I have applied for jobs in different geographic locations in different types of libraries. I have Goldilocksed my job search, applying jobs for which I was overqualified, underqualified, and perfectly exactly precisely qualified.

In that entire time I have had one interview. It was a smashing good interview. I nailed it.

But I did not get hired. The person they selected had an ace up the sleeve that I just cannot compete with: personal connections.

My job search is hamstrung by two fatal flaws. My supervisory experience is not compelling (at least not on paper) and my network is too weak. In a better economy, my fatal flaws would not be fatal– but the economy is not improving and neither is my résumé. I am at an impasse.

This is why I am very seriously considering a giant leap backwards. I am trying to arrange for an interview for a job in Weaverville, my hometown. The job would involve answering phones for a bank’s customer service call center, and it would pay $9.50 per hour. This amounts to $19,760 per year, before taxes.

I am smarter than your average bear. I have a strong work ethic and a capacity for solving problems. I have personal integrity and social consciousness. I am educated and well-read. I thrive on intellectual challenges and I want to spend my life doing something meaningful. I want my existence to contribute something positive to the world. A neutral or negative impact is unacceptable.

I never would have imagined that I would consider a job like this at this point in my life. I earned better wages when I was an undergrad. Ten years and two degrees later, I’m trying to crunch the numbers to see if I can possibly afford rent, car insurance, and cat food for $9.50, for a job that involves people calling to yell at me.

Nope. Never would have imagined I’d be in this place– but neither did I imagine that I’d be so horribly, horribly unhappy.

Here’s the logic. If I were to take this job, I would move back to western North Carolina, an environment far more suited to my psyche. I would be able to volunteer in local libraries, garnering those personal connections that are now absent in my network. And– because the job is so crappy and there’s such high turnover– there’s a chance I could become a supervisor.

Those are the choices I see: staying indefinitely where I am, or gambling on a move to a job that, despite abysmal wages, would maybe let me forge some new directions.

If anyone has any viable third choices in mind, I’m all ears.