400 days later

The first thing I notice is just how piercingly bright the lighting is. Then the bareness. Plants that used to dot our workspace were taken elsewhere before we started working from home and now the space feels cold and austere.

Across the two floors, most of the desks are empty. Once the workspace was full, now the empty desks remind me of all that has changed over the last year.

My team are there before I arrive. No hugs just a huge relief in seeing them again. They are already busy, and I’m spared the embarrassment of crying all over them.

My desk is exactly as I left it, the farewell card I got for a colleague in February 2020 is still there. The screens are at the same perfect height as when I left all those months ago. Notes on our white board stand as a reminder of the time before. The chair needs some adjusting.

Messages about a tech issue start coming in. This is the part of my job I love – problem solving. For a moment I feel at ease.

It’s nearly 11.00 and we go for coffee. Work seems to be the least important thing today. My team and I catch up, it’s so much better than doing this online.

For weeks I’ve been dreaming of the eggplant and potato curry from the Indian place on campus. It’s everything I hoped for and better that I can eat it with a friend.

Throughout the day there are friends and colleagues to meet again. Seeing them is like finding the thing you didn’t know you needed. Zoom has been a lifesaver but it doesn’t quite match bumping into a colleague in the hallway and seeing their smile.

By 2.30 I feel out of sorts, my head is aching and I want to go home. I’m not sure how to be in this space anymore. It is deeply unsettling how everything is both familiar and new.

To get to the office, I had to find things I had not thought about for more than a year – my pass, a mug, cutlery. I packed snacks, as though I’m a child off to their first day at school. Putting on work clothing feels like I’ve dressed up for a special occasion.

I’m out of practice driving on busy roads and have forgotten the level of concentration needed. On the ring road, I have to remind myself that I can’t daydream, as cars move in and out of lanes and onto exits.

How normal the twice daily commute used to be – being stuck in traffic was just a part of life. How much better is it that these are now a rarity. Although as fate would have it, not on Friday.

Listening to the news while driving reminds me that we are still in a global pandemic. We are safe here. For now. But life is different. The kind of normal we now have is not the same as before.

At home, I check on the cats. Of course they have been fine without me. I’m not as sure that I’ve been fine without them.

I get changed into my trackies – were my work clothes always this uncomfortable  and turn on my computer. There are messages from support sites, and other things to be deal with.

It’s getting late, I’ve eaten a toasted sandwich and had a cup of tea. I’m almost too wired to sleep. It’s been an emotional day.

Eventually, I’m tired enough to go to bed. Hemingway sleeps next to me.

I don’t sleep well, my brain is still catching up. I feel disorientated about the world around me. And a sense of slipping, like we haven’t hit the bottom yet.

But the sun rose in the morning, and there are cats to feed and life to get on with. And maybe for now these small things are enough.



So you lost your library job? What next – part 2

This is the second part of a post about looking for library work. Read part 1 here.

Looking for jobs

The first and most important thing to know about searching for a job when you don’t have one in the field you want, is that it’s the perfect time to try something else. You really have nothing to lose at this point, jobs are not forever, nor do they define you, so be bold and consider taking your librarian skills into the wild.

The second thing; short term contracts and casual work can be a lifeline at these times. They can keep money coming in, while giving you the time to find something permanent or work out what next.

Top job seeking tips

  • Carve out time everyday to look for and apply for jobs but don’t do it all day unless absolutely necessary. Doing things for yourself that are not related to finding a job is important to stay well during this time.
  • Keep weekends for weekends
  • Work out your parameters e.g. I want full time or part time, I can travel this far everyday etc. There’s no point at looking at jobs that are too far away or won’t fit into your lifestyle
  • Setting up alerts for all the major job seeking sites is useful but you need to manually search them as well. Broad keywords and generalised searches outside the normal parameters will help you find jobs that would fit your skills that you may not find otherwise. Think records and information management or even administration.
  • Filters matter – if you want the broadest possible search think about the filters you do and don’t want at anytime
  • Register with recruitment agencies for both library/GLAM and adjacent fields. Have a look at different recruitment agencies and see what kind of work they offer and if it’s something you are interested in, register with them
  • If you are an ALIA member they send out a weekly jobs newsletter. If not it’s available on the website.
  • The federal government has a temporary job register in lots of different areas, you can register with them for short term contracts
  • Don’t be proud, you may have worked at a higher level but consider applying for jobs at a lower level especially if you are changing sectors. At this time it’s about new experiences and having money coming in
  • Give yourself plenty of time for applications – key selection criteria are the devils own invention and take time to do properly. Also proofread, like your life depends on it
  • Linkedin – get one or jazz it up if you haven’t already. You can set it up so you are open to recruiters, and sometimes they do contact you about jobs

Some job sites

Here’s a bunch of sites I checked almost daily while looking for work

  • Seek
  • Ethical jobs – often has community development, research jobs for NGOs
  • Individual council and university websites
  • Federal and state government jobs sites
  • Career one and Indeed
  • Recruitment agency job sites

Why search broadly?

When I was unemployed, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to stay in libraries. So, broad searching with only basically parameters was about trying to find jobs that interested me in whatever field. But a phenomenon I have noticed is that sometimes library jobs are not categorised correctly so your library job search might miss these. Think about the filtering and add or remove as necessary.

A special note for women

When you read a job add that might be sideways or higher than where you are now, your first reaction is to assume you are not qualified. The single best piece of advice I ever got is, if you can do about 50-60% of the job, you should consider putting in an application. No really, you should.

So that’s it, all my knowledge about looking for work. Hope it helps you navigate the world of job searching in this industry. If you’d like me to review your CV or if you have questions please get in contact.