Q: So I have a dilemma here. I accepted an entry-level position at an academic library earlier this year. I just graduated last year, and was very excited to get my foot in the door towards my dream career in librarianship. The place I work at is very casual and relaxed and, as common with university positions, provides tuition assistance (I would like to start on my MLIS soon). All around, it sounded like a great opportunity.
However, after working here for basically half a year, I am now in a place of knowing what kind of work environment I like and can thrive in… and it’s not this one. While I can’t speak on everything that’s going on in this library (and it’s a lot), I can confidently say that I do not want to stay. The problem is, I’ve been applying to numerous other positions and cannot seem to warrant any call-backs.
Should I suck it up, stick it out and get my MLIS, or should I try to find a position elsewhere? I don’t think it’s smart to pursue a Master’s degree when I’m not really in the right space mentally and socially, but… I really need some advice.
A: This is a tricky, and unfortunate, position to be in. If you are truly miserable, you shouldn’t stay. But leaving before you have another position can make your job search more difficult. And, the entire job search can take several months or longer… so you may need to be patient.
There are numerous reasons to dislike a position, some of these may include poor management, non-supportive (or downright unbearable) co-workers, and systemic dysfunction. Since you say that there is a lot going on in the library, I suspect that there are multiple reasons why you want to leave.
I don’t know all the details of your situation, but I will offer up a few suggestions: try to find someone at your library or institution to talk to — a boss or supervisor, someone in the human resources department, a colleague/friend. Find out from HR if it might be possible to move into another position, in a different area of the library or institution. Ask yourself: would you want to stay at this university if you could? If one thing changed (e.g., new role, new supervisor, a colleague left, etc.) would you change your mind and want to stay? What would have to happen for you to change your mind about leaving?
Having a job that offers tuition assistance can be extremely beneficial, but does this benefit outweigh the psychological cost of staying in a position (or place) that you do not want to be in? On the other hand, perhaps being in school, or finding professional outlets outside of work, could alleviate some of your unhappiness and frustration with your current position – both socially and mentally. And, once you receive your MLIS, you would (presumably) move on to a different position, in a different institution.
Not every job will be perfect, and not every work environment is suitable to all people. Most people have suffered through difficult roles, colleagues, and bosses at some point in their lives, and they learn from both the good and the bad. As you are starting out in your career, you may encounter several positions that you know are not right for you – but that’s why you want get your MLIS, and move on (and up) in your career. There is a purpose, so keep the end in mind. Having said that, I don’t think anyone should stay in an environment that makes them miserable, or may have lasting effects on one’s career choice and work-life satisfaction. I hope that this experience doesn’t drive you away from pursuing librarianship altogether.
If you know that you need to leave, for your own sanity and preservation, and you are applying for positions but not getting any responses, then I would suggest revamping your application materials, and making sure that you stay as positive as you can about your current position in both your written materials and in interviews.
Here is another Q&A on the same topic: “Is it acceptable to pursue another position after four months of employment or should I continue in a situation that could prove to be detrimental to my career in the long term?”
And good luck!