Happy New Year! I’ve got a tough question for you – is it time for a new position?

Last week I blogged on Gratitude, Reflections, & Resolutions. In reaching your resolutions, you identified what you don’t want in your life and what you do want. Some of you may have faced an uncomfortable realization. What you don’t want in your life is what your job in your district has become, and what you do want is to be in a school where you have the opportunity to grow and be all you can be.

In the last few years, being a librarian has become more stressful, and you all have been stretching and leading as you do whatever you can to make the library essential to teachers and students. In some places that hasn’t been enough. The administration thwarts every idea you have and gives you more tasks far removed from your Mission and Vision.

If this is your situation, it is time to consider an exit strategy. That’s a scary thought. Naturally, adages such as, “better the devil you know” and “out of the frying pan into the fire” jump into your head. On the other hand, remember your two lists from last week. To decide if it’s time to “read the handwriting on the wall”, ask yourself, “Is there any chance the situation will improve?” If not, recognize the cost of continuing where you are. It is likely your relationships with your family will suffer, you’ll face each day with dread, and the joy you once had in being a librarian will be gone.

When I was in a situation with a horrible principal, my saving grace was a very supportive superintendent of schools. When she announced she was retiring, I got busy job hunting. I knew eventually this principal would become superintendent. My prediction proved true, but by then I was happily in a new district where I had more opportunities to take a good library program and make it better. All I lost after 22 years in the district was my sick days.

Consider these steps to make this change as successful as possible:

Planning to Leave – Update your resume. Prepare an e-portfolio of your accomplishments. Quietly let any vendors who visit your library know you are job hunting. They often hear about potential openings first. Check your state library association job board. Check in with your peers -and me – on the School Librarians Workshop Facebook group.

Zeroing in on Your Target – When you learn of a possible position, research the district. Does the school’s website match their stated Mission? They may say academics are important but do they only show pictures of athletic success? Check the library’s webpage. Use social media to learn about the administrators. What can you learn about their budget? Call the librarian and talk to them in advance of the interview.

Preparing for the Interview – Check websites such as Elementary Librarian Interview Questions or the School Librarian Interview Guide. Prepare a list of your questions for the interviewer(s). Remember – you’re interviewing them, too. Ask what they like best about the library currently and what they would like to see in the future. Their answers will tell you how much they know about the library.

Acing the Interview – If possible, take a test drive to the location so that you’re comfortable with the drive. On the day of the interview, arrive early. Dress nicely but comfortably. Shake hands with the interviewer(s). Position your seat to give you the best possible view of them. (This also gives you time to calm yourself.)  Pause before answering questions and ask for any clarifications you need. Listen for what they are saying and not saying. Make sure you have a chance to see the library and look around. What messages is it sending? During the interview, never criticize your current school. Focus on the positives of the one you hope to get. You might say you want an opportunity to work in a forward-looking district.

After the Interview – As soon as possible follow up with a thank you message to the interviewer(s). Email is fine, but handwritten ones are better. Be sure you have the correct spelling of names.  Chris Littlefield details the steps in How to Write a Thank You Email After an Interview. Some highlights are:

  • Referencing something said that was of significance.
  • Reminding them of your interest in the position.
  • Keeping it brief. Don’t add too much detail.
  • Making sure there are no typos, and the grammar is correct.

In closing, note you are looking forward to hearing from them. The value of the thank you message, as Littlefield explains, is that it helps you stand out from the crowd. You remind the interviews of who you are and what you said. It shows your people and communication skills.

Leaders take risks. Sometimes the risk is knowing when to leave and find something new. Whatever your new year brings, I wish you a great one!

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