A New Career In A New Town, Libraries

A New Career In A New Town: Close The Curtain

 

For the first time in a few months I can say that I currently have ZERO resumes submitted to libraries for possible new jobs. Right now, I’m going to close the curtain on this part of my journey. Let’s get more into the reasons why.

My big goal this time around, one that I knew was going to be a long shot, was to attempt to secure a job in New Zealand. I tried for quite a few. Sometimes I heard nothing back from the library, other times I got the cookie cutter rejection letter, and twice I got personal messages that more or less summed up what I was thinking would happen with this search: you’re a great candidate, but our HR/organization just can’t hire internationally right now. A big part of me gets it…it is tough to immigrate a whole family to another county and also the financial and paperwork side of it is probably a huge task as well. So for now, I am setting the NZ dream aside. I have learned something in this process…..that things take patience and sometimes a bit of luck. I have to keep my heart and head open for a possibility and then leap on it. We’ll get where we need to go.

When I was looking for jobs in New Zealand, I couldn’t help but take a peek at what else was out there in the USA. I saw some good jobs scattered throughout the country. Our idea as a family was that if we were going to relocate in the USA we wanted to be in a place where we really wanted to live. For us, that meant looking at the middle of the country (Colorado, Utah) as well as New England and maybe who knows just maybe if it was the ideal job, California. Salary was also very important to us, as after almost 3 years of having a job that paid a lot lower than other roles in the state and having to rely on food stamps to make ends meet we wanted to get to a level where we were not struggling anymore. Being poor is difficult and a major stress on an individual and a family. It feels a lot like having an extended illness…you keep trying to get better, but no matter what the illness continues to eat away at you because the root issue isn’t being fixed. (FYI: I make $35,000/year as a Library Director, and the average in Pennsylvania for a library with a similar service population is around $42,000/year. I’ll get to that more a bit later).

There was one job that I applied to where I made it through two interviews. After the first interview I felt a little better about the job, but there was something off in my heart. The second interview went really well, but that lingering feeling was still there. It took me a day of serious thought to realize that, yup this path was not for me. I messaged the board, thanked them for the interviews and conversation, and moved on to the next step in my life.

To the jobs that I applied for who kept me updated at every step of their path: THANK YOU. As I said in an earlier post, good communication is key on both sides of the story. That communication minimizes the stress and anxiety on the job seeker, which allows them to give the employer a better interview and idea of the kind of person that they are.

To the jobs that I applied for who didn’t say anything or only offered cookie cutter responses: YOU HAVE SOME WORK TO DO. I think that we can all do better when it comes to giving feedback and open communication to the job seeker. (***)

To myself: STAY POSITIVE, CONTINUE TO BUILD AND UPDATE YOUR RESUME, AND DON’T GET TOO UPSET. Humans beings can’t help but feel  down or a little angry when things don’t work out. Haley tells me and our sons this all the time: it is OK to feel your feelings and in this case she is once again right. Overall, I feel pretty good where I am at despite this job hunt not ending up with the Hoenke family living and wandering around New Zealand.

So what is happening right now? Here are a few projects and ideas that are very exciting to me.

It is time to remedy the low salaries at my library. As I said above, being poor is difficult and a major stress on an individual and a family. My situation is where I did not think I would be at age 37 as a library director and a husband and father: educated, employed, qualified, and in the prime adult stage of my life but having to rely on food stamps and paycheck to paycheck to stay alive. I’ve dove into the PA State Library data from 2016 to look at salaries and see where we are when measured against others of similar sizes. I’ve already met once with some members of our finance committee to discuss this and once budget season comes up we can discuss this in more detail.

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Imagine all of these bushes gone and in their place lots of beautiful flowers, bees, and butterflies.

It is spring and pretty soon summer will be here. These months bring birds chirping in the air, vegetables and plants growing, bees in the borage, and so much other natural joy to the world. At the Benson Memorial Library, we are also planning a pollinator garden on the side of the library. It is going to be BEAUTIFUL.

As tough as it has been to restore and build Fidelia Hall, we will continue to make progress on all of our projects. Much like the garden project I mentioned above, I can see that our family future this summer being one where we work on and enjoy the gardens of Fidelia Hall as much as possible. We remain committed to transforming our land into a place that produces beautiful vegetables and flowers. We welcome bees, butterflies, birds, and all sorts of nature into our living space. This will be our 4th summer in our home and each year has brought many beautiful surprises as we’ve let it grow all around us. Eventually, we’ll get the money we need to finish up things in the hall. Right now, we need to get the funds to put in water lines and finish wiring the space for electricity. Good things come to those who wait.

Thank you to everyone who read this series. For now, this is the last piece in the A New Career In A New Town series, but if I ever look for another job in the future I’ll be sure to continue this series.

(***): Yeah, I know my words were harsh and if you read them you probably thought “why in the hell would I hire this guy?”. That’s OK. I’ve made my peace with the fact that anything that anyone says, especially on the internet, can and will be used against a person at some time in the future. All that I can say is that my words/thoughts/actions are always coming from an honest and pure place. I’m not trying to hurt anyone. I’m just trying to ruffle up some action in order to promote change. In 99% of every situation that has ever existed on Earth, this kind of behavior is looked down upon because human beings crave order and want to keep things the same. I think we have a lot to fix and in order to do so have to ruffle up some action. I’m just doing my little part in an area that I think could use some change. Thank you.

 

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A New Career In A New Town, Libraries, Life

A New Career In A New Town: The Rejection Letter

“WE REGRET TO INFORM YOU THAT YOU WERE NOT CHOSEN FOR THIS PARTICULAR ROLE. WE THANK YOU FOR YOUR APPLICATION AND WE WISH YOU THE BEST OF LUCK IN YOUR FUTURE.”

Every single person reading this post who has applied for a job has received these two sentences or some variation of them at some point in their career. Be it through email (the preferred choice of employers these days) or the postal system, these two sentences are never what a job seeker wants to hear. But if you want to find a job, you have to face the fact that you will see these two sentences at some point.

My recent job search has found me encountering the many wonderful variations of the two sentence rejection email quite a bit. I’ve gone through all of the emotions that someone who didn’t get the job will go through: sadness, a dash of anger, a lot of confusion, some conspiracy induced paranoia (convince me that there’s not a library cabal made up of folks that get together at conferences and have huge Facebook message threads where they gossip about everyone), and a whole lot of introspection. Here’s what I’ve told myself about all of those emotions: I’m totally supposed to be having them. No emotion is better than the other, and all of them together are part of the whole picture. I’ve found this approach to life in general to be quite exhilarating. When you give yourself permission to feel, you get the full experience of what it means to be a human being in the modern world.

But I’m getting off topic here. What we’re talking about today is the rejection letter. And once you’ve seen a few of them over the course of a few months, you start to have ideas about how you can make them better. I’ve only got one idea on how we all can make the rejection letter a better experience for the job seeker. It’s a big idea, but here goes:

WE SHOULD BE OFFERING FEEDBACK, NOT FORM LETTERS

The two sentence, cut and paste cookie cutter language, ending with the logo of the library that you just applied to rejection letter needs to die. We are not helping anyone but ourselves and our own time when we hit send on these types of rejection letters. I get it…time is precious, we only have so much of it, and there’s so much to do. But for a profession that believes so much in the power of sharing and mentoring we’re doing quite a poor job of it when it comes to communicating with those who we did not select for the job. Instead we’re giving them even more fuel for their sadness, anger, confusion, paranoia, and introspection and while emotions are healthy, direction and guidance is needed.

Job seekers will often wonder for hours on end why they didn’t get the job. Was there one little spelling error that threw off the person reading the cover letter? Was the candidate just not qualified for the job? Was there something else underneath it all that led the job panel to pass on this applicant? Instead of a cookie cutter rejection letter, try to imagine a rejection letter that was clear and direct on why the person did not get the job ending with some feedback from the panel. Here’s an example that I’ve cooked up.

Dear Sally Struthers, 

Thank you for your application for the Librarian opening at the Everytown USA Library. The panel has concluded reviewing applications and has decided to move ahead with another candidate. We are sorry but your application was not selected for this role. 

Your resume was very detailed and your experience in libraries shows a great deal of unique situations which have no doubt helped you develop into the librarian that you are today. For this role, Everytown USA Library was seeking an applicant with more customer service management experience, whereas the experience detailed in your resume was more rooted in behind the scenes administration. We specifically liked the Tater Tots For Fines initiative that you led at Busytown Library. That initiative was very inspiring and specific for the community you served, but it has helped us think about what we could do for our own community.

Once again thank you for your interest in the Everytown USA Library. If you would like further feedback on your application, please feel free to contact us via email.

Sincerely,
Scott Baio
Human Resources
Everytown USA Library

I probably didn’t nail it in the example above, but it gives a brief idea of what I’m thinking about when it comes to beefing up the rejection letter. Something more than just two sentences, and something that acknowledges that the panel did indeed read everything you put together and gave it the thought it deserves goes a long way. There’s still gonna be a little bit of sadness for the person that did not get the job, but all of those other emotions can either be minimized or all together avoided if there was just a bit more communication, guidance, and kindness from the employer. Take a moment, write some thoughtful worlds, and that energy you put into the world can go a long way.

Abigail Foster's Photosynthesis Machine, Benson Memorial Library, Family, Libraries, Library Director, Life, Management, Titusville, PA

Where Are We Now?

About a year ago I hung up a bizarre painting in my office at work. To me it was perfect and just familiar enough that I thought it warranted a place in my life. As a person who always thought it would be neat to have an office and fill it with interesting things, the painting, when mixed with the Lego creations and drawings that Finn and Aero have created for me over the years, helped me establish this place my home away from home. When I feel comfortable at work, I usually am able to some really good and meaningful work. On the other hand I could also see how the average “I shop for my groceries at Walmart every Saturday at 1pm and have to watch the game and/or my sitcom at the same time every week” American person would be appalled by it.

One day I came into work to find that my painting was taken down. My coworkers took it down because, yes they were terrified and appalled by it. I guess right now would also be a good time to explain that due to limited space we’re all basically working on top of each other and that we’re surrounded by glass. It’s like a packed fishbowl in here. But to fully admit my feelings, I was pretty let down by their actions. It felt passive aggressive and overall it felt unkind. But in the moment I didn’t react. I just went on and say “oh, well that happened.”

You see as a Gemini I feel a duality to everything. There’s this part of me that always sees things from my point of view and then I almost immediately put that aside and see it from how others may have seen it. In this case: Justin likes the painting and hangs up the painting, Justin feels disappointed when someone takes that painting down, but then Justin instantly forgets about that and says “well I bet they didn’t like the painting so I understand that and what I thought about the painting shouldn’t matter because that’s selfish to only think about myself.” Over time, I’ve taken that approach to even more of an extreme: I guess in a way that by my coworkers actions I was able to put the painting to a much better use. It became the cover for my album Prozac Is The Dam And I Am The Dynamite, and I think it fit really well for that album. Having the painting taken down by my coworkers made me take it home, where I stared at it more and through those hours of staring it gave the painting more meaning and purpose. It became a visual representation of my life at the time, and when it merged together with the music I was creating it became a complete package.

You take all of these things together, stretch everything out by a few months, sometimes years, and what happens? You start to think about the first part (yourself) less and less until it almost becomes silly to even think about it in the first place. I think that’s where I am at now…after awhile of doing this here I am, a person that may be very capable about thinking of others but at the same time a person who doesn’t think of himself as much as he should. I’m overwhelmed right now and a bell goes off in my brain to remind me that this may be part of the reason as to why I feel this way. When you neglect yourself in some way, it all adds up. I stare at a lot of spreadsheets these days, and I like to think that my soul has a spreadsheet where it has been keeping note of the times I’ve put myself aside for others. It’s finally getting to that point where the spreadsheet is just too long and unruly and it becomes a hassle to scroll down the page because there’s so much data.

I’m on the cusp of something here. It feels exciting and at the same time it fills my soul with great fear, but I know that as with everything in this life it will come, it will go, and the next thing will happen. I feel lucky to be able to share this journey here and to have others be able to maybe understand and maybe feel like they may be in the same holding pattern at the moment.

Music: David Bowie “Where Are We Now?” As long as there’s sun..As long as there’s rain..As long as there’s fire..As long as there’s me..As long as there’s you

Family, Libraries, Life, Music, Titusville, PA, Video Games

2016 Year In Review

PAST YEARS: 2015, 2014, 2013

Let’s get it out of the way before we jump into everything: 2016 wasn’t a great year for most of us and there are way too many reasons out there to put here into this blog so I’m not gonna do that. Let’s try something else, something that we all remember from way back in 2014-2015: positivity.

At the time of this writing, I have successfully arisen from my slumber on 337 out of the 366 days in 2016. I’ve spent most of the time I have been awake during those 337 days doing two things: spending it with my family or working for my community. I don’t have a fancy photo or some numbers to show you to back this up. I can just promise you that my family, our home, and the Benson Memorial Library continue to exist, thrive, and go about doing things that have a positive impact on the world. It’s the only thing that we know how to do.

I have enjoyed listening to all kinds of music. I’ve played so much Animal Crossing: New Leaf. I’ve got to watch some great films. I can’t recall what their titles were but they were enjoyable in the moment.

I did eat way too much food and I didn’t go on enough walks. I am going to do my best to fix that in 2017.

I really enjoyed meeting lots of new people this year as I did some traveling. I think traveling is the best…you get a chance to connect with people you have never met before, and in doing so your world grows and you grow as a person. I never want to stop growing and being a better Justin. I think that’s where my recent obsession with cyborgs comes from. Cyborgs can upgrade and change. I’ve been trying to figure out a way that I can do that myself as a human being. I think I’ve got it!

Goodbye to you 2016. I can’t think of a better way to say au revoir than Bowie’s Lazarus.

This way or no way
You know, I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird
Now ain’t that just like me

Family, Life, Online Identity, Social Media, Technology, Three Things

THREE THINGS 2016.3

BOWIE

I never met the dude in real life but his passing has really had an effect on me. I think it comes from one simple thing: the man created honest and pure art that genuinely brought happiness and excitement into the world. Bowie’s final album ★ is a brilliant piece of art that should be enjoyed/examined by everyone. I hope that when I am 68-69 years old I am still capable of creating such amazing things.

SPLIT

https://twitter.com/jhodestroyer/status/690574964953604096

I am a Gemini and I have talked about that before. The older that I get the more I see that I am really two ideas living inside of one body. I am becoming very ok with this! I think the best thing that I have attempted to do is split myself into those two ideas and have outlets for both of them. You can’t suppress who you are! You just gotta be.

SOCIAL

Social media is a big thing for me and wrestling with identity in social media is something I think about a lot. I aim to be as authentic and available as possible in this life. I think there are some struggles with that! I found this post by TotalBiscuits (who I was not familiar with until I saw this post) to be very inspiring and spot on when it comes to what social media is/can do to someone. While I am not in the same situation as TotalBiscuits (he has cancer, I do not), I do find what he is saying to be very honest when it comes to social media:

Look, let’s be real here about the reality of what could happen over the next few years. In a few years, I could very well be dead—two to three [years to live] average is what I’m given for this particular form of this disease. I intend to outlive that by a significant margin, but if it ends up being the last few years of my life, I want to spend them not being fucking miserable. And if that involves disconnecting from everybody, so be it.

My family is gonna come first, my fucking mental health is gonna come first. The expectation that everyone who ever made it on the Internet’s gotta be constantly connected to their fans all the time 24 hours a day 24/7 is insane. It’s unreasonable. Nobody can fucking handle it. Nobody. [sighs] God. You have no idea how many of my friends are in therapy just because of this job.

Read the full post here and think about things.

Libraries, Life, Misc., Social Media, Things

I CARE/I DON’T CARE

I hold my hand over my heart when a big change happens at my library. I want to protect myself from the inevitable onslaught of “why would you do such a thing?” I take things to heart because my motives and ideas come from a very pure place. I assure you that I’m not evil, nor this is some kind of coup d’ etat. My motives and ideas come from a very pure place: the reason for change is because the change helps the library (and the community) move forward and remain relevant in our heads and in our hearts.

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In the middle of a giant project which brings about great change, I may lash out and say that “I HATE EVERYTHING” and that “I DON’T BELIEVE IN THE PUBLIC LIBRARY”. I say I don’t care but I do care. I’m a human being. My emotions fluctuate wildly from day to day. As I write this post I am up and feeling well! By 2pm, however, my mood may change to something bleak. And then 5pm may hit and it may go back the other way. We are all human beings (I think!) and we all fluctuate. One of our new jobs in this world full of social media and 24 hour news cycles should be to not point out every single one of each others missteps or snafus. We all make mistakes. We shouldn’t crucify _______ (insert person of the moment) for something that they may have said back in 1985. We should go to the person in the moment and talk to them and accept them for who they are at this moment. We have our moments. Those moments pass. We should focus on the present and bring joy into that moment.

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Mr. Bowie we really miss you.

The thing that I’m learning to do is to cope with everything in the moment and do it much better than I have in the past. This is easier said than done but if I am mindful throughout the process I’ll get better at it. Growing older helps me with this process. As I age, my body and my mind slow down a bit and this helps prevent overreaction. It allows the present moment to fully exist in time.

Life, Music

Thank You ★

Around 2:20AM.

It felt real but the images all around me told me that it was a dream. Floating in and out of space, the visuals were not of this world. The sharp pain on the left side of my head was very real however, and it urged me to WAKE UP. The left side of my brain. Ouch. My eye could barely open. Something is happening inside of your head. But something is also happening elsewhere. WAKE UP.

I walked down the hall and then down the stairs. I knew where the ibuprofen bottle was located. Two? Three? Nah, I’ll take four this time. The pain in my head was familiar but this time it felt a lot stronger. Four seemed like a good number to numb the brain and let me get back to sleep.

I walked into the kitchen. It is constantly lit by a few holiday lights that float like stars above us. I turned sharply. The TV was still on. The blue from the still VCR screen shined brightly. My left eye hit the sharp color and I curled up a little bit. My eye absorbed the image and the rest of my body couldn’t take it. I curled up a little bit and almost tripped over myself.

All of this was a migraine of course but I think it was something more. Sometimes there are people that spend their time on Earth and they have a considerable impact on others. Mr. Bowie was one of those people. SOUND AND VISION was the song that hit me in teenage years. The lack of lyrics from the start, the bizarre sounds throughout, and the “hello here I am an now I’m done and gone” vibe of the whole song hit me. What a great piece of art.

Now Mr. Bowie is gone from this world but his art will always be with us. I think more about his family in the wake of his passing now than I do his art. I hope they are well.

Something happened on the day he died
Spirit rose a meter and stepped aside
Somebody else took his place, and bravely cried
I’M A BLACKSTAR