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Sometimes it’s not a “no”, it’s “not yet”

I chatted recently with another manager about her children’s librarian, who has become discouraged as she looks for new challenges. “She’s so wonderful. I can’t believe that someone else hasn’t snatched her away. She is world-class.”

I agreed and shared, “sometimes it’s just about timing. I can’t even tell you how many jobs within our organization I’ve applied for and haven’t gotten.”

“Same here…”

“Oh, I never knew that.”

“It’s not something we talk about often, but maybe we should be a bit more open about it.”

So, in the interest of full disclosure, over the course of fifteen years in my organization, I’ve held six different positions. Three of those positions, I applied for unsuccessfully before ultimately receiving offers. I’ve also applied for countless others (ten? more? I really have lost track).

The first time I applied to be the Assistant Children’s Services Manager, the hiring manager called to break the news that I didn’t get it. She spoke with me for about a half an hour telling me what I could do to prepare myself for future opportunities, considerably removing the sting. She suggested that getting name recognition through writing reviews or participating in WLA’s youth services group would help me advance. I followed her advice and several years later became children’s services coordinator.

Sometimes it really is just about timing and positioning. Several years ago, one of my children’s librarian friends and I competed for several of the same managerial jobs with a colleague with more experience. Once that colleague landed in her dream location, I got a call from a library manager, suggesting that I apply for a temporary opportunity. She had been told by others who had interviewed me that it might be a good fit. It was and it led to a regular position. My friend was similarly successful in obtaining a promotion.

I applied for my current job twice before I finally got it. The first time I had no supervisory experience and didn’t even get to the interview stage. The second time, it went to another supervisor with a proven track record and far more experience. Again, I took the advice offered by the hiring manager and applied for a geographically-challenging temporary job to get additional managerial experience, which ultimately paid off.

Let’s be open about our “not-yet” job stories with those we mentor. If we deliver disappointing hiring news to an employee with potential, let’s give actionable next steps to make them more competitive the next time around. And if you’ve just been turned down for a job, keep learning, growing and reaching. Remember that sometimes a “no” is really a “not yet”.

Today’s blog post was written by Kristin Piepho, Library Manager at the Mountlake Terrace Library (Sno-Isle Libraries), on behalf of the ALSC Managing Children’s Services Committee.

This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competency:  VII. Professionalism and Professional Development.

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