How many of us have dreamed of working somewhere only to find that it was less than stellar, or a really poor fit? Even dream jobs can turn into nightmares quickly leading people to run for the hills. I know I’ve taken positions that looked great only until a few months in when all the newness wore off and I realized I was in the dead wrong culture for my personality.
Some people can take a job practically anywhere and be OK. I am not one of those people. After far too many bad fits, I started to wonder if it was just me. And in part, it was. I am a “free spirit” for lack of a better term and traditional (i.e. conservative) office cultures do not work for me. I can do almost any job thrown my way, but I realize that I prefer and thrive in an office culture where people actually like each other and there isn’t a heavy hierarchical structure and where people aren’t in heavy competition. I’ve worked in many environments that weren’t right for me, and it’s my fault for not knowing myself (or ignoring it) and for not spending the time to research and contemplate a future workplace. In essence, I jumped from one bad fit to another because I was desperate to get away from the place I was currently in. Some of the bad was my own masked unhappiness (being in a “job” rather than in the field I wanted) and some of it was just bad workplace environment. Looking back, some of my old positions had very high turnover, at one point I was told by a faculty member I was the longest person in the position at 4.5 years, no one else had lasted a year, despite my supervisor telling me turnover for the position was low during my interview.
You can’t account for people not telling you the truth in an interview. You can hope that they are, but until you are in the job, you won’t really know. They are selling the position as much as you’re selling yourself. There are things you can do about it. Most Library and Information Science workplaces have the benefit of usually being publicly accessible places, unlike traditional office environments. If it’s local, you can visit the library to which you plan to apply and observe how things go.
Additionally you can do some digging on Hiring Librarians and see if you can glean any information there about the culture of the library or information center. A final resource I recommend is Glassdoor.com. Glass Door allows employees to anonymously rate workplaces, even specific to positions, and allows you to look at salary data as well. It’s another tool for your job search toolkit that is quite unique. One caveat: you can’t necessarily trust all the reviews. If a review is too glowing, or too terrible, look at others to see what is corroborated. I find that reviews that are more comprehensive, objectively written, and include pros and cons are more helpful. you don’t want to throw out a potentially wonderful employer because of a review by one disgruntled employee who may have just been a bad fit for that job and so had a poor experience.
Ultimately, you know what works for you. Or you should. The best advice I can ever give about finding employment is “Know Thyself.” Know what kinds of work you enjoy and don’t enjoy (and know that no position will be 100% what you want) and don’t take a position that is primarily something you dislike in hope that you can transfer. If you know the type of culture/environment that works for you, look for that environment. If you’re a jeans and tee-shirt person you’re probably not going to feel comfortable (and thus may not do your best work) if you have to wear a suit and tie every day to work. Knowing the type of office culture in which you thrive is essential for some folks to do well. It’s like planting a garden-you don’t plant a full-sun plant in the shade and vice versa. Don’t take a job where you’ll be miserable or out of desperation, it never works out for either you or the employer. I know this because I’ve been there. Do your research-into yourself, and into potential employers.