Sunday, September 11, 2011

Job Satisfaction + New Job

I think it's a safe assumption to make on this blog that we all got into librarianship out of a love for the work, and not out of a love of money or fame or something. Unless some of you are rich and famous librarians and are holding out on me. Either way, I went to library school because I like libraries and wanted to work in one. Or, at least, I wanted to do something librarianship-related, in a library or outside of one. I never went in thinking "I will only work in a traditional library!"

Unfortunately, a combination of the bad economy, my self/relationship-imposed geographic limitations, and my relative inexperience as a librarian made it incredibly difficult to find any sort of meaningful work. As you know, I ended up working in customer service at a company that sells library supplies. As many of you also know, I have not enjoyed my time in customer service, for a number of reasons. The work is frequently dull, repetitive, frustrating, and unrewarding, and although our customers are librarians and therefore usually great, I frequently deal with them when they are frustrated or angry. It's the first time in my life I have ever been really dissatisfied with the work I was doing, and it has been hard on me.

The last few weeks I have been helping our international sales department, because I speak Spanish (not fluently) and the native-speaker who is a pillar of the department was out of the office. I was essentially doing a chunk of her job on top of mine, which was overwhelming (and probably how it feels for a lot of librarians who are dealing with layoffs of coworkers) but much more rewarding. The work was more interesting, and I was dealing with customers all over the world. I also got to use my Spanish several times a day. I'm back to doing my regular work for a little while now, but I realized how much I miss Spanish and will be making sure to stay in practice, since it apparently can come in handy.

But the best and biggest change is that I will finally be moving to a new department! I applied and interviewed for another position when it was posted, and I accepted it on Friday. Starting soon, I will be an Associate Product Manger for archival products. My new position will involve a lot of marketing, which I have less experience with, but I think it will be a good thing to learn. There are definitely some drawbacks to getting this job as opposed to some of the others I have tried for outside of the company, but there are a heck of a lot of positives. I am hoping that the biggest positive will be a dramatic increase in my job satisfaction, since I had strongly felt the lack of that in my life. I will be working with a team of people who seem absolutely amazing, and I will be doing more direct work with archival materials than before, which I think will be interesting and will serve me well in my career.

I am still interested in finding a place where I can have my relationship, meaningful work, and more sunshine than I get now, but for the meantime, this change seems good and much-needed.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Flux: Women on Sex, Work, Love, Kids, and Life in a Half-Changed World

Inspired by Amanda’s booktalk on Cinderella Ate My Daughter (and the long wait to get it from my public library) I placed a hold on an earlier Peggy Orenstein book – Flux: Women on Sex, Work, Love, Kids, and Life in a Half-Changed World. [Feminist side note: There is relatively little about sex in this book, certainly much less than the other topics in the subtitle, and yet it gets top billing. Marketing? I highly doubt Ms. Orenstein chose that...] I have had such a reaction to this book that I thought it merited more than a booktalk. I feel like I’ve been living a booktalk of it since I started it, because it’s all I want to talk about. Orenstein released her breakout bestseller Schoolgirls: Young Women, Self-Esteem, and the Confidence Gap (which SPL doesn’t own a copy of?!) in 1994 and followed with Flux in 2000. It is divided into sections that loosely follow the chronology of women’s lives: The Promise (twenties), The Crunch (thirties), and Reconsiderations (forties and beyond). Throughout each section the author recounts her interviews with hundreds of women at various points of life on their differing decisions about career, marriage, childbearing and childrearing. She mostly interviews them in small groups of friends, which leads to interesting revelations about what they regularly share with one another and what they don’t. She also chooses “representative” individuals for more in depth study and follows them for extended periods of time. The crux of what Orenstein is exploring is the “you can do anything you want” mantra that girls of our generation of were fed, seemingly from birth – I know I heard it constantly and I know I believed it, or at least I thought I did. She explores the degree to which women were sold a bill of goods by this – citing the income gap, the glass ceiling, the stigma of being a working mother, and especially the guilt felt by women who try to “have it all.” Reading women’s feelings, in their own words, as they moved through the stage of life I’m in and into the next ones has truly given me a host of reactions and emotions. I saw women like me, struggling with the same questions and worries and also women in lives I would never choose. While she explores the issues I noted above, this book is not a complaint or a list of reasons being a woman is unfair – she places the women in the context of their choices, not their circumstances (for the most part) and allows them to talk freely about the things they can control and the things they can’t.

The women who most interested me were women in the “Promise” years who had chosen to put careers first, a group I would consider myself in, at least marginally, but they made it clear that they would NOT consider us peers at all. These corporate women would consider all of us librarians “first grade teachers,” a catch-all for women in careers that were more about contributing to the “greater good” than making money. The implication for these women was that these jobs could be done part-time after kids and were a place-filler, rather than a career. I don’t feel like that about my job at all, but I had to acknowledge that I made the decision to become a librarian because I loved it, not because it would be lucrative. I never imagined that I would have to be the sole breadwinner for a family and so in that way my choice was a gendered one. I didn’t like being lumped in with a group that wasn’t career-driven, but this was just one of the many voices in Flux that made me really question my choices and my assumptions.

I’m not sure if this is just hitting me at the right time or if this book is really full of the wisdom of the ages, but I highly recommend that you all read it and tell me. It has really been a spring board for my own thoughts about what I’ve done so far and what I truly want. I know that it will stick with me as I move forward and it has given me a little more freedom about what might constitute a successful life.