Friday, October 28, 2011

The one that got away

No, I'm not talking about fishing or lost loves here, but a library job that you passed on at some point in your career for reasons that may have made sense at the time but now cause you to kick yourself for missing what might have been a great opportunity. I'm sure everyone had one or two critical decision points in their lives where their career could have taken a completely different tack, had the other road been taken, leading one to think back and speculate "What If?"

For me it was a special collections job at a public library. I was just barely out of library school when I landed an interview for this position, which promised equal time maintaining a small but very interesting and eclectic historical collection with hours at the library's reference desk. As my degree concentration had been in Archives Management but my work experience in libraries had been in public services, this job seemed a perfect fit for me.

The only downside is that the library in question was in another state. While we would end up being much closer to my family, the prospect of such a move seemed daunting to say the least. My wife and I felt that we'd only just begun to settle down in New England, and with our daughter only three years old it just didn't seem like it was the right time to contemplate starting over again somewhere else. Nevertheless the job sounded fascinating enough on paper and the initial phone interview with the person who would be my boss went so promisingly that I felt like I had to go and see the library itself.

In retrospect, this was probably a huge mistake. Had I bowed out earlier on in the process, I probably wouldn't have felt as conflicted as I did after I actually got to see the special collection first-hand and confirm that it was in fact as cool as it had sounded. As long as the job had remained in the abstract, the "What If?" factor would not capture my imagination as fiercely as it did now that I had been there.

Of course my in-person interview ended up going well, such that they invited me back for a final round. This is where my wife and I had our final gut check and realized that we weren't ready for a change as life-altering as this- not yet. And yet... why does my mind keep coming back to this job, The One That Got Away, and beguile me in a way that no job prospect either real or hypothetical has ever done since? Perhaps I've been thinking a lot more about this lately because I am aware of the fact that I am inexorably approaching another one of those all-important decision points. When the time comes, will I seize the opportunity and embrace radical change this time around, or will I let another one get away...

How about the rest of you out there in Libraryland- does anyone else have a "What If?" they'd like to share?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Having spent much of my pre-MLS life in either suburban living with the occasional small town, I had decided if I was every going to try city life, my first job post-MLS would be the one.

While I did end up taking a job that took me to DC, the other two I interviewed for (but withdrew from when I had made my decision) were in Seattle and Boston - both for public libraries which was where I started in libraries pre-MLS. But my path took me the academic route and that's where I've stayed.

All the same, I'd encourage you to be creative in your choices and think about which helps you to retain a sense of passion for the work