Why can’t American job applications be like this?


Original Image — Copyright John Downing/Rex

So, I went out on a limb and applied for a job at Oxford University in the UK which has the most romantic, best fucking library in the whole world (the Bodleian Library which was the model library for the Hogwarts Library in Harry Potter). Obviously, it’s intimidating and feels completely absurd to even apply. I was nervous and worried what the process would be like, but it was the easiest application I have ever completed and by far the most considerate.

Anyone applying to librarian or professional jobs in the United States knows how harsh the job descriptions and requirements can be.  For example, this is a quote from a Digital Research Services Librarian for the Humanities (a job similar to the one I applied to at Oxford). It says the minimum requirements are:

Education/Licensing: An advanced degree in a humanities discipline (Master’s degree required, doctoral degree preferred) (with preference for art/art history or modern languages) or science discipline. An additional ALA-accredited MLS preferred.

Required qualifications include: professional-level work experience in an academic library or equivalent research setting; demonstrable understanding of the research processes employed in a range of disciplines with particular focus on the research data lifecycle; demonstrated expertise employing digital tools for e-research, including big data management and curation, text mining, research practices relating to data, preservation, and retrieval; demonstrated ability to lead change.

Is your brain reeling yet? Two Master’s degrees, doctoral preferred … Basically, if you don’t have these qualifications and didn’t spend your entire life in school to make $50k: go fuck yourself. On the other hand, Oxford considers these the essential qualifications for their position of Social Sciences Research Data Librarian:

1. A good undergraduate degree and a higher degree in social science or librarianship/information science.

2. An informed understanding of social science information needs and uses, research methodologies, and knowledge of scholarly communication patterns.

3. Demonstrably excellent communication skills and the ability to work collaboratively in a complex organization including experience of building effective working relationships with faculty.

4. Demonstrably excellent I.T. skills and highly competent in searching a wide range of online scholarly materials including data resources.

5. Understanding of legal, policy and ethical frameworks governing research data and information.

Also, look at their explanation of how work experience can be gained, as considered by one of the most famous and prestigious universities in the entire world:

Your skills and experience may have been gained though paid employment, voluntary/community work, domestic responsibilities, spare-time activities, and training.

I am still in shock … They recognize that people can gain professional skills through domestic responsibilities and spare-time activities? The job applications I have seen usually state that you MUST have a minimum of 3 years experience in the position you are applying for. It begs the questions: how the hell do you get experience and what if your “experience” is gained through non-traditional means?

This job posting also gave amazing information on the application process, when applications would be short-listed, and an exact time line when interviews would be conducted.  It is a huge relief to know that if I am not contacted by the interview date I didn’t make it to their list. This is unlike most applications I have completed that state you can not contact them, they will not contact you, and best of luck in waiting around in confusion for 6 months.

As for me, I doubt I will hear anything from Oxford. The application closed a few days ago, but in general the purpose was to spread my job hunting wings and feel professionally hopeful and adventurous.  I did spend a day (or two 🙂 ) imagining us moving to Oxford.  How it looks: We are happily living in a cottage right by campus.  My boyfriend (cough, cough — husband for the Visa) is at home caring for our beautiful British babies and as happy as can be.  Every day I riding my bike home for lunch, we sit on the grass by the river and have picnics, laughing about how silly academics are.  Oh no! I must be off! Look at the time.  I kiss my man and babies, jump on my bike — wearing a flowing cotton dress and looking rather British.  You see, I must get back to the Bodleian because a famous scholar studying C.S. Lewis needs some materials and to bounce ideas off me.  I think I will stay in this dream life for a while….


Photographer Unknown — Bicycle and Girl at Bodleian Library Oxford, England


2 thoughts on “Why can’t American job applications be like this?

  1. So let me start by saying that your “dream life” may even have me dreaming for a couple of days. Ha. Librarian or not, that just sounds absolutely wonderful and to be honest, I could totally picture you looking very British on your bike. lol. Love it! Whether or not you received a response from Oxford, that is so great that you stretched your boundaries and you’re opening yourself up to new possibilities. There’s no doubt about it, the job hunting process is shitty. Although I am still shocked by how relaxed and genuine Oxford’s application sounded. I definitely wish more job apps were like that! Wow. In the meantime, good for you to put yourself out there, you never know what could come of it. It is very courageous of you Sarah! Keep it up!!! Now let’s get back to that dream life… I would come visit you (I would rent a bike, of course) and we would ride our bikes, laughing and reminiscing. Then we would grab lunch at that small cafe on the corner, sipping on tea and eating scones. Ahhhh, sounds wonderful 🙂

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