Category Archives: Member Satisfaction

Incerto Exitu Victoriae (Of Uncertain Victory), or The Successful Job Candidate’s Lament: Guest Post by Beth Myers

Tanya Zanish-Belcher: A key competency for any archivist starting out or moving up is the ability to negotiate a fair and equitable salary. Statistics show that accepting a smaller salary than you deserve can cost you thousands over the course of your career, so it is well worth investing the time to develop the skill of negotiating with a potential employer.

To that end, Beth Myers, Director of Special Collections at Smith College, agreed to write a guest post focusing on this issue. Beth and I taught a workshop on Career Planning for Archivists at the Midwest Archives Conference (MAC) Annual Meeting in Milwaukee (2016) and salary negotiation was a component of the curriculum. While we are taking a break from teaching this workshop for the year, it will be available as part of MAC’s Speakers’ Bureau (hosting fee only) in 2019: http://www.midwestarchives.org/speakers-bureau

Although there are many archivists who do not have an MLIS, the American Library Association’s Advocating for Better Salaries Toolkit (2017) provides additional information on this important topic:
http://ala-apa.org/files/2010/02/2017-ALA-APA-BETTER-SALARIES-TOOLKIT-6th-ed.pdf

The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) recently published this research on the salary negotiation patterns between men and women in academic libraries. The American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) also provides resources.

Beth Myers, Smith College

If ever there was a reason to celebrate, a successful job search is at the top of the list. For most people there is a palpable relief that so much hard work is in the rearview mirror — mulling the posting and potential ramifications of getting a new job (good, bad, and unknown), crafting and submitting the application, the waiting, the interview(s), the reference calls, the waiting. But in other ways hard work still lies ahead and few other psychological roadblocks loom as large for so many people as the salary negotiation. The negotiation period places the job seeker and organization making the offer in a nebulous sociocultural-economic space loaded with assumptions, guess work, power dynamics, and awkwardness. Like an ABD distinction for PhDs, the salary negotiation period conveys the status of incomplete (or perhaps uncertain) success—a journey not yet finished.

Not all jobs come with a period of negotiation for salary and benefits, let alone so-called perks. Some first offers are also final offers due to internal constraints that are rarely visible to the job candidate. Term positions, hourly positions, and entry-level salaries are often, but not always, fixed. Some organizations don’t negotiate as part of a unique workplace culture or, more whimsically, the habit of a particular administrator. Some organizations are more transparent in the process than others, but none that I know of completely reveal the boundaries or wiggle room or define exactly what is on offer. In the absence of specifics, most job candidates are forced to guess at the limitations of the offer:  Where is the real ceiling and where is the real floor? All the while, a psychological ripple begins for the job candidate:  How much do they like me? Need me? What if I ask for too much? The reverse of this can also be true. Hiring managers often function under institutional pressure to keep labor costs low. If too low, the best candidates may well (and rightly) be out of reach.

There are steps a candidate can take to enter the negotiation period with confidence that, with some luck, will result in a quadam victoria — certain victory (or, more likely, certain compromise). First and most important is knowing what your red line is. The red line is the package that you need in order to live the quality of life that you require. The red line is so-called because it is non-negotiable, solid, and inflexible. The red line exists so that you know well in advance what it will take to complete the negotiation and at what point you are willing to walk away regardless of how tempting the job might be.

You will know your red line because you’ve done your homework to determine the amount of income and benefits that you, and often your family, need to flourish: 1) if relocating, cost-of-living changes from housing to commuting costs, gas, electric, insurance, and similar; 2) health insurance, including dental and eye care; and 3) long-term benefits, such as retirement package and employee support for dependents of any age. That includes school tuition discounts and family leave support not otherwise determined by the federal government. There are a bevy of tools out there to help you determine the economics of your job transition. One of the more oft-cited is the living wage calculator from MIT.

There are other ways to do your research a bit closer to the profession. Some of these sources are dated now, but can be instructive: SAA’s A*CENSUS (2004), SAA Salary Survey (2015), Association of American University Women (2016), Digital Asset Management Foundation (2014/2016), and Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Handbook (2014). Newer work, especially the 2017 WArS/SAA Salary Survey: Initial Results and Analysis by Robin H. Israel and Jodi Reeves Eyre of Eyre & Israel, LLC, is also very helpful.

It is also important to gather as much unofficial information as possible. Tap your professional networks and friends and, by extension, their networks and friends. Although there is a general reluctance in U.S. culture to talk about salaries, there absolutely should not be. Ask around — public academic and government job salaries and grades are typically posted publicly; academic and corporate jobs are as often obscured. Sometimes the only way to get a sense of the salary is to ask friends or former employees at that institution. If quality of home life is a main motivator to change jobs, talk to people who live in the area. The more you know, the better prepared you will be.

Once you have done the homework, determine your red line. Remember to consider the full package on offer, not just the pre-tax salary. The employer will be thinking in terms of salary + insurance + retirement + cost of employment over time, and so should you. The retirement package in particular is often overlooked, especially by new/newer professionals, but it has the greatest long-term impact on the employee.

Do some soul searching: How much do you really want the job? No job is perfect, no institution is perfect. Even self-employment has its drawbacks. What a new position offers is potential and hope. That hope can be for advancement.  How does the job fit in the longer professional trajectory? That hope can be for a better work environment and culture. How do people get along at work? How does the institution support its workers? That hope can be for a better living environment. Is it time to leave the city for the town or vice versa? Although it would be easier to reduce a prospective job to the salary, such an approach ignores the real impact and complexity of making a professional move.

A few more suggestions to keep in mind prior to starting your salary negotiations:

  • Know that everyone wants a positive outcome.
  • Odds are that no one is trying to deceive you, but it’s good to remember that there are systems and expectations at work that will not be visible to you.
  • While it is important and reasonable to have high expectations about the offer, be prepared to compromise.
  • It is likely that your initial salary number will be high and the first offer low. Respond professionally. This is a 5K, not a sprint.

There are also practical concerns when negotiating salary. Typically negotiations will take place over the phone. You will likely be negotiating with the person who will be your supervisor, but it might be a representative from human resources or another person in the organization who is authorized to negotiate. Typically the first offer comes from the employer. Keep notes on the conversation to reflect on later. Ask clarifying questions. If you feel pressure or are uncertain, ask for a little time to think about the offer. Twenty-four hours is common, but you can ask for more time. If the offer is truly too low and below your red line, tell the employer and provide a counter offer. If you think the negotiation is not moving forward productively, you can ask to speak to someone in human resources (although responses to that request will vary by institution).

Importantly, do not forget about so-called “periphery benefits”: What kind of tech package do you need to be successful on the job? What support is guaranteed for professional development and training and professional association memberships on an annual basis? What is the organization’s approach to short-term schedule flexibility? What support will the institution offer for a trailing partner or spouse? Is there a chance for a one-time signing bonus? Ask about raises: What’s the five-year average for merit-based raises or contractually mandated raises? Are funds for continuing education for advanced degrees and certifications available? Does the institution support paid leave for research and scholarship? Does the institution offer subsidized housing? Relocation support?

No matter how high the stress or emotions involved, avoid ultimatums and framing your needs in absolutes. (This is a poor negotiation tactic in any circumstance!) Instead, frame your needs from a practical point of view. The core language of a job search is that an organization has a need / opportunity and that you are the best possible answer to that need. Throughout the negotiation, restate your commitment to the job, the specific ways in which hiring you will benefit the organization, and the unique skills and abilities you will bring—all of which translates to how you are worth the investment.  Because you are.

Finally, no deal is final until you get the offer in writing from the institution, so hold off on making any public announcements or giving notice at your current position until that all-important letter arrives. Once it does, put on the party music because it’s time to celebrate a victory for all involved.

 

Barriers to Participation Survey Report

Contributed by Kate Dundon and Matthew Gorzalski, Membership Committee

The SAA Membership Committee recently surveyed members about the barriers hindering participation in SAA.  We wanted to identify the issues affecting members’ engagement with the organization, and propose strategies to foster greater participation. The report is available on the SAA Membership Committee microsite. The survey returned 1,279 responses, or 21% of total SAA individual membership.  This blog post highlights some of the findings.

Slightly over half (52%) of respondents indicated that they’d like to be more involved in SAA.  When asked to choose from a list of barriers, respondents are most hindered by lack of financial support (58%) and lack of time (47%), followed by feelings of inexperience (28%) and uncertainty on how to become involved (22%).  Others (12%) noted unsuccessful attempts at appointment or election to a leadership position.

Comments from the free text response question revealed an interesting dichotomy of members’ perspective concerning SAA as an insular organization versus its efforts to engage membership in recent years. Many members experience feelings of intimidation and unwelcomeness that contribute to their hesitation to participate in SAA. These include: perception of cliquish leadership and membership; first-time annual meeting attendees intimidated by the size of the conference; low proportion of people of color in SAA; perception that SAA is dominated by the interests of academic archives; and the perception that the organization is dominated by liberal political views. On the other hand, others remarked that SAA has become significantly more engaging over time, particularly to younger members. One respondent stated, “New members have never had such opportunities for service.”

This survey has given us a better understanding of the complex barriers faced by members in participating in the organization. The Membership Committee compiled a list of suggestions for addressing these obstacles in our report, many of which were presented to us by survey respondents. Below is a small selection of the actions that we think would be the most impactful:

  • Continue to create more opportunities to participate virtually in order to mitigate geographic and financial barriers to participation. Consider live streaming annual meeting sessions, plenaries, and section and committee meetings. When feasible, provide recorded professional development workshops online for a fee.
  • Create a “Get Involved” section on the SAA website that clearly articulates the various paths toward involvement in committees, sections, etc., and centralizes information about all leadership positions. Open elected positions and committee appointments, with with estimated time commitments, could be posted to this centralized location.
  • Produce regular profiles of current SAA leaders or volunteers with a description of their path of service that led them to their current positions, perhaps in In the Loop or Archival Outlook. A respondent commented, “I think I’d have a clearer picture of how to start my own service with SAA if I saw examples of how others have done it.”

Do you have ideas about how to support engagement with SAA? Leave them in the comment section below!

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Getting involved with SAA

In the past few weeks, my Council and leadership colleagues and I have had a number of conversations with members about how one goes about getting involved in SAA.   We’re delighted that people care and are willing to pose that question–thanks to all of you who did, and to all of you who share that interest.   The call for appointments by Vice President Dennis Meissner will go out in October, but that’s not the only way to be professionally engaged with SAA.    Council member Tanya Zanish-Belcher, who is both welcoming and great about getting people involved, has provided some thoughts on the subject.   And if you still or in the future have questions, please follow the suggestion on the button that Terry Baxter and the Membership Committee were passing out at the recent Joint Annual Meeting:  “Ask me.” Continue reading

Improving SAA’s Affinity Groups: Your Chance to Contribute to the Change

This post was written by the members of the Task Force on Member Affinity Groups. I hope you will attend their forum during the conference or respond to this post in the comments.

Since last year’s SAA Annual Meeting, a task force has been working to determine how the Society’s member affinity groups (that is, its Sections and Roundtables) can better serve the membership as a whole. While nothing has been finalized, the task force has been exploring several recommendations largely based on a survey completed this spring. The task force would like to take this opportunity to share some of these findings and to ask for general feedback on preliminary recommendations. Continue reading

Your Chance to Comment on the Archives and Archivists List

I have been in awe of all the comments following my post on the Archives and Archivists list. Now here is your opportunity to make comments. The committee studying the list (incoming SAA Vice President/President-Elect Dennis Meissner, new archives professional and SAA member Samantha Winn, long-time SAA and listserv member Christine Di Bella, and SAA Web and Information Systems Administrator Matt Black.) have put out a request for comments as well as a survey to learn more about list users. You can see their announcement and request for comments here.

Here is your opportunity to express your feelings about the Archives list. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by.

The De-Evolution of the Archives and Archivists List

Back in the late 1980’s I made the decision to leave archives for a bit and start working reference at a college or university library. I’ve always loved reference and had I not discovered archives while in library school I think I might be working reference at a college or university. However after a couple of years the desire to go back to archives hit me hard. The university where I worked did not have archives and I made it my goal to start the university archives. I did take a few courses at another college but the thing that got me excited about archives again was the Archives and Archivists list. Continue reading

Insuring a Safe Place to Share Diverse Opinions

This post was written by SAA Council Members Terry Baxter and Lisa Mangiafico.

The Society of American Archivists Council has discussed a code of conduct for meeting and online spaces at its most recent two meetings. The resulting draft is available for comment and comments will still be accepted until June 22, 2014. The intent of the Council is to revise the draft based on member comments, discuss and vote on the revised draft, and, if adopted, have an official code of conduct available by the annual meeting in August. Continue reading