Saturday, March 1, 2008

She shoots, she scores: goal setting

Goal setting is an important part of career management, especially if you are a rookie at the "managing" part. Currently, you probably have one enormous goal: get a library job. But you can break this goal into manageable steps, milestones, that will help you tackle the whole.
  • Tell your friends and classmates you are on the market. Some of them may not be there yet--a surprising number of people take a break to travel after graduating--or they may have decided to keep their marks up and not look for work until their exams are done. I, personally, think that is too late, but who am I to ask you to forgo the job postings they could pass your way?
  • Read job postings every day: flag your favourite sites and visit them when you are checking your email. Use RSS, vertical search engines, and load up your Google Reader.
  • Brush up on your interview skills: read some of the questions posted here, schedule a mock interview or work with your friends.
  • Is your resume perfect? Is it a resume or a CV that you need? Is your master CV ready?
  • Do your references know that you are looking for work? If not, give them a call and ask if it is ok that you still use them as a reference. Ask about their holiday plans, in case they will be away when you might need to reach them. Ask for a written reference if they will be in Italy when you are interviewing.
  • Go to a conference. There is usually a job centre there and you can meet with HR people directly, possibly completing the usual screening interview in advance.
  • Do some information interviews. Are you going to be a children's librarian, work in a law office or for the government? If you have not had your internship or worked in any of these types of libraries, how do you know what you are going to do? Do two information interviews with librarians who have careers you never thought of. Attend an "alternative careers" panel.
  • Read a career book. A business or library-oriented one or some of the columns from LisCareer, to stimulate your brain and learn new things about career planning. I want you to explore a topic you don't know much about, like BDI questions, networking or relocation.
  • Set some of your own goals. Use services like 43things to set your own goals or keep a job journal; this will help you answer the question, where do you see yourself in 5 years?
  • Do one kind thing for someone else who is looking for a job. Pass on a job posting, be his interviewer for a mock interview, give her a hug if she just found out she didn't get the job after she felt really confident leaving the interview, take one of your friends to coffee at a conference. This is actually networking, better known as "friendship".
Try to break your massive get a job goal into bite-sized chunks; no one can eat the whole pie in one gulp.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Interview virtuoso

I just finished reading Susan Katz's article on the disparity between mock interviews and how employers actually interview. Here's the story:

Most career service centres offer a mock interview service and the schedule of questions in mock interviews are usually based on research into the professional human resource literature or on actual employer surveys the career centre has conducted. Katz argues that though it is true that many large corporations are using BDI questions, many small organizations--where many grads, and many library school grads may actually get their first jobs--don't use BDI questions. In other words, you will probably work for a library that doesn't have an HR department and who may not use BDI questions. (Academic librarian wannabes, you can wait for the astounding enlightenment to be found in tomorrow's post; all academic libraries have HR departments and tons of BDI questions.)

Based on her action research, Katz has created a handout for her students that helps them, not with BDI questions (and she still includes some sample questions), but with how to tell employers what they should know about the candidate/student who is interviewing for a job.

If you were to do this for yourself, for this posting, your sheet would look like this:
  • Library science degree
    • Proof:
  • One-two years industry experience
    • Proof:
  • Customer service
    • Proof:
  • Answered "customized" research queries
    • Proof:
  • Identified research needs
    • Proof:
  • Identified tools clients can use repeatedly and trained them in the use of the tool
    • Proof:
  • Shared knowledge with colleagues
    • Proof:
  • Explained complex concepts in plain language; these concepts may not represent your field of expertise
    • Proof:
  • Provided evidence to support initial research and suppositions
    • Proof:
  • Responds in a timely manner to requests
    • Proof:
  • Delegated tasks to the appropriate officer/researcher
    • Proof:
  • Worked independently and completed projects on time
    • Proof:
  • Worked as team member and completed portion of project on time
    • Proof:
All I did was take the job description and describe what they wanted the person to do. You can also include any specific databases or programs (Lexis-Nexis, for example), if necessary and make your own skills sheet. They are also in past tense since when you write your statement, I would like you to give proof that you have done what you say, not, I'm sure I can do that (aye, aye, Captain Bligh).

If you are interested in Katz's original article, the NACE Journal is only open to NACE members; you may be able able to access it through ProQuest. The citation is below:

Katz, Susan, M. "The Job Interview: Is Career Services Giving Students a Realistic Picture of What to Expect?" NACE Journal. Oct 2007. Vol. 68, Iss. 1, pp. 38-44.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Applying a little persuasion

In the past, how have you persuaded people to try your ideas?

Persuading people--whether it is patrons, other colleagues, supervisors or other community members--is an important part of any librarian's job. Picking books for a book discussion group, convincing your boss to run a class for professors who want to use social networking or asking the library board to increase salaries: you better know how to persuade.

What example should you use? The best is another work-related example, preferably one that involved more than one person or transaction and which had a measurable outcome. You should focus on the evidence that you gathered to persuade the person to accept your case, if there was more than one person (a client) or a hierarchy involved (boss to manager to library board to public). Try to tell the story in chronological order with a positive and "they accepted it!" outcome.

The initial sale is also the big question: don't spend 15 minutes talking about outcomes and how you would have done things differently this time around. You should also avoid sounding glib or use an example that is too simple, the teenager believed me when I said that this was the best book on potato cannons! Avoid bullying examples, such as: I convinced the book club to read a translated, 1,300 page stream of consciousness novel and it just made them all better people! You should show how you persuaded for the greater good, not your own ego.

The ability to persuade, as selling, marketing or convincing, is one of the most useful soft skills a librarian can possess.

Monday, February 25, 2008

CV or Resume? What's the diff?

In North America, there is a difference between your CV (curriculum vitae) and your resume: which jobs you use one to apply for and the content.

  • Emphasis is on education, publishing and presentations.
  • Preference is for post-secondary education and teaching, peer-reviewed publications and presentations at professional conferences.
  • Used mainly in academia, though some publishing houses and research institutes may ask for a CV.
  • Emphasis is on work experience, but your education credentials are important since you may not be eligible for consideration without appropriate education.
  • Used everywhere.
For librarians, a mash-up of a resume and CV may be acceptable: regardless of where we apply, it is possible that our presentations and publications may make a difference when employers are setting up their interview schedules, since writing, teaching and research skills are a huge part of any librarian's job, regardless of setting.