Friday, March 7, 2008

Creating your own summer job

It is possible to create your own summer job or internship, if the postings coming up at your school don't match with what you want to do for the summer. Here are some of the steps you will need to take:
  1. Write an employment proposal. What are you going to do for this organization? What do they need from you? This means you need to look at the librarian tasks that you are qualified to perform and explain how they would help your target organization. Your resume should also be part of this package.
  2. Find an organization or sector to send your proposal to. You can use a directory like the Canadian Company Capabilities Directory or CHIN to find an organization to work for. I would also suggest trying to meet with them in person, so see if you can find contact information for their human resource person or find out if they are going to be in attendance at any upcoming career fairs. If they aren't hiring librarians, ask them if they have accepted employment proposals in the past and if they may be amenable to receiving yours.
  3. Figure out how you will get paid. There are subsidies for employers, like STEP in Alberta or some of the Sector Councils have money available, whether in grants for a project or wages, that the employer could apply for so they can pay you while you work for them. I recommend the paid route: volunteering is great, but once you are on the books and in the budget, people tend to remember what you were there for.
This summer job solution won't work for everyone, but for the entrepreneurial amongst us, you just need to have an idea, a written plan and the courage to ask.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Recovering from an illness

From today's Career Q&A in the WSJ, Perri Cappell gives advice on how to disclose a recent, life-threatening illness to an employer when it led to extended time off. The person who asked the question has received treatment and is in remission, but he wants to know how to deal with an employer who might be concerned about his...longevity?

I agree with Cappell that you can disclose it to an employer--and if you look at recent cancer statistics, you may be across the desk from a survivor, or a person who may have an invisible, chronic disease--and who will understand that part of healing and living means returning to work.

Personally, I feel if you have been treated and are "healed", that you need not disclose unless you are reasonably sure that it may have an impact on your job performance. But disease is nothing to be ashamed of, either in refusing to disclose or deciding to lay it out there.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Hating BDI Questions

Nick Corcodilos--author of the long-running newsletter, website and book of the same name, Ask the Headhunter--disdains Behaviour Descriptive Interview questions. In his recent foray into blogland, he has even sprung out a hate-on for BDI questions. Though I agree, somewhat, with many of his arguments, like past behaviour doesn't always express future success and that the BDI interview can be rigged in favour of the glib, there is one enormous problem with shedding BDI questions: what else are people going to ask?

Well, more intelligent questions that are trying to elicit information about skills, such as:
  • Give me an example of a collection development project that you worked on: how did you plan it and what was the outcome. -Or-
  • Give me an example of a time when you accepted a teaching assignment with very little time to prepare.
Wait, those are both skills-based and BDI questions. Could it be that BDI questions aren't bad but are just selected and delivered by people with little or no interview experience?

I would also beg you not to throw the BDI out with the bathwater since we have scripted interviews for very good reasons:
  • for the unimaginative, scripts are good
  • for the grandiose and easily distracted, scripts are better
  • we need to measure fairly and objectively
  • an unstructured conversation can also favour the glib
  • structured interview questions, with rules, also allow the candidate to think logically and reflectively about her presentation and delivery
BDI is part of the proportions of a mix of interview questions, but it shouldn't make up all of the interview questions.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Here's my card

Do you need a business card? If you're a freelancer or contractor, yes, definitely. You should have the services that you offer--editing, research, indexing, etc.-- and contact information so the person who receives the card can get in touch with you.

It is very helpful to have a card ready for conferences, since there are draws and networking events. I was once asked to put my book proposal on the back of my business card and place it in a fish bowl, so you never know.

You can make up your own card if you have the following:
  • Stable contact information, including a personal homepage.
  • A specific service that you could sell and proof of your work.
You would use the business card so the person could engage these services.

Try to avoid any slogans or taglines in the card. Personally, I think branding is for cattle or pop, so I would scoff mockingly at any business card with a double-J of readers' advisory.

I would avoid handmade business cards since they look like an arts project and macaroni doesn't fit in a wallet. You could do something like a MOO card if you have some good pictures, but be careful because these could come off looking cutesy and not like a real business card.

Generalist cards are the easiest to make, but also the easiest to discard and if you are looking for a "general" library job, your resume is a better letter of introduction.