Thursday, March 20, 2008

And I'll form...the Head!

Can you explain your role in a previous project that you worked on that required the efforts of a team to complete?

Yes, you can answer this question with a class project but work experience is preferred. This question wants to find out a few things about you:
  • Are you a leader or a follower?
  • Are you a bully or a consensus-builder?
  • Did you complete the project on time and within budget?
I'm not going to kid you: very few librarians get to be leaders right out of the launch bay, but, supposedly, this question is looking for leaders. You should show that you know when to lead (you know what you are doing) and when to follow (you have another role you can do better), a concept I was recently introduced to as kinetic leadership. In a kinetic team you are the leader when you have the skills and you are the follower when the current leader needs a plan executed. Show that you know your role and that you contributed what you knew, not that you were a Schrute constantly undermining your colleagues.

You should also not come across as too bullish when a lighter, china-smoothing touch was needed. It is also important to explain if the project was completed on time and if you spent all of your money without exceeding a limit. If you missed either mark, can you account for it? Explain how, in a future situation, you would not need elasticity in time or money.

This question wants to know about your management skills, both when managing and managed and if you can deliver the desired package.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

How to pick a career book

Because I work in a library with a specialized collection--career advising and counselling, a subsection of business and organizational management--I can tell you a little bit about the career books genre. There are four different types of book in this genre: profiles, samples, advice/coaching and instruction.
  • Profiles: are books that describe a potential career and give a day-in-the-life snapshot, as well as a "how do I get this job" map. Profiles are the most useful if you don't know what a person in specific career path does, such as you want to be a proof reader, but is that as cool as a copy writer? Profile series include books from McGraw Hill, such as the Careers for or the Opportunities in series. The best examples of occupational profile books are in the series Career Opportunities in from Facts on File. You can also look at occupational profiles from NOC (Canada) or ONET (US) , but these are far more general than the industry or sector information found in the print resources. JIST makes a good series on Top Careers based on the data from BLS.
  • Samples: are just that, lists or samples of types of information. Most often you are looking for resume samples, or lists of interview questions, just so you can have some minimal guidance. Samples are most useful if you just need a clue. Many sample books, such as Best Canadian Resumes, will also include some instruction as well as the samples.
  • Advice and coaching: You're a comeback mom who wants to return to work, or you want to be self employed and need some intrepid, peppy heroism, or you are a new grad who keeps falling asleep at your desk at 3 o'clock like an overclocked kindergartener since your employer cruelly makes you stay awake until 5pm. You need an advice or coaching book. Advice and coaching books include information on career management within a holistic, life context. What Color is Your Parachute is an advice or coaching book, and Brazen Careerist is an advice/coaching blog.
  • Instruction: can't network, your public speaking technique is sweating silence or you need to interview like a top MBA? You are looking for an instruction book, a coupling of advice and samples that avoids telling you what to do with your eggs.
If you're a librarian recommending a career book, it isn't enough that career is in the title. Ask: do they need advice or do they need a sample? Some career books have agendas, religious or political, that your reader may not have on his agenda. The popular books are also usually written by middle class white people who know a lot about middle class, college educated whiteness and not a lot about the culture of the person who you are recommending the book to. Some of these writers love being your Aunty Agony (read about the egg thing if you don't believe me). So suggest with caution and ask yourself what you need before you buy: instruction, direction or advice?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Too technical

If you show up for the interview and the whole Best Buy handheld devices section slides out of your briefcase, can you look like a tech addict? If HR googles you and discovers your blog, your Flickr stream, your Facebook, your MySpace, your tweets, before they find your capping exercise/thesis, could you look too techie, and too troublesome?

When I had my first internship placement, I got a mid-placement evaluation and my supervisor said that I tended to use the Internet too much. Now, this was the early days of the millennium, and there was still a lot of suspicion about the Internet and its non-fun/non-porn value for libraries, but I did listen to her and repented and used more print resources. (I wonder how much of that stuff is only accessible as a database now?) But I think, to her, I looked like too much of a techie, too quick to look for the power button before the table of contents. I wonder if tech savvy is not read sometimes by HR as tech savagery: we look too high maintenance, like a temperamental wireless router.

I have thought of my technical skills as a benefit, since I am not afraid of any new items that we want to introduce, nor any project--and there are more of them lately--that require some knowledge of the internet and its many languages and gestures. I am also aware of the eye-rolling when I gush over my blackberry or get excited about extra USB ports and I do try to tone down my excitement. But it does make me think: Are too many internet or technical skills a deficit?