Saturday, May 3, 2008

Welcome, conference season

The conference season, everywhere has now begun and we're hunting wabbits. I use wabbits as an obvious reference to the Fudd but also as a nice description of the elusive something that we are all looking for at conferences: ideas, jobs, connections, swag. We each have a different wabbit that we are on the lookout for.

A good conference should really have all of these things for librarians: you should go to sessions that stimulate your mind and make you take lots of meaningful notes; pass out your business card to become a book reviewer; land a coveted ARC or six; and get a job interview.

To get the last one, you have to actually go to the career fair. I know, I know, you just saw Fired and those career fairs look vile. They can be: they can be wickedly uncomfortable, filled with awkward people, stilted, slightly desperate conversation and filled swag hunters jiving from table to table snatching up bendy rulers and decals while bobble-heading to their iPod. But you can have your own little bubble of calm by having a plan (and only accepting a bendy ruler when offered):
  • Look at who is going to be there and make a list of who you want to visit. According to ALA, job seekers should register on Job List and employers should provide postings to the list prior to the placement event. Not all career fairs are so well managed--usually it is just a room with a battered binder where you are welcome to leave your resume--but knowing who will be there and what you are looking for will help you with step two
  • Is your resume ready to go? If not, it should be. If you have been sending it out for a few weeks or months and not gotten a bite, you need to have someone--preferably a career advisor--look over it and see if there are any errors in the text. I know, I know, you spell checked it. It isn't enough: look for confusables and awkward phrases or speech that you missed. A good editor and a good proofreader can help with these.
  • Mock an interview. Prior to my first career fair interviews, I mock interviewed with two different friends and 101 Great Answers to the Toughest Job Interview Questions. The practice was hugely, enormously beneficial for my presentation skills and poise. If you have no one who feels confident enough to help you, go to your career services office and ask to have a mock interview. If you have no grad services officers, ask if you can have a general mock interview with BDI questions about teamwork and supervisory skills. This is good general preparation and you may get some cool handouts to keep practicing.
  • No flip flops while on the career fair floor. I know: it's Anaheim. Carry them in your bag, but dress like a professional while you are looking for work. First, you stand out from all the flip flop wearers and you look like you took the job search seriously--and the time of the recruiters who are at the fair.
  • Talk nicely to and about people no matter where you are. People can hear you and you may not know what library everyone belongs to. Knocking the efforts of human resource people at the breakfast table, slagging a library while in a conference room: you are busted. You'll be lucky if they don't twitter about your rude mouth and everyone in their stream can read about you later. No one wants to hire an indiscreet blabbermouth: all libraries are political and live in communities where shouting your mouth off can have unintended, disastrous consequences.
  • Have fun. No, really, you can. And the more fun you are, the more people you will meet and who will talk with and about you. Try to have sober, dressed fun, not, Girls Gone Wild "fun".
I've just gotten back from a conference and I am about to plunge into another. I'm going to keep beefing up the collection of interview questions with the exception of this post.