Friday, July 18, 2008

What is one professional goal you want to accomplish this year?

This question wants to know if you have a plan--and if that plan matches with their job. Suggesting that you want to do research in teaching methods and effective instruction when the position you are interviewing for is collection development and licence negotiation means that you haven't read the job posting. Or that there will be a constant push-pull between the duties of the position and your real desire.

I'm not going to say something like, why are you interviewing for a job that is not part of your professional plans? It's a good question, but if you're an entry-level candidate, you may not know what you would like to do as a librarian--and, well, you need to eat. So, obviously, look at the job posting and see where it is going professionally and hopefully you want to walk a little way with it.

If you were applying to this position currently available at the University of Manitoba libraries, what could be one professional goal that you could latch on to? Well, taking an additional course in cataloging may not be a bad idea. You can also discuss, generally, a conference that you would like to attend that has relevant information. If your capping exercise is related to the position, discuss how you would like to turn it into an e-book and make it available to other librarians, or how you would like to develop it into a course. But look for something that is professionally related to the position that looks like it would be worth their time and investment.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Work from home, make $$$

Everyone has seen those emails--and the classified ads in local newspapers, if you are old enough to remember reading a newspaper--which included advertisements to work from home. Some of it was telemarketing, some of it was shilling pills or other products and some of it was send away for our information package--And the only people who made money on the last were the people selling the information package. Now, you can find work from home or telecommuting positions listed on job boards, as well as "freelance" work specific job boards, such as eLance.

I'm pretty skeptical, but the WSJ decided to see if any of these sites were legit and if people actually made money. On the whole, their article is appropriately critical and gives you the lowdown on the sites, with one exception: these legit sites may ask you to pay a subscription fee to bid on or apply for the jobs. Therefore, you must score a job that at least has the potential to pay your subscription fee--and you must actively bid on work, a time-consuming process. 

Here are some good reasons to use these sites:
  1. You have an in-demand skill. Programming, editing and writing, especially if you are a subject specialist, appear to be in demand. But you will have to work hard and stay on top of contracts.
  2. You live in a depressed labor market (or just depressed for librarians) but you can't leave. Your squeeze may have a great job, a family member may be seriously ill and depends on you, but there are few prospects for in this area. Instead of keeping house or house keeping in another city, consider the freelance route--if you can meet the first criteria.
  3. You have freelanced before and can make it work. If you have not freelanced before, you may not be prepared for just how uncertain the pay check is and how freelancing moves in cycles, from hyper to hand-to-mouth. If you are considering freelancing but have not done it before, don't do it unless you have another income to pay the bills. 
  4. You have explored F2F freelance work and you want to expand. If you are already an established freelancer but have not sought contracts online, you may want to expand into new markets. 
I'm pretty sure that you are smart enough to not believe the promises of instant wealth, but online freelancing could be a way to supplement your income while looking for a library job, or if you are currently under-employed in the field.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

If I remember one thing about you, what should it be?

Before you answer this question, take a good hard look at the job posting for the position that you are interviewing for. Now, here are your two choices for preparing your answer:
  • Desired skill that they want that you have. Take a moment to reiterate that you possess this skills, whether it is teaching, program development or reference experience, stress how you can fulfill this need.
  • Desired soft skill that they want. Do they want team players? Collegial? Committed to learning? Do you have any of those traits? How can you show them and why do you think you could demonstrate them here. Do not underestimate the power of a soft skill: if this is an entry-level position, all of the candidates should possess the requisite hard skills for the position. Therefore, the question is one of "fit": whose personality do we like best?
This is not a plea for a job time. This is stressing how you fit, either personality-wise or skills-wise.

And though some interview books may suggest that you talk about how this job fits with your career path, I would advise against that response. You want them to remember you not for what you will get out of the job, but for what they will get out of you.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Your attitude sucks

Inspired by 21 Keys to Magnetic Likability by Marc and Angel Hack Life

Now, we can't always be Pollyanna, but there are some people who definitely act like someone urinated in their cornflakes every morning. And they're just no fun to work with. They are also a difficult hire because they look combative or stubborn.

You know who you are: you answered a question about using the catalog and answered by redesigning it with tags and a mashup, or you told your interviewers that since story time numbers are down, they should do reader's advisory for manga, or you helpfully explained why undergrads are incapable of understanding RefWorks--and here's how you would fix undergrads. Your beliefs--and maybe you're right about tags, manga and undergrads--are not the tools you need to answer the question. A concrete example, with some proof please, is what they are looking for (#13 and #14).

When people are smart, they can be likable, but they often struggle with #13 and #18 because they are so damn smart--and so sure they are right. Try to adopt a more moderate style, not giving in, but making the delivery better with kindness and evidence.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Hiring is hard work (from Business Week)

Jack and Suzy Welch have a column in the back of Business Week magazine and last week they discussed some of the difficulties of hiring. They are reminding employers--and yes, job seekers--that there is more to the candidate than good paper and charm. Here are some of the other qualities they look for:
  • Good references. Note to self: Did you check with your references and make sure that they are available to take calls?
  • They have good paper but do they give good face? Note to self: your resume may look good, but if you didn't do some interview prep and got feedback on your attitude--too aggressive or too humble--you may not be portraying yourself in the best light.
  • There are some jobs where they are desperate to hire. Note to self: what can you do that others really, really want? In libraries, licensing, dealing with e-books, developing distance programs and services. Are those skills coming through in paper and in presentation?
Of course, these check points are huge and they involve looking at your resume as well as evaluating how you answer questions. If you aren't sure how to do it, you should get some help.