Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Thing 21: Promoting yourself in job applications and at interviews

This one was always going to be tricky as I have not attended that many interviews. To those people who read my posts regularly, this will come as no surprise. I’m not a person who jumps from job to job – I found a job I loved I stuck with it.

That said, I obviously have attended interviews and at times, been successful but, if I’m truthful I believe that may have been more luck than judgement.

If I had to give someone advise on applying for a job I would say that you need to prepare of course but… do not over prepare. Years ago, whilst I was a Museum Assistant here, I applied for a job in the Art Dept. I really wanted this job and had waited a long time for it to come up and both myself and another Museum Assistant [a good friend also] were going for it. The post was for a Curatorial Assistant for Applied Arts and I was quietly confident as I held an Art History Degree [whilst my friend did not]. However, as I became convinced that this was my dream job I over prepared and on the morning of the interview I started suffering with a serious attack of nerves. That said, the first half of the interview went ok but then a classic “curve-ball” question sent me spiralling in to an anxiety attack that ended up with one of the Art Curators leaning over and asking if I was okay [the shame!]. It was a disaster after that, my mouth went so dry that I had trouble speaking and at one point I couldn’t even string a sentence together and thought I might be having a stroke! Suffice to say, I didn’t get the job but [yes, you guessed it] my friend did.

The point of relating this sorry tale is to illustrate that it’s not good to want something too much and that over preparing can be as bad as under-preparing.

Okay, since I have already admitted my lack of experience in this area, I think we’d better take a look at people who do know a bit about it…

 Lauren Jury has written a very informative Thing 21, breaking up the post into three sections as laid out in the Thing 21 write-up:

Part 1: Identifying your strengths; capitalising on your interests
Thing 21 recommends “[Making] sure that you keep up-to-date with yourself, and if you are unhappy in your current situation, acknowledge what has changed and take action.” I know I’m capable of doing this (as do people who’ve got a more personal insight into my life at the moment), and it’s a strength I have that I didn’t know about. I guess you never do until you’re in a situation where you need it.
Part 2: Applying for a job
I don’t plan to be on applying for a job in the near future, but I do need to build up an accessible record of activities, experiences and skills because it’s increasingly important to keep track of this kind of thing. I do have lists of interviews, presentations and publications, which I update fairly regularly... I try to keep my CV up to date when I know I’m likely to need to send it to places – this isn’t just for jobs, but for bursaries and applications for other things, and if you’re considering Chartership – so it is very handy to be able to quickly send it off without too much effort updating it.
Part 3: Interviews
I found the advice for this part of the Thing pretty spot on. I’ve recently been on the other side of the interview table and had the unfortunate experience of interviewing some truly dreadful applicants. Here’s some advice that I hope nobody needs to pay attention to!
  • Dress smart…
  • Make eye contact…
  • Be enthusiastic…
  • Don’t apologise for what you consider to be a lack of experience. Big up what you do know and what you have done…
  • Let the interviewer finish the question before you start answering it! Don’t be afraid of (a little bit of) silence. Take the time to think of an answer if you don’t know where you’re going to go with a response.
  • Think of a couple of questions to ask at the end of the interview…
The full version of Lauren’s post can be read here and I strongly recommend reading it if you are in the process of applying for a job as she has written it from the perspectives of both interviewee and interviewer.
Another very well written Thing 21 is by Karen Pierce at dark-side-of-the-catalogue where she relates a similar interview experience to mine but in reverse – she says that one of the best interviews she ever gave was for a job that she knew she was never going to get so she just relaxed and got on with it and was brilliant. However, Karen also discusses her interest in European folk dancing and then relates how the skills and energy required for that has been easily transferred on to her work CV:

The ability to learn new skills, to apply these skills in practice, and combine them with previous knowledge, to work by one-self, and with other people, teaching others new techniques, becoming the secretary for a local group, which organises monthly events and an annual festival (lots of organisational skills there!).  I’m sure there are more things I could think of, but it makes my earlier interests of ‘reading’, and ‘walking’, and ‘art’ pale in comparison (not that there is anything wrong in any of those activities!).  These days (as I’ve got older and done more things) I am far better equipped to fill in the CV/application form than when I first left University  – as I would guess most people are.      

I really like the idea of something you love to do that is completely separate from your work self but that still enhances that work self and this ties in with one of the tasks related to Thing 21 -Identifying your strengths; capitalising on your interests.

I have all the “normal” interests: reading, cinema, theatre and going to the gym [no-where near as often I should though] but over the last few years another interest has recently taken over all of these and that is “crafting”. I make cards, gift boxes, brooches, pendants, note books, calendars, decorations and collages and sell them through shops and craft fairs. I use primarily recycled paper and card [99% of which comes from the library here!] along with magazine and general bric-a-brac type scraps. I’m not yet completely sure how this past-time might be used to enhance my work as a librarian but it has had a profound effect on how I see the books here in the library. I know find myself looking at the book as an object in its own right and not solely for its content. I’m starting to take an interest in the archaeology of the book and looking with new eyes at some of our rarer books as museum collections rather than library holdings. Of course setting up a craft business also takes a lot a hard work, concentration and dedication and these old fashioned attributes never go out of date J

Finally, I would like to point you in the direction of the ever brilliant thewikiman and his informative post What's the key to a good interview - beyond the truisms we all know already?

By the way, the images dotted over this post are all my own work [yay to me!] and if you’d like to see more please take a look at my Flickr and Facebookpages:].                                   

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