I would just like to quickly thank everyone for their comments, likes and interest in this post. Like I said, it wasn’t easy for me to put out there, so I’m glad that some of what works for me might work for you too.
Good luck on your job search to everyone that’s still looking!
I was asked to write this post some time ago. I’ve waited. I’ve waited because I’m not sure that I should really be writing it.
Surely, there are better people to write about this sort of thing.
So, because of my hesitation, I will add my disclaimer: I am really only speaking of my experience, and none of this should really be taken as “advice.”
Now, with that out of the way. I give you: My Interview Experience(s).
I have been through a number of interviews now, since graduating. Wait, maybe that’s not where I should begin…
Here we go:
I am terrible at interviews. I cannot stress this enough. When it works out for me, it’s like some kind of stars-aligning-luck, I’m sure. I’m not sure that I articulate my ideas well, I stutter a fair bit, sometimes lose my train of thought, and am probably overly enthusiastic.
I also always, like, ALL. WAYS. think that I’ve had a terrible interview. So, maybe the above should be taken with a grain of salt.
The worst, in my experience, of these interviews are the ACADEMIC INTERVIEWs… (in my head that is said in a very scary way, so please imagine this with me).
The academic interview is scary to me because: it’s longer, it generally has multiple parts, it includes a presentation, it’s long, oh wait, I already said that. So, yes, it’s long. And an interview is a performance – that’s not to say, or suggest, that I am lying or anything during an interview, I’m not, but that is to say, that I need to be “on,” I need to bring my best self for an extended period of time. As a faux-extrovert this is quite scary to me.
I’m also not very good at exams, and interviews often feel like exams to me.
Anyway, so I have had three interviews for academic librarian positions. I have gotten two of them. The third, which technically was the second interview, was rather disastrous. [My brain just stopped working after about an hour and the interview continued for another 15 to 20 minutes. See? Disastrous.]
So, I share with you the things I have learned:
1. When given two weeks notice for an interview that includes a presentation, do not spend all of the two weeks preparing the [awesome!] presentation, but no time preparing for the actual interview.
2. Do leave yourself about one week (or depending on time, 2 to 3 days) to practice the presentation and do general interview prep.
3. Know your stories. People often tell me that to do interview prep they ask a friend to grill them with practice questions (examples of these can be found here, as this method does work for some people). This type of prep work very much does not work for me. All this does for me, is get me focused on how to answer those exact questions. And chances are, no one will ask you those specific questions, so this practice just leaves me flustered and unprepared.
What I do have some success with, however, is writing down my stories. I take the job posting and for each sentence, I write down a story from my work experience that relates to what the sentence is looking for. Let’s be honest here, each and every sentence in a job posting is fairly loaded. But they are often rather repetitive as well. By the end of the posting, I will have a couple of sentences of my own that relate to each sentence in the posting. This also allows me the opportunity to ensure that I don’t repeat myself too much. For instance, in terms of project management, I don’t have a ton of experience, but I have one good story. This means, though, that if a search committee asks me more than one question on project management I am left repeating myself.
4. Try not to repeat yourself too much.
Finally, the best piece of advice I have ever been given for interviews, and as such I’m breaking it out of the list, is this: you’re just talking to people. Well, that and the importance of remembering that you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. I mean, do you want to work somewhere that’s a bad fit?
You are just talking to people. And you can do that.
Oh! And if you don’t want to know who is also interviewing for the position that week? You should probably avoid Facebook… and well, probably all social media. Just sayin’.
“Libraries and information professionals are stuck in a bit of an echo chamber. We spend way too much time talking to one another, and not nearly enough time talking to the potential users. Potential users who have no idea really what a (future ready) library does, but who would probably come and visit if they did. (Future Ready 365)”
This list contains 20 everyday ways to escape the library echo chamber that any library staff member can do. Each suggestion encourages you to take the first step towards escaping - to be curious about what is happening outside libraries.
I think what is really great about these suggestions (beware, I’m about to get super controversial here!) is that they get us thinking in a more entrepreneurial way. They get us thinking about the library as a business. And they do so without making it seem scary. Some of the suggestions include:
- Next time you pick up a takeout coffee, observe the experience and compare it to your library’s service.
- Read the book reviews in the local paper. What value could your library add to those reviews?
- Note the language your favourite restaurant uses to describe their menu offerings and compare it to the language your library uses to describe its services, databases or collections.
- Watch a TED Talks video on a topic you know nothing about. What did you learn? How could you apply this to library presentations?
- Next time you’re at the supermarket observe how they use signage to provide direction and information. Also compare the self-check to that in libraries.
It’s like thinking of networking as “just making friends.” Or of interviews as “just talking about your experiences.” (I think I’ll write more on this one soon!). Thinking with an entrepreneurial spirit doesn’t have to be all about “how to make money.” But it is about putting your clients¹ first.
¹ I really prefer “client” to “patron” or “user” – not necessarily trying to hit home the business spin on things, just simply personal preference. Patron and user seem to have such negative connotations to me.
I believe in library as community.
In a public context, I think that this is quite an obvious one. My experience of this was when I was little, my mom taking me to a reading group for moms & tots at our local branch. I loved it. I remember my mom sitting with me (awesome!). I remember the books we read (awesome!). I remember the other kids I met (awesome!). This is how community is built. Bringing people together to share in experience.
In an academic context, I believe the library is the heart of a campus. Sometimes this idea of it being the heart can even be seen. During my undergrad at York it certainly felt that way. York’s Keele Campus gives the impression that the library was always the centre of the campus (historically, this isn’t true, but it feels this way). Everything seems to be built off of the main library.
At the University of Toronto, at least at the Faculty of Information, the library (the Inforum) was (is? is.) the place to go. It’s a hub. The heart of the Faculty. I continue to use the collection as an alum. But again, this is what Library does; bringing together people like-minded in passion and knowledge.
Even in the context that I have been working for close to the past year – special libraries – the library is used. The library is community building; just in a different capacity. And again, it was illustrated to me that this is what Library does; bringing together people like-minded in research and goals.
It’s the space. It’s the people. It’s the collection.
So. I was recently presented with, well, essentially, this question. Or, at least, I should say that something got me thinking about this question:
Is a library still a library with no physical collection?
I believe in library as community. But as digital resources become more and more, the norm. Where do books live in this idea? Is a library still a library with no books?
This came through my email recently on networking and I thought I would share…
I will fully admit that I am terrified to network. But knowing that it was something that I should probably do, and knowing that sometimes when something scares you you just need a new perspective, I decided to look at networking as no different than making new friends (not that I’m particularly good at that either, but it’s a lot less frightening to me). Making friends in the profession. Making friends at work.
Now this I have found to be easy! As Tom Kane notes in his post “Don’t Look at Networking as Networking”
- Don’t go to networking events to [make new contacts]. Rather look at it as opportunities to make new friends; and
- Think of ways to help those you meet.
I started a position back in July with Ontario Ministry of Economic Development & Innovation (formerly the Ministry of Economic Development & Trade, but the ministry merged with the Ministry of Research & Innovation after the October election). I have drafted this post several times over, as I want to let the world know where my career has been taking me.
I was accepted. I signed the paperwork. And on my very first day, I affirmed.
I affirmed to not talk about work! Me? Not talk?!? It’s true; public servants swear an oath that’s a little like a non-disclosure agreement. I’ve even done one of those before. But this left me a little hesitant about what to write on a very public blog…
Here’s what I know I can tell you…
I do not work out of Queen’s Park.
I work somewhere around…
I am a solo-librarian here and have learned so so so much since July. But as a solo-librarian, you sort of have to.
This is all that I know for sure for sure that I can tell you… (I feel like a spy!)
I have also been very busy. More posts to come on work-life balance…