Thing 21: Promoting yourself in job applications and at interview

About eight months ago, I decided to take the plunge and start looking around for what might be my next career move. This was a very hard decision. I LOVED my job. However, my husband desperately wanted to move to a warmer climate, and I had to say I was ready to make a change in latitude as well. We both started looking for jobs. I was incredibly picky. I was lucky in that I was able to be extremely picky — because I wasn’t in a situation where I had to leave my current job. After casually browsing job ads for about a month, there was a position that looked almost too good to be true. It would have been tempting even if it had been located in a cold-weather climate. The fact that it was located in paradise (the Treasure Coast of Florida), made the opportunity to apply too good to be true.

Before I applied, I realized I needed a game plan. I updated my resume. I also had several people review my resume for me. This is something said over and over, but it really is important. By getting my husband, my mother, and a friend to review my resume – I was able to benefit from having lots of eyes review and catch issues. It was also really helpful for achieving balance in how I presented myself. Things which I thought were super important, weren’t necessarily the things that should take up precious room on my resume and vice versa.

One thing I wanted to highlight was my approach to technology. I like to learn new things and I like to play around with technology. I thought it was important to show my skills in a way that highlighted this part of me – so I created a digital portfolio. I was familiar with the portfolio concept from my time as a landscape designer in a previous life, but had a hard time finding many examples in the library field. Some people had websites or blogs which showed off their skills. One librarian even had an infographic of her experience – which I thought was pretty cool. In the end, I decided to create a prezi of my work experience. It had the main points from my resume, but then went into more detail about specific projects and programs and included pictures, statistics, and quotes from reviews and comment forms. I included the private link to the prezi on my resume.

During this time of exploration earlier this year- I applied to three jobs. The one on the Treasure Coast of Florida was the only one I included a link to my digital portfolio, because I created it specifically to highlight my programming experience. I did receive an invitation to interview. I participated in a phone interview and then moved onto a skype interview. I was very lucky that the organization did not require me to travel to participate in the interview. I may have chickened out. The interview process was different from in my past. I think this is because I had served on several hiring panels in recent years, I was very comfortable during the interviews.  The questions didn’t shock me, I knew what I would want to hear if I was the interviewer, but I also knew that I needed to show who I really was. I didn’t want there to be any surprises. If I was really going to move across the country, they needed to know exactly who they were getting. I also wanted to know as much as I could about this organization and the people who worked there — since I couldn’t just pop in for a few visits and get to know people before committing myself.

By the time I made my move and started my new job, my digital portfolio had received over 100 hits on prezi. My new boss had shared it with the library staff. Everyone knew all about me — the following six months would find me spending lots of time trying to learn all about them!

The job market is really tough right now. It is very uncomfortable to present yourself in positive ways and sell yourself as a librarian who can do great things for your next organization, but unfortunately that is what is generally required to make a job change. Well, that and the willingness to take a leap and jump. I’m glad I did both in order to get to the place I’m currently at professionally.  I will add that having an up-to-date resume and portfolio has come in handy recently when I decided to volunteer to be a library mentor for the Sunshine State Library Leadership program. So, for this thing I took the time to update my portfolio to include current projects and asked my husband to proofread it for me so I have it ready for the next professional opportunity that comes my way, even though I won’t be in the job hunting market for hopefully a long time to come.

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