Growth of a Librarian

Interests and experience
November 12, 2011, 7:19 pm
Filed under: CPD | Tags: , , , ,

Although I didn’t write anything down for Thing 21 (my CV has been recently up-dated and polished) I was intrigued by the idea of incorporating skills and experience from personal interests into a professional application.  I’ve always done a lot of volunteering (see thing 22 post, when I get around to writing it), and have referenced many of those positions in job applications, but have generally thought rather cyncially of the personal interest section of a CV as largely HR fluff.  After reading some other bloggers’ responses to this Thing however, I began to re-evaluate my own personal interests  in light of possible professional applicability.

My on-going personal interest is in puppetry, and this has obvious potential to be useful in just about any job involving interaction with children.  I’m convinced that it could also be applicable in other settings (anyone fancy an advertisement for their library in which the books begin to talk, for example?), but have not been brave enough to attempt to push the issue with any of my potential employers yet.  In any case my presentation skills have been improved through this particular hobby, so that’s one practical outcome.  I do of course also love books and reading, and quite frankly that has obvious applicability to the library and information profession. Actually, my whole personality tends towards a desire for information, I always want to know the ‘why’ behind everything, and I love sharing information with other people, mostly because understanding things (everything, anything, I’m not particularly picky) is so essential to my own happiness.  That and I’m really quite insistent upon the necessity of making the world a better place – if something seems wrong to you get out there and fix it!  This drives my incredibly patient and easy-going partner insane, since it means I am frequently irritable and impatient with the way things actually are, but it’s just a part of who I am.  It is not, however, a part of my personality that is immediately obvious, and probably never comes across in an interview, but I suspect the drive to improve would be a desirable quality in a new employee in a lot of settings, so perhaps I ought to figure out how to work it in a bit more.

As for any advice I can offer in terms of job hunting, the best I can do is to offer an example of the best and worst experience I have had in an interview, and what I learned from it.  The best experience was one where I was most naturally myself.  It was for my first library job, in fact, and was a position I very much wanted but did not honestly think I would get.  I had applied as a bit of a lark, and was totally shocked to get an interview.  One of the questions I was asked in the interview was about how you prioritize work.  Although I went for the neutral answer, that I prioritze based on the advice of my supervisor, the deadline for the various tasks, and other factors, the people interviewing me pressed me for a more specific and personal answer.  So I responded with the truth, “If there is no reason not to, I tend to do the tasks I like least first, to get them out of the way, because I’m more likely to make time to do the things I want to do.”  One of the people interviewing me laughed, and suggested that this logic was similar to eating your vegetable first, to which I responded that this was precisely my point “you always have room for dessert!”  When I got home after the interview I told my partner how embarrased I was that I had talked about dessert in an interview – that’s not very professional!  My partner, who had much more practical experience in the workforce at the time, assured me that the people interviewing me were likely to appreciate me being honest and natural, and that it might even make me memorable.  In the end she was right – I got the job and learned something valuable about what ‘making a good impression’ actually means.

The worst experience I have had in an interview was a phone interview for a job with a volunteer organization that I did not get.  This set up was awkward to begin with, since I am uncomfortable speaking on the phone since I find that I rely heavily on people’s facial expressions in conversation.  There was one question in particular, in which I led into a response in a somewhat round-about way, and was cut off by one of the interviewers before I got to the part that was actually relevant.  Unfortunately this meant that a very significant part of my experience that was relevant to the job was missed entirely, since I was too flustered to work my way back to the subject later.  This experience did at least teach me something about the need for brevity in interviews, and for the need to remain as calm and unflustered as possible.