by Leigh Milligan, Head Editor, INALJ Pennsylvania
Confidence Goes a Long Way
Once upon a time back in 2011, I graduated library school. I was getting called into interviews left and right. I had been volunteering at a public library and had many great skills and qualifications to share. But it never got back the interview stage.
I took an oral exam to work in the library system I volunteered for. Yes oral exam not interview. I was so excited! I was so sure I was going to get hired.
Boy was I wrong.
I had to recite my answers to four questions in front of a panel. I wasn’t referred to by name, only a number. I had a half hour to prepare my answers. I got to the panel and recited my answers, only to be greeted with blank stares. It was terrible and very intimidating. A couple weeks later I find out I failed the test. I was so upset; I had no idea how I could fail, especially since I already was working in the library. I went to do a review of my test results and received so many negative comments. I was so put-off by this, I started to question if I was even in the right profession. I was always overly prepared for my interviews, I practiced constantly and had many questions to ask the interviewers, but I couldn’t figure out where I was going wrong.
I had a talk with a good friend about the horrible oral exam experience. She said once a librarian, always a librarian. My friend also told me to think about the reasons I became a librarian and to keep those reasons in mind when applying to jobs and interviews. It took me awhile to come up with a good reason about why I am a librarian. I mean the obvious: I love books and doing research. I want to be in a place where I can enable growth. But here’s the real reason: I want to make a difference in ones life. But you might ask can’t you do that as a teacher or a nurse or really anything? Sure you can, but as a librarian, you can have fun doing it. And research, books, learning and making a difference, seems like a win-win situation for me.
Over the last two years, I haven’t had many library interviews, but I have been working on myself as a librarian and developing my skills and more to add to my resume. I moved on from the public library world to volunteering in a small medical library and I became a Head Editor for the states pages for INALJ. The key skill that I have developed though both of these opportunities is confidence.
The medical library is in a rehabilitation hospital that serves mostly disabled patrons. Before working at the medical library, I never really was around disabled people or hospitals, I usually felt pretty uneasy in situations involving either. Helping these patrons at the medical library has given me so much confidence in working with people with disabilities. The patrons I serve really have so much spirit in working around their disabilities especially in using our computers, I almost never even notice their disabilities.
I have developed even more confidence through my work at INALJ. I can’t even thank Naomi enough for giving me a voice online, in the library and info pros community through blogging and social media. I absolutely love blogging and chatting about libraries and job searching. I never realized how much I love writing, until she gave me this opportunity. It has given me the confidence to work on my writing skills in a public forum, as well as help others in their own job searching. I also find that I am able to translate my voice in the online forum to my cover letters, resume, interviews and the professional world.
Confidence seems to be starting a trend in this post, right? Yes you are right. Over the last year and a half, I was also trying to figure out where I went wrong in the interviews and the oral exam. You guessed correctly, I didn’t have or show confidence. I would get all worked up, stressed and would beat myself up before and after the interview. I would go in completely panicked. I bet it showed. I could definitely feel it in my shaky voice when speaking. Lack of confidence could have put off the interviewers. I knew this was something that needed to change or I would never get a job that way.
A few weeks ago, an opportunity came up to take the oral exam again. I was a little hesitant to take it again because of my last horrible experience. I decided to take it again, I had nothing to lose. If I failed again, maybe that library just isn’t the right fit for me. I also decided to get advice on answering the questions from a retired library director. Getting this advice gave me more confidence in answering the questions for the exam. It helped me to not get so stressed out and to go into the exam more confident. I went into the exam and I really felt good about it. Instead of blank stares when I answered the questions, I got smiles and nods. The nervousness I had at all the other interviews previous was gone, and it really paid off this time. I ended up passing the test and now I am on a list to be hired when any positions open up.
Based on all my experience here’s what I leave to you. When applying to jobs, interviewing for jobs, going to a conference, or really anything in the library and job-searching world, have confidence. You will get so much farther in life if you have confidence in what you do. It has really helped me in the long run, as you can see from my experiences.