Charissa Brammer, Head Editor, INALJ Maine
Goldilocks Jobs: don’t wait for ‘just right’ to apply
As a new professional, it can be difficult to find a job that matches your knowledge and experience exactly. Personally, I have a tendency to always look for that Goldilocks job position: the one that will fit everything that I have to offer and make it likely that I will get the interview. I want to make sure that I am the person that they are looking for. The problem with this approach is that it is making the assumption that you can infer all of the things that an employer is looking for from a short job announcement – one that, in the world of academic libraries, was probably primarily crafted by HR. Disqualifying yourself from applying for a position means that you never get to make contact with the people who might want to give you the job. The human element in hiring, the hiring committee, can have drastically different wants and needs than you might think, and if you never get your resume in front of them, you are only doing yourself a disservice.
There are several unknown factors that might positively affect your ability to get hired into your reach position. One is the number of applicants. In some instances, a job announcement will have to be sent out multiple times because they are simply unable to get a pool of applicants. It is possible that you might be up against a pool of 100 people, but it’s also possible that you will be one of five applicants. While this is a lot more likely to happen in a small, rural academic or public library, it’s possible anywhere and I think that it’s something that should encourage job seekers to go for that position that might be just a little outside of your application comfort zone.
Another factor is the hiring manager/hiring committee. These hiring bodies can have vastly disparate qualifications that they are looking for in a desirable candidate. You never know if you are going to find a committee that is interested in hiring a younger candidate with more up-to-date skills in order to complement their longtime, somewhat stuck in their ways staff. They also might be charmed by some of your extracurricular activities, or be looking for someone with the grant-writing experience that you just happen to have. Never underestimate the random things that a group of people tasked with hiring will find themselves interested in.
Just this week, I heard about two people who were hired into positions reserved for more experienced librarians fresh out of school. One took on a supervisory position in electronic resources as her first professional position, and the other was hired as a library dean when he had less than five years of experience. I am sure that there are a lot more stories like this one, and if you want to be one, you have to submit those applications that might be just a little above what you think you are qualified for.