by Stephanie Taylor, Head Editor, INALJ British Columbia
Job Searching by the Book
I was having coffee with someone I knew in high school, and we were talking about our jobs. I recently landed a pretty sweet job in a my field (library technician) at a time when a lot of people just starting out in their careers are making do with part time, on call, or contract positions. As I was detailing the interview process, and how nerve-wracking it was, my friend said, “It sounds like you did everything by the book”, which really made me think. What is the book on job-searching? It’s not like there is any tried and true method of job searching, but while I was job searching, I was aware that I wasn’t going about finding a job in any unorthodox or creative fashion. So what was I doing that landed me such a great gig?
It’s been said a million times, but it basically boiled down to the contacts that I’d made in the profession. As much as I hate it and it goes totally against all my ideas of fairness, you really are judged on who you know that can put in a word for you or who can give you the inside scoop. After I graduated, I hated hearing how it was “all in who you know”, because like everyone else I wanted to be judged on my education, skills and merits rather than how good I was at networking, or as I secretly thought of it, brown nosing. However, as the months went by, and I was getting no calls from employers, I knew that something had to be done, and started following my family’s advice about job searching (no one can ever tell my family members I admitted they were right about something, I will never hear the end of it). This included boring but important stuff like:
Following up on applications. I made a spreadsheet of all the jobs I applied for and when, and made sure to follow up two weeks later, just to ask if hiring decisions had been made or if the hiring committee was still going through applications. If I wasn’t allowed to talk to anyone on the committee or the HR recruiter, I asked that perhaps someone might leave me a voicemail or a quick email saying yea or nay, no problem if that wasn’t possible, I was just curious because I was so interested in the position. Did people get back to me? Not even a third of them. But it was worth it in the end to have people know that I was interested, and also to sometimes speak to people who worked where I wanted to and make a personal connection.
Volunteering in the places I wanted to be employed in. Yes, it was not the greatest experience volunteering while I was unemployed, as I wanted to shake people and yell “Hire me! Hire me!” into their faces. But when I was applying, I was able to say that I had experience in the type of library I wanted to work in, as well as have the references from my volunteer positions to back me up.
Professional development & further education. It was important to me that I not let my brain rot after graduating, so I started doing online courses in whatever I thought might come in handy – Archiving, Records Management, Web Development, HTML coding, furthering my cataloguing skills, etcetera. I did this so that I would continue to gain skills, but also because in a lot of online courses, you are in contact with other people across the country who want to work where you do or may already do so, and so can give you hot tips and information. It was kind of a triple whammy – I kept my mind and skills sharp, made contacts with others in my field and profession, and potential employers could see from my resume that I wasn’t content to graduate and then drift, but that I was serious about staying up-to-date with new developments in the field and bettering myself.
So while it is an excellent idea to look at the more unorthodox ways to make an impression on potential employers, don’t totally discount the tried-and -true methods. Yes, everyone has come to use them and do the same things, but the one good thing about that is that employers know what to expect from you when they’re looking over your applications.