by Rebekah Kati, Head Editor, INALJ North Carolina
Be Your Own Best Advocate: in the job search and beyond
I had a lot of trouble advocating for myself during my job search. I’m a pretty quiet, modest person and I hated illuminating my accomplishments and contributions to projects in cover letters and interviews. I always have considered projects as a group effort, even when I put in more time and effort than my partners, and it was very difficult for me to talk about these achievements without mentioning the contributions of others and downplaying my own role.
This perspective was of course holding me back in my job search.
Hiring managers do appreciate the value of group work, as many library jobs will require that the successful candidate work closely with their co-workers. However, my co-workers were not interviewing for the job – I was! Therefore, the hiring managers interviewing me were more interested in my own contributions than those of my co-workers. To help identify my achievements for each job for which I applied, I copied the job ad and wrote specific examples of my projects or job duties which fit each job requirement. This document became my cheat sheet and study guide for phone and on-site interviews and helped me focus on my own accomplishments.
Yet, advocating for yourself does not stop when you get the job.
In fact, I’ve come to realize that strong advocacy grately benefits one’s library as well. For example, when I worked in a library, I assumed that library vendors knew what features I wanted and what issues I felt needed to be fixed in their online platforms. These things were incredibly obvious to me, so of course they must have been obvious to the vendor. However, once I started working for a vendor I realized that my desires were not as obvious as I had expected. Vendors do not necessarily know what librarians want, unless librarians tell them since vendors do not interact with library patrons on a day to day basis.
Librarians must speak up – only then will vendors and funding agencies know what we need. It does no one any good to downplay the needs of the library.