Your Career Statement Of Purpose: a SOP Story
At a recent library conference, l learned a new approach towards the all-important career summary that all job seekers are expected to deliver during an interview. Typically, interviews begin with a request to provide a career overview. Most responses include career highlights and several anecdotes that are directly relevant to the position being sought. It should be a full summary of the candidate, covering education, work history and aspirations, delivered in a well-organized way that demonstrates the candidate’s abilities as a personable public speaker, able to engage a group of people. A winning summary projects key points for the interviewers that the candidate may refer to later in the interview. It must be succinctly presented and focused on the elements that you wish to underline about yourself in the interview. Interview questions may take a surprising turn and one’s best way to be focused and prepared is through your own summary. Consider it to be your agenda for the “meeting” that is the interview.
At the Ontario Library Association’s SuperConference, a career development session, cleverly entitled “Create your own SOP story”, drew my attention. It featured three presenters, all experienced hiring managers at a large, urban public library detailing what they seek from applicants when they ask the question: “how would you characterize your career to date”? They characterized the reply as a “Statement of Purpose (SOP)”, a unique term (and new acronym) that doubles as a career management and skill development approach. A well-crafted SOP allows applicants to express who they are and to highlight their interests and expertise. It’s the candidate’s opportunity to outline their career goals and aspirations, projecting how these might align with the institution’s goals and future staffing needs. The SOP is not lengthy, as it should be delivered as a 1 to 2 minute speech during the interview. In other settings, such as the persuasive elevator talk, applicants may only get 30 seconds. Being thorough, yet succinct is key to the successful SOP. Practise your SOP so that it comes out naturally, and appears as if you’re just answering an unanticipated question, in an ad hoc manner.
Developing a Statement of Purpose is a valuable use of time at any stage of your career. It’s a strategic approach to managing your career that develops the skills of self-analysis, presentation and persuasion, all of which can be useful during job interviews, performance appraisals and when building support for projects or ideas. The Statement of Purpose becomes a living document that can be referred to and updated at key phases requiring one to communicate their attributes, values and contributions in a clear, concise and invitational manner. Writing the SOP is a useful exercise in personal contemplation, whether to persuade others to hire you during an interview, promote you during a performance appraisal or support your ideas and special projects.