by Brad McNally, former Head Editor, INALJ Ohio
You Are More Than Your Job
This post may seem a bit out of place on a job-seeking website, but it is just as important as any interview advice that may come up in my mind. Beyond that, this understanding can help you become a better candidate in multiple ways, so don’t discount this post just yet. Basically, this is simple, but most people don’t think about it. When you are first introduced to a person, what do you say? Generally, your job comes out in the first sentence or two. “Hi, I’m Brad, I’m an academic librarian.” It sounds like an AA statement. Even the most interesting jobs in the world don’t sound all that impressive when stated this way, but that is okay. Here are some reasons that this causes a problem, as well as ways to change that conversation in your own head and when it is happening aloud.
- Your professional work may only be a portion of the work you do
This one is hard for some people to grasp, but it is a concept that really makes a difference. First, understand that most jobs require a 40 hour a week commitment to be full time. That leaves a large amount of time outside of work that you may be doing any number of things. Professionally, you may be working to develop your skills by taking courses outside of your 40 hours. You might be picking up freelance jobs left and right. You may even be working hard to edit and post jobs on a strong community such as INALJ. You may be handing out food to the poor or writing a novel. The 40 hour you is not the whole picture of who you are. Don’t assume it should be in the next interview either.
I’ve been guilty of this before. I’ve answered each interview question with an example from my day job that may have been an okay answer, but the volunteer or side work I had done in the past might have better showcased my abilities. Be sure to include every type of work you have done in the past when considering how to best show off how great of a candidate you are.
- You are not defined solely by the work you do
I spend 40 hours a week at work, and I do other work outside of that job, but that isn’t the definition of myself as a candidate. This is true of any job seeker as well. Your interests may be wide open, such as sports in general, or very specific, like fly fishing. Both could contribute to your overall picture of yourself. They also can help really give a future employer an idea of what you are like as a person and employee. It takes a large amount of dedication to train for a triathlon or master a musical instrument. This dedication can help make you a memorable candidate.
One example of this came up when I was interviewing for a position and triathlons/road races came up. I explained that I had done a large amount of racing as a kid, but gotten really out of shape in my 20s. One day, a student was really slacking and I tried to push him to work harder. While telling him about goals, he got mad and asked what my goal was. We got online and picked a race about 6 months out, and I started training. I did the race, the student passed his classes. It worked out, but it was good tie in about motivation for myself and how to help motivate others.
- If nothing else, this will help keep you sane and positive
It is very easy to get tied up in your job search and become hard on yourself. Questions like “Why has no one hired me yet?” or “What is wrong with me?” may be in your head, but don’t let that get to you. Regardless of the reason, it hurts when you aren’t selected for a position you really wanted. At the same time, if you really see the value in yourself (both personally and professionally) before you even apply, you will be more confident. This confidence generally comes across very well to potential employers. Defining yourself strongly outside of the employment realm will allow you to be positive in your search and allow you to move along when necessary.