by Sheryl L. Christensen, Head Editor, INALJ California
The Brilliance of Being Earnest – Job Search Edition
The job search. I know, right? It is intimidating enough to make the strongest of us weep. A year out of my MLIS, about a “zillion” searches into the process, and I am at a point where I am speculating a lot (sometimes even to my cat!) about my strategy. Choosing a prospective job for which to apply turns out to be possibly risky and problematic and the sometimes stilted progression of events after applying feels so daunting.
As a crossover hopeful from another professional arena, this is a particularly challenging issue for me. There are so many uncertainties in what seems like a more and more opaque situation. One hiring manager says to please go ahead and apply even if your experience is not an exact match for the position. Another says that the position description is often inflated and that an applicant isn’t really expected to have expertise in every duty listed. A third tells us that if our experience doesn’t match up with the position requirements that not only will our application materials be ejected, but that our name may also wind up on the “do not call–ever” list. She also mentions that we should keep in mind that our field is a “small world” after all.
Sigh. I’m wondering: how often does a person’s experience/education align exactly with a position description? I’m sure it happens, but the field of information provision is changing so rapidly that it is hard to believe that position requirements are not at least somewhat fluid. Of course, applying for a position for which we have absolutely NO education or experience is an exercise in wasted time for everyone concerned, but how much of a stretch-fit is too much? The answer seems to vary from one institution to another. Another consideration is that many budgets are painfully tight and have been for a while; can an employer afford to hire and train? At all? A limited amount?
Since it is difficult to know a lot about the organizational culture and/or bottom line of our prospective place of employment before we are immersed in it, one thing that we can do and have complete control over is how we communicate: who we are, what we can do proficiently, and the ways in which we are malleable or versatile.
Our tools and time to make an impression are limited, so we need to show the hiring manager or search committee members what we have “going on” quickly and succinctly. It can be tempting to fall into the trap of the sales pitch voiceover when we are communicating via standard documents and when we want so desperately to stand out, but this can be problematic if we re-read what we’ve written and then think in the back of our minds, “Come on down!! You’re the next contestant on [insert game show title]!!!” I can imagine, as a member of the search committee, reading an application package with this tone and cringing in pain and embarrassment for this person. There is no way to know what skills, abilities (or anything, really) this person would bring in the door with them since they give a misleading picture of who they are. This would be, at best, a risky hire; at worst, a hiring disaster that would require extensive and possibly long-term clean-up.
Yes, we are trying to sell them. But we need to sell them on our genuine substance and value. We are an asset to both their organizational community and their mission, not a sham-wow!!! ;D We need to show them how this is true. Tell your story. Show what you have to offer in a clear, earnest, and vibrant way.
There are a lot of articles and websites available that are helpful and relevant for various aspects of the job search in general and to job search documents specifically. The two resources below are a great jumping-off point. They will help you wrap your mind around the basics and find your balance in the quest to represent yourself in a way that will result in a brilliant professional fit.