Surviving and thriving and getting that professional archives position.

Welcome. If you're here, you're probably wondering how to get some job--maybe the perfect professional archives position or maybe just something you can use as a springboard--and you're seeking advice on how to do that. From searching for advertisements to writing a resume or cover letter to making it through the interview. And hopefully even beyond.

No guarantees, you probably already know a lot of this, but maybe some help from a lot of people who want to make sure that good candidates get good jobs. If you've got better advice? or need further explanation? Please share in the comments.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Meta part 3: Survey Generis

Be patient. No, I'm not saying that because I'm about to say something very important, I'm saying it because it's what a bunch of our survey respondents said when I asked them "was there anything else you want your candidates to know about applying to your institution?" Be patient. It takes time. And they're not just saying that to keep you from breathing down their necks during the process, they're saying it because they want to save you some stress during the process. Don't panic or get yourself worked up because the responses aren't coming as fast as you could have wished.

Yeah, I know, not so likely.

So what else have I got that you can do something about? Do your homework. A lot of them said that too. Still not clear on what comprises your homework?  Let's hear it. Have some solid advice? Add that to the comments too.

So this is going to be the first of a couple of posts, mainly because I can't fit it all into one. The quotes from the survey respondents are highlighted in pale yellow (or yarrow, as the maniac who designed the paint color that wound up on my office walls calls it) with frequent accompanying commentary by yours truly.

For federal jobs the KSAs are your first interview questions as well as showing how you communicate. Be concise, but descriptive. Merely saying yes is not demonstrative of anything. And y’all spotted that posting—both in the comments and under the job search news link above—about the possibility that KSAs might go away, right?  I guess we’ll keep watching that one. If you're not doing KSAs, this still applies.  Don't just say yes, I can digitize, mention a project. Provide a URL.

Do research! Maybe contact people you know or a colleague knows at the institution. Find out about the people, structure of org., type of job and work. Apply through the normal channels with a good cover letter and resume. Do not contact me to say you are the friend of so and so and they suggested you write me.   Good point. Networking will get you introductions, maybe, but there's enough people out there who have been burned by the "it's who you know" style of recruitment that they won't follow it themselves.  Or, sometimes, the who-you-know may be a detriment.  Unless you're very sure of your friend's reputation with the people to whom s/he is recommending you, tread lightly. Use him/her as a source of information if they're reliable, but maybe leave it at that. More on networking in another post (see below).

Make sure you review our web site, and have your own questions.  See? It's not just me. Other people feel this way too.

Be interested, know what makes you stand out and present your strengths. Don't hide weaknesses, but build on your strengths.  The more confident you are about what it is you can do, and what you want to do, the better you'll perform.  Spend some of your research time reviewing you, maybe.

Answer every qualification, even if it seems obvious. We have a chart and a 0 can mean elimination even other areas are strong. Don't assume that a Master's in History means you meet the research skills requirement, give me an example. Great clarification there and a nice continuation of what the person above talking about KSAs meant.  This is another time that having a proofreader in a totally different profession can be really helpful: they may not know that your masters degree should convey some sort of a skill and so they might catch that you failed to state this specifically.

Stick to the job description. Large institutions have no lee-way in hiring someone with only partial credentials. This is a hard one to hear, I know. And it's not just large institutions.  Some hiring types might be able to take some chances, sometimes the candidate pools just work out that way. But even then, you'll do better the closer you match. 

Show knowledge of the institution and be able to express why you wish to work with this subject matter.

Look at the website. Dig up background information about who we are and what we are doing. Know thyself. Again, probably several discrete pieces of advice there, but they add up to something together. A candidate who can talk about himself or herself well and relate it to the institution? Terrific.

Don't apply for every position. Be patient and go for the one that you want.  This is really hard to follow.  I've applied for a few jobs that I probably wasn't all that interested in, just because I needed a job and I figured that eventually it would be a stepping stone.  If you blanket apply? Just make sure it isn't apparent to the recruiters.

Personality and a genuine interest in the organization make candidates memorable (in a good way).

Be patient with the process, read the job description carefully and get to know as much as possible about the institution.  There's that be patient again.  Note this respondent is making it clear that it's not the people delaying things, it's the process.  Okay, sometimes it's the people.

And I'll close with the following piece of advice and pick up on the next set in the next posting on this topic.  I want to close with this one because I think it contains so many wonderful items of advice and sets them off in a useful context.

Start to network before graduation. My insititution hires interns and work-study students from a nearby graduate program. I can't tell you how many times I have sat down beside an intern in the lunch room and the student doesn't introduce herself . It's not an ego thing--I'm happy to eat my lunch in peace--but as a hiring manager and someone who often sits on hiring committees for different departments (processing, digitization, etc), I'm surprised that these students don't take advantage of these networking opportunities.

I'm going to leave that one alone, for the moment, because I'll be getting back to it in a posting dedicated to networking--next up.

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