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.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Meta part 5: More survey generis

And on we go.

Since I've talked only a bit about volunteering, I'd like to give some time to our respondents who addressed it directly in their comments.
  • Begin "working" as a volunteer. If you're reliable, you'll be first in line for any paid positions that become available.
  • volunteer, if possible, as that's how we often hire people - by who we know. Otherwise, come for an information interview, and do your homework about us.
Along the lines of being patient, several respondents elaborated on that.  I'd like to share those with you too, as I think they might help. If nothing else, this lets you know that the interviewers are aware this is frustrating.
  • Follow the rules, be patient. There are more administrative rules that seem necessary, but they are there nonetheless...
  • Careful about asking too many questions about when the offer will come in, it is often not up to the search committee to make the offer they only make recommendations. These recommendations are almost always followed but the committee often has no idea how long an offer will take.
  • Academic institutions take time. Be patient. Don't call us, we'll call you. Know something about the institution before we contact you.
By the way? That last sentence on that last one is not just a simple add-on.  This is essential. When you get that call? You should be at a stage where you could potentially do a phone interview within a couple of days.  Part of what is going on is that there's a lot of the time frame that is out of our control, hence the constant comments about "be patient." But sometimes things like scheduling interviews may be under the purview of the committee chair.  And when that happens, things can often move along quite quickly.

Do you see now why respondents encourage you to pick and choose the jobs you apply for instead of blanketing? On your behalf, it means you don't have to remember which of the 20 applications you're juggling when the phone rings.  Trust me, "who from where?" is NOT a good response to a request for an interview. That and fewer applications means a lot less research for you. Here's some thoughts on that.
  • Know the job requirements; take some time to investigate our institution so you know the context for the job; be prepared to explain why you feel you and the job are a good match
  • research the institution, the library, the department via the Web pages to get a basic understanding of the complexity and where the position fits.
  • Study the website, learn about the set up, see what records we have that we advertise, see what the professional staff are involved in
  • Study our organization and be prepared to show this knowledge in the interview. Ask questions about the work and the work environment. This emphasizes your interest in working at our institution.
  • Do convince me that you want this job, in this workplace, with these people. Not just "a job" in this field.
Tailoring isn't just to get you past those all important screening documents and I think our commentators  nailed exactly why. Tailoring is to convince us that you want the job we have on offer.

I know some of you are applying for any job that comes open just in hopes of getting a foot in the door.  But what I'm hearing from some recruiters is that they think they can spot those people.  So make sure that your blanket applying is completely and totally invisible to the people reading your job application materials and interviewers.  If you are willing or able to be more selective in applying, step back, take a look at the job ad again, decide if you really are willing to move to that place.  Or do that kind of work. Or work for those paltry wages some places still insist on paying.  If the answer to any of those is well, maybe not, then save the time to work on the job app that is for the position that intrigues you, that fits well with your goals, that pays you a living wage.

Here's some other advice I hope you'll find helpful. Or perhaps not. It's all a matter of assessing how this might apply to you, isn't it?
  • Do not focus on one member of the interview team, after deciding that is the member with the power to make the final decision, and treat the rest of the team as if their perceptions of you don't matter.
  • Dress formally and bring a nice leather portfolio and pen, we want people that make nice impressions and could represent our institution well. 
  • At meals, eat sparingly and be careful of your manners. 
  • Be friendly.
  • I've seen some list commentary on interviewers not getting back to candidates, and I think they should know - it's not always possible, or may be forbidden by the institution. Complaining about this to an interviewer, or in general, is not very helpful.
  • Applicants need to make sure they do not bad-mouth their current or past employers. They want to get across that they are wanting to go TO your job, not get AWAY from another. They also don't want their prospective employers wondering if the applicant will be bad-mouthing them when something happens they don't like. 
  • Be professional. Dress as you would for an important day at work. Speak as you would to an important donor. 
  • Re: getting to know the personality of the candidate: in these days when every job posting gets many, many responses, personality really makes a difference. 
  • The ability to write a good cover letter and to speak well (not mumble or fidget--the simple things) and to be knowledgable about the context (institution, area) as well as the job requirements, are very important.
And two last comments from our respondents that I think anybody job-searching needs to remember when making decisions about what to and what not to apply for.
  • Do not apply for a position on the chance that they will consider you for a future position unless you want the job you are applying for. Interviewing someone for a job and finding out that while they want to work for our institution but not in the open position is a waste of time and leaves a bad impression.
  • Don't apply for a position that you are completely and obviously not qualified for--if something comes up later that you are qualified for and we feel like you've wasted our time once already it may affect later feelings towards the candidate.
I've watched search committees get candidates like this moved onto a do-not-call-for-interview list.  In perpetuity. Most places neither have that ability nor have the institutional memory to do that, but is it worth chancing?  Note that the first person isn't saying don't do it, they're saying only do it if you're still content with the job that's actually on offer here. So that's not exactly a no. And that second one? While I still think, "oh, cold" I also understand the reaction.  Because chances are, at no point during the process will anybody actually tell you why you weren't hired.  The very idea got me yelled at by my HR rep when a candidate asked me for a review one time.  So you won't necessarily be told that the reason you didn't get a call back is simply that you were viewed as unqualified.  Which is another good reason to have proofreaders who are willing to be very honest when reading your application materials.  Because if you apply for a lot of jobs--or if you're looking at geographical boundaries--eventually you may need to apply at the same place twice. And why have this this bias awaiting you if you could have avoided it?

So are you tired of my nagging about proofreading and tailoring? Fair enough. The good news is that it's almost over.  The bad news is that I'm sure there's a whole bunch of questions that not only haven't been asked yet, but I'll never be able to answer them. 

1 comment:

  1. I'm happy you brought up volunteering since that's what I'm doing at the moment. I find it a great way for someone out of grad school looking for a job to gain not only experience but fill up your time while you're looking.