The closer my friend Jessica got to graduation from our alma mater, the more worried she got about not finding a job. Understandably, Jessica had been pimping herself out for six moths prior to graduation and had not so much as a phone interview yet. Jessica was my litmus stick in the world of job hunting – if SHE couldn’t get a job (and Jessica is super awesome beyond words), then my chances of obtaining employment nirvana upon my graduation were damned near close to nil.
Literally two weeks before our exams at the end of December, Jessica bagged not only an interview but also a job offer! The day after our last class together, Jessica packed up her crap and moved to Chicago. While I knew she was stressed about the barely-making it to her deadline, she would often tell me that she wasn’t AS worried because things would work out – they had to. You couldn’t, she kept telling me, stress about probabilities because things could and CAN change in an instant, as certainly shown by her obtaining a position seemingly minutes before graduation.
My own graduation was looming six months after Jessica’s and based upon Jessica’s experiences, I swore to myself that I would start immediately on the job hunt once we came back from holiday break in January. I would apply weekly! Keep a spreadsheet! Be diligent in my cover letters and resume tactics!
For the most part, I did all of the above starting with having a few friends who have worked as professional editors help me prefect my resume near the end of the fall term. In addition to the professional editors, I also had my resume looked at by professionals in the librarian and archives fields. I even started the damn spreadsheet and kept track of my job hunt diligently. I networked like crazy and while I didn’t apply weekly for jobs starting in January as I had planned, the closer I got to graduation, the more frequently I applied. Spending hours shifting through mailing lists, job sites, and emails from friends looking for a job, any job, that would fit me. But as I started automating the process of applying for jobs, I began to notice several trends:
- Job descriptions were more often than not vague and/or really generic. “We want a creative or innovative person!” (One of the most common starts to the job ads.)
- Qualifications, at least when listed under “desired,” sometimes bordered on the outrageous or impossible. “10 years in social media experience.” Say what? Sure you could PROBABLY make the claim that community managers from days of yore could be counted in this, but in reality, not really.
- Jobs looking for someone tech savvy would use least likely tech savvy way of contact. For example, position for a job required faxing my application and resume, which was fine except nowhere on the HR or institution’s website was a listing for email OR phone number for HR or even hell, the library system. So, if I had questions – how was I to contact them?
These are complaints echo what I’ve complained about on Twitter, but I couldn’t REALLY justify the bitching: In comparison to many of those in my graduating class at said alma mater: I was getting interviews and rejection notices. Many, if not most, were barely getting the latter. My frustration may have been with the system but I was still getting a response from the system, many of my peers were not. Here is how my stats break down: As of June 10, 2010:
- Total number of jobs applied for: 28
- Total number of rejections (email/snail): 12
- Total number of interviews (phone/video/f2f): 7
- Total number of rejections from interviews: 4
- Total number of still open applications: 10
- Total number of still open interviews: 3
Right now I have three open interviews, which means that I have not heard back from two of them (those were done in the last week or so) and the third is attempting to schedule something to fly me out to do a campus interview, as I apparently rocked the video interview but there seems to be scheduling conflict. Of the two outstanding, I’m pretty sure I won’t be extended a second interview for one of them. I realized in the shower the day after WHY I wasn’t getting beyond the first interview with least three of them, and possibly one that is still open: I am prepping for a job description that does NOT match what they are looking for.
For example if a university says they want someone with knowledge of HTML, fine. But there is a difference between having working knowledge and being a full blown web developer. Stating that you want someone with preferred qualifications in a specific ILS does not translate into asking me about information architecture, usability or what my work flow is for web development. And when I ask you, for example, about the ILS qualification, being told that your institution is replacing it with another brand also makes the qualification seem slightly above silly, even more so when the ILS’ are wildly different.
This has been a costly mistake to me: the bugger all is that I CAN speak intelligently about information architecture, usability, and work flow design. I DO have examples of how to mock up a website and examples of my work. I AM knowledgeable on social media and networking. But I’m prepping for their job description, not my resume. This has been the largest, and hopefully only, mistake that I’ve done. I’m hoping that my understanding of this now will pay off in the near future. In conjunction with applying for jobs, I’ve started putting together a talking points list of questions I bombed, unintentionally, in past interviews.
The point of this is that when asked to discuss on X, I have keywords to help jump me off on the topic and keep my thoughts straight. This is inspired by the institution that wants to fly me out who sent me a list of questions they were going to ask me 24 hours before my video interview. What was so great about this is after I put my thoughts and notes down, I didn’t need to check the list since it was all fresh in my brain. Since it was all fresh in my mind, I was able to rock the interview. The irony of this is that the questions this institution asked me is almost identical to the ones asked of me by the places that I bombed. Heh. Like I said, expensive mistake. I’ve also been plotting with a few experienced librarians about my assault on #ALA10, which includes interesting ways to get my resume noticed. And if after all of this, and the continued job search AND the assault on #ALA10 doesn’t pan out – then what? I’ve got two other life plans worked out – but that’s another entry for another time.
P.S. Please do not comment about the “Dos” and “Don’ts” of resume/cv, what HR’s are looking for and what have you. Not only have I heard them all BUT a lot of the “advice” I’ve been given contradicts itself. For example, was told by one HR person my resume was “far too detailed.” When I related this to a hiring manager at another institution, who was in fact interviewing me at the time, they said that having details makes it far EASIER to scan for keywords. Making my resume too general doesn’t allow me to stand out of the crowd. Secondly, I’ve had my resume/cv looked at by a number of qualified people in my profession (all of whom are on or have been on search committees) who helped me with some adjustments but they all pretty much said my resume was rock solid. Clearly, it is NOT my resume that needs help. I’m just ranting/ruminating on the process thus far and am NOT seeking advice. Thanks and etc.