Saturday, 15 October 2011

Thing 21 - Promoting yourself in job applications and at interview

Interesting thing, this one (even for those of us not currently looking for work). As I'm about to embark on my Chartership it will be especially useful for me to consider my current interests and skills and identify gaps to address throughout Chartership. I'm going to have a go at answering the questions posed in the blog post.

(Apologies for the long blog post - I just kept writing as it was really useful! Also no pictures I'm afraid).

Identify your strengths, take a good look at yourself, your tasks at work, your career, your life: what do you like to do?

Along with many librarians, I like to help people. It's what first attracted me to librarianship and it's been a common theme through all my jobs and voluntary activities (right from gymnastics coaching which I qualified in aged 13!).

I also like to solve problems. By nature I'm a completer/finisher and so I love to start with a problem and end with a definitive answer. Things don't always work out that neatly unfortunately, but I'm happiest when they do.

Something else I like to do is to plan. I'm a planner in all aspects of my life; work on a shorter term basis, life on a longer term basis. I don't have my whole life planned out or anything like that; I prefer to be flexible to make the most of opportunities as they arise and also as I mentioned, I'm terrible at decisions! But I do feel happier when I have a plan so that I have something to focus my activities. It's like saving money (another thing I like to do) - I'm much better when I have a specific goal to work towards rather than just saving money for the sake of it. I'm constantly reviewing my plans depending on my situation, and always feel better when I'm settled on a plan.

What do you dislike?

At school I loved every subject (yes, I was frequently called a swot) apart from Art and History. Art because I was rubbish (I'm still not very creative and would love to be moreso); History because it just didn't interest me much. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy visiting museums and learning more about past civilisation, however generally I prefer to focus on the present and the future. In my research, I obviously need to examine the past in some way to set the context, but that's nowhere near as interesting (for me anyway) as finding out about cutting edge developments and considering the implications for future.

I'm really not very good at making decisions. I always look to others for advice when there are a large number of options to consider. Having said that, I seem to be far better at decision making in certain circumstances. I'm much better at making work-related situations (e.g. during projects and at meetings) than I am at making life decisions - small or big.

Another thing I'm not a big fan of is formal communications. When I'm learning, I far prefer to have a conversation or read a blog post than to read a formal article. Unfortunately that doesn't really suit the academic research world, and I know it's something I need to improve. I far prefer a more conversational style of writing, both to read and write. On a related point, I also don't like unnecessary jargon and acronyms (though I'm a hypocrite as I know I use them).

Do you remember the last time you felt that feeling of deep satisfaction after creating, building, completing something? What was it about?

I always feel a great sense of satisfaction when I've successfully completed something. It goes back to the completer/finisher thing I guess, and applies to all areas of my life. I like to have a clear end point and to be able to see what I have produced by the end. I think that's why I enjoy cross stitching so much - it's great watching the image come together and end up with a final picture.

I also feel satisfaction after teaching someone how to do something, or sharing advice/information via presentations. I used to want to be a teacher and although I'm no longer keen to do that (mainly due to curriculum), I really enjoy the aspects of my job that enable me to teach/present. This also includes my blog posts or tweets explaining things or linking to further information - it's very satisfying when people find them useful.

I find events very rewarding too - it's so great when all the hard work pays off and although during the event you run around like a headless chicken (I always aim for the swan - calm on the surface but frantic underneath, but not sure I always manage that!), I love it. Reading back the feedback and finding out that people enjoyed the event and found it useful is really satisfying.

What skills do you need to do the things you like?

The main skills I need for the things I like to do are communication skills, particularly written and spoken communication. I would definitely like to improve my formal written communication, and continue to improve my presenting skills and networking skills (I find this really beneficial in my work, but very draining and I still haven't mastered the art of avoiding the occasional awkward silence).

Organisation skills are also important for the things I like - managing myself (time management) and managing other people (particularly during events and when working on projects and with committees).

What next?

This has been a really useful exercise for me - it has definitely helped me focus on what skills I need to develop which I will be able to include in my PPDP (Personal Professional Development Plan) for my Chartership and in my targets for my upcoming annual review at work.

The areas I specifically want to work on are:

  • Formal written communication (reports, journal articles)

  • Oral communication (presenting, networking)

  • Organisation (time management, event management, people management, project management)


  1. Jo, thank you very much for sharing. It surprised me that it took me a long time to answer these questions. Tom Rath's Strength Finder 2.0 (last edition 2010) was very helpful for me and allowed me to apply my 'strength' characteristics in my current job. I think that you are on the right track for gaining your Chartership and I look forward to following you virtually to see how your adventure unfolds. Good luck. Ge Ge

  2. Hi jo,

    Very effective tips ..!!!
    especially "What skills do you need to do the things you like?"

    Job Application letters