Monday, 17 October 2011

CPD23 Thing 21

Image by Peregrine Blue
Thing 21: Promoting yourself in job applications / interviews

As any regular readers of BtB will know, I was made redundant earlier this year so have recently been ‘out there’ in the job market. I found it very scary and very stressful, but I jumped in with both feet straight away and tried to tackle the issue head on.

I wanted to beef up my CV, so I became an assistant leader at WeightWatchers. I really felt it important to have some voluntary work on there that was not library-related, to show that I can be committed and dedicated in all aspects of my life. I did this for 7 months and really enjoyed it – I felt part of a community. The commute to/from my new job meant I had to resign from this, and I was surprised how sad that made me. I was proud of it and miss it.

I also spent ages working on my CV and tailored it to three different careers – library posts, office posts and school posts. I did this in case I was forced to look for employment outside the library sphere. Creating three versions was very difficult and meant I had to highlight transferable skills rather than workplace experience. As it panned out, I only applied for three library jobs before finding employment, so didn’t need to fall back on these two emergency CVs, but having them ready just in case gave me peace of mind.

In job interviews I take a portfolio of activity with me. I fill it with articles I’ve written, photos of activities I’ve managed, lesson plans of sessions I’ve facilitated, newspaper features, a book I published via, screen shot of BtB etc. I bought a fancy leather folder for it (as opposed to the cheapy plastic wallet I’d previously used) and it was one of the best investments I’ve made. (Thank you, Mark, for insisting I get one!) On a personal basis I suffer with self-confidence issues and carrying it boosted me when attending interviews; it felt like I had a weapon with me, something I could fall back on and a way of ensuring everything I wanted to mention was mentioned. My boyfriend’s sister, Sarah, worked for the same school and was made redundant at the same time. I encouraged her to create a portfolio and when she talked the interview panel through the contents, it went down a storm. I’m not sure if everyone would agree, but I really do think a portfolio for interviews is invaluable.

My Tootsies :)
Several years ago, I wore a raspberry-red suit to an interview (for my previous school librarian post). I wanted one that made a visual impact but still looked smart. A few years after the interview, I was talking to one of the teachers about interviews. She said she remembered me from that day because of the suit and had commented to someone that she hoped I got the job because I’d bring some much-needed colour to the school. It ensured I stood out from the crowd (of 7 other grey/black/navy-suited librarians) and didn’t come across as dull or drab.

I still get very nervous with interviews, but find the more I attend, the more I perfect my performance. At the grand old age of 33, after numerous job interviews, my top tips (thus far) would be a bright suit and a portfolio! Anyone got any top tips of their own to share?

(PS…. I’m not usually superstitious, but… my friend Rachel told me her tried and tested method: put a 5p piece in your shoe and it brings good luck. I felt I needed all the help I could get so tried it during the interview for my current job. Perhaps this ought to be my third Top Tip…)


  1. Really useful tips!

    I too have a leather portfolio for interviews, although for the last two interviews I had (both successful) I completely forgot to show it to the interview panel!

    Definitely think a statement item is useful - even if it's just a colourful bag, scarf or pair of shoes.

  2. I think I may have to borrow those tips. I too use a leather portfolio. It's a bit showy, I got it from a conference I went on, so it can always be a talking point!