Saturday, 8 October 2011

Thing 21 - Promoting yourself in job applications and at interview

This is quite an interesting Thing really, because up until the last year or so, I wasn't maintaining my CV 
regularly unless I was jobhunting. However, given that I am in the middle of the whole Chartership process, one thing that I shall include in my portfolio is a detailed CV - therefore carrying out this kind of audit is helpful, because it has provided me with an opportunity to think about anything that should be on there that otherwise might have been overlooked.
I think this is the kind of task that everybody moans and groans at, but once it is done you definitely feel better for it! It is quite satisfying to know that all this kind of info is up to date...
My interests outside of work
One of the things I have done regularly and that I have developed a true passion for is cake making and decorating. I had always been a keen baker but wanted to take it up a level, i.e. be able to do something a bit more special for birthdays/weddings etc. Have been on a couple of courses with regard to the decorating side, because I am not naturally artistic replicating what i see in my mind onto the blank cake canvas is pretty tricky! But I continue to persevere and have been fortunate enough to get a few non-family 'commissions' (that sounds very grand; I'm not really Jane Asher!) which has been a great opportunity for me to build some confidence. Doing my best friend's wedding cake was the most challenging without a doubt (a crash course in creating three layered cakes!) but the satisfaction on the day once it was all assembled (actually, no, probably once I saw people eating it!) was like nothing else, and it's from that that I am doing the same for my own wedding next year.
Other than that, my interests are pretty ordinary - reading, TV watching (when there is something decent on - Eastenders is probably my only regular show!), meeting friends when I can (I don't live in London so the commute can make it harder than it once was, alas)...I think that's about it really. I guess the one thing that I only got back into recently is writing - not so much fictional writing, but writing for publications has always been my favourite kind, and I am in the middle of a couple of pieces at the moment which will hopefully appear in some professional journals/publications next year...I do feel quite pressurised as I am always worried that what I am writing won't be appropriate in the editor's eyes...but aside from those concerns, I truly love writing - always have done and it's not til I start doing it again that I remember why. The feeling of completing a piece and reading through it and finally feeling satisfied with it, is definitely as worthwhile as my cake decorating satisfaction!
How could I apply these kind of achievements to my working life?
This is a bit of a tricky one, as short of becoming the cake-making Law Librarian Extraordinaire, (which to be fair, if nothing else, I could perhaps use cakes as bribes to get people to sign out/return their books!), I am not sure how I can apply this kind of achievement to my working life. I suppose the best way to look at it is to consider the skills that creating the perfect cake necessitates...I think without a doubt the key skill is patience. It is not the kind of work that can be rushed because presentation is everything - spending an extra 15 minutes making that icing flawless really is worth it. I guess this is quite appropriate in my line of work, as some of the enquiries that we get asked to do are complex and piecey and require a LOT of digging around all sorts of places online, or in hard copy books....there are definitely times where it would be easy to give up and stop looking, but you need to have that sense of endeavour to fire you on to keep searching! The worst thing in the world for me would be to do a half-hearted search for something, go back to the fee-earner and tell them I can't find it...only for them to tell me they just found it using Google....
Presentation of research is also very important - there's no point in having all the facts ready for the fee-earner, but you present them in a garbled manner that doesn't make for easy reading. So again it's that kind of attention to detail that is crucial in our role.
With regard to my enjoyment of writing - again it is probably something I incorporate already into my daily job, and is partly why I enjoy my job. It all leads back to presentation - I enjoy drafting out emails and other informative documents, and it is important to make sure you explain things as clearly and concisely as possible. Information should always be presented in a logical manner to the fee-earner - some do get frustrated when they can't see at a glance the key facts/arguments. I imagine because they are often so pushed for time, they often don't actually read every word, therefore it's also important, I think, to highlight any particularly relevant parts, and also split these various parts into logical sections. The upshot is that my enjoyment of writing is something that I can incorporate into my daily working life.

Updating my CV
 I have been able to add quite a lot to my CV this last year, mostly because of the work I have been doing towards Chartership, and so I have attended several events and training sessions, all of which have provided me with a lot of new and useful experience.  It's definitely important to keep a CV updated on a regular basis, as it's likely unless you make notes of new developments/courses attended etc, you will forget when you did them!

Interview tips
The CPD23 blog post this week suggested adding any interview tips we have acquired in the course of our careers. There's obviously a whole host of material out there that could explain how to excel at interviews a lot better than I can here! - but I would say the main and fundamental things that I have picked up over the years is firstly, to be yourself at interviews - do NOT create facets to your personality that don't exist, or make up skills that you definitely don't have, because you won't be able to keep them up if you get the job, AND you run the risk of being taken on for a job for which you aren't really suitable. I speak from experience - back before I made the move into law libraries, I worked in the insurance industry for a while, and I applied for a job that I KNEW I wasn't right for, but I convinced myself I could make it work because I was totally swayed by the salary! I was very young and very naive! In the end I lasted only three months in the role, and it was that disaster that preceded my move into law libraries, so at least something good came out of it!

The second thing I would say is that you should also ALWAYS trust your gut instincts (and that probably applies to everything in life actually!) - but again, I speak from experience. Twice in the past I have turned down job offers that were perfectly good jobs on paper, but when I went to the interviews, there was just something about the interviewers, or perhaps even the office itself, that I just didn't feel quite right, or comfortable with. I truly believe I have always done the right thing in turning these roles down, because a much more suitable one has always come along shortly after. And similarly with regard to the job I mentioned above that only lasted three months - I knew when I went to the second interview that it really wasn't right, that I wasn't being myself, and that the person who was going to be my boss was NOT my sort of person - but I ignored it, and look at the outcome...! So the upshot is: remember that interviews are as much a learning process for you as they are for the interviewer - it's not just about them seeing if YOU are suitable - it's also about you getting a feel for your future boss, the company, the culture etc.

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