Announcing, Live, and In Person…

JobSeekersSupportGroup

ME!

Today, I confirmed that I will, indeed, be appearing at this year’s Missouri Library Association Conference moderating the JOB SEEKERS’ SUPPORT GROUP.

The description I submitted to them reads as follows.

Librarianship is a very competitive field to break in to. There are many more applicants than open positions and the struggle to achieve one’s career goals is extremely stressful. This breakout session is a round-table discussion opportunity for soon-to-be or recent graduates, or anyone else on the job market to come together to ask questions, commiserate, or share stories about their experiences. We can share stories about our success and failures, frustrations and hopes. It will give job seekers a place to show that they’re not alone in their search and hopefully provide helpful information to shorten their search. Questions that may be addressed: What happens in an all-day academic library interview? How soon should thank-you’s be sent? What is the difference between a CV and a Resume? What does “pay commensurate with experience” mean? What constitutes “professional experience”? How do you handle awkward moments? Etc. This will be an open forum for anyone to contribute to in a safe environment.

While I’ll be able to regale the room with stories of my own failures and lessons, as well as the positives of my 2.5 year job search, I’m hoping to provide some insight*, yes, but mostly I’m hoping to provide a safe space for people to come together and openly discuss their fears, frustrations, and experiences. It is an opportunity for us to learn from each other. If you’re attending the conference, this year, feel free to stop me and say “Hi.” I’ll be there all three days and can’t wait to see some familiar faces.

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*DISCLAIMER: I am not a licensed therapist. I have no degrees in psychology or any behavioral science. I have no experience working in human resources. I’m simply a librarian who was extremely frustrated when he had the idea for this session and saw the need for it.

2016 missouri library association conference logo

Missouri Library Association Conference, Day 3

First thing this morning was a shower. I’m sure all my fellow attendees will appreciate that. Shower done I packed and checked out of my room. By the time that was done I didn’t have time for breakfast before my first event; visiting the Access Services Community of Interest meeting. (They had muffins!) This consisted of me and two other librarians discussing the difficulties in our underfunded libraries. Interestingly, I was confused for UMSL‘s Head of Access Services, which we do not have. We also discussed potential presentation topics for next year. Oh, also I became next year’s official recorder, which means in two years I’d be the vice-chair, chair in  three years, and previous chair in four years. Yes, previous chair is a real position for “institutional continuity.” The chances of me actually fulfilling these duties through 2020 are pretty slim, but I get more resume fodder for them, just the same.

After that, I arrived late to a presentation on how MST is revamping course reserves that was full of good ideas. Shelly’d devised away to determine which items needed to be on reserve based on usage statistics. Way to go, MST! I think this means that I’m an uber library nerd in that I can go to a presentation on ILS list techniques and think it’s interesting.

Currently, I’m waiting for “Sharing Managerial Wisdom” being hosted by a couple of SISLT faculty.

It was really good! It was about knowledge management and passing on institutional knowledge. Lots of anecdotes on how people, including me, have had to fend for themselves in new positions. They talked about the importance of succession plans and making available policies and procedures for colleagues. They also talked about how important it is to NOT keep your job details a secret. I have learned first-hand how that is detrimental to a department. My attitude is that no one is indespensible, and any sense of power you get from holding on to details is false. In the end, you only hurt your coworkers.

Next session, in the same room, is on positive customer service.

They had tech issues and seemed a little disorganized due to the fact that they were trying to pack a two-hour training session into forty-five minutes. Their content was good, though. It was all about the “getting to ‘Yes'” model of customer service. The idea is that by viewing your patron as a partner whom you are to help succeed resets the dichotomy between the service provider and served. It’s as much about attitude and word choice as it is about the actual work. This is actually a model I’ve tried to employ over the last several years. It is the service model I describe when I’m in a job interview. It is who I try to be every day I am at work. We would all be better off if we employed that in our daily lives.

I have to say that I had an excellent conference. Ever since ALA 2015 in San Francisco I’ve felt that I’ve really figured out professional conferences. I’ve been able to cut out the sessions that are wastes of time, generally. I’m comfortable talking to strangers and networking with new colleagues. I’m getting involved with committees and attending business meetings. And, the more local conference have several people from all types of libraries that I’ve gotten to know over the years and are some degree of friends of mine.

This conference was excellent in that I got to make new connections, build on existing relationships, get new information and reinforce old information. Furthermore, all but one of my sessions were actually worthwhile. Typically, if one gets three good sessions over a three day conference you have done well. I had way more than that. Next year’s conference is home in St. Louis. I expect I’ll still be around then. I’m looking forward to seeing my friends again and learning more cool geeky library stuff.

Related Tales of a Librarian

Missouri Library Association Conference, Day 2

Missouri Library Association Conference, Day 1

Schmoozing Skills

2016 missouri library association conference logo

Missouri Library Association Conference, Day 2

Breakfast: biscuits and gravey, scrambled eggs, potatoes o’brien, and bacon. Free!

I gave up coffee (!) about three weeks ago due to the aggravation it causes my GERD. This whole time I’ve not missed it as much as I am this morning. I know it’s mostly psychological, but after a short night I can’t seem to clear the cobwebs, this morning.

First session of the day is on emergency preparedness.

—45 minutes later—

Good session, but no new information for me. Everyone needs to be trained in first aid, CPR, and AED!

This hotel is so poorly designed in layout that I, again, got lost going to a room that I’d already been to. Getting my steps in, though!

Next session is on libguides.

That session was really good, too. I actually learned things, this time. It was all about how SLU was using the new version of LibGuides and culling the analytical data from that to better serve their patrons and declutter their guides and websites. Excellent!

One of the audience members asked a question and introduced herself as the head of reference at SLCL. I took note and captured her afterwards. I introduced myself, gave her my card, and we talked a moment. She’s going to call me later this evening so we can discuss the issues I’ve been having.

Next session was on cheap and free outreach and promotion materials. The first half was chiefly on a software package called Canva, the second was on leveraging social and traditional media outlets. This one was a bit more dull, but good information just the same.

Then, I had an excellent lunch with my friend, Lena, and called my wife.

Now, I’m waiting to begin my volunteer work as a gofer on the trade floor, so no more sessions for me, today.

Well, that was a bust. I showed up and introduced myself only to be told that they had nothing for me to do before at least 2:00. So, now I’m attending a session on aligning your library to ACRL standards.

That was dull. Worst session I’ve been to this conference. It wasn’t really about meeting ACRL standards. It was a description of how this woman puts together her annual reports. Zzzzzzz.

Volunteering consisted of me being a stagehand for the raffle drawing. It was kinda fun. Now, I’ve been roped into attending the actual business meeting of the conference. They were begging people to go in to reach a quorum. “Why not,” I thought, “I’m done for the day.” It’s not like I haven’t sat through committee meetings before. Maybe I’ll learn something.

Meeting activities:

  • Thank you’s to outgoing executive members.
  • Introduction of new executive members.
  • Reading of reports.
  • Reading and amendments of legislative agenda.
  • Reading and amendments of bylaws

There was probably more, but I ducked out early to meet my SLCL contact at the hotel bar. We had a very nice conversation in which we discussed the trouble I’ve been having in my job search, especially in attempting the transition to public library. What she suggested to me was to work harder at correlating my current skills to the specific needs of a public library. I have the skills, already, but what I need to do is a better job of conveying how my skills are translatable, not just saying that they are. That’s the gist, anyway. She’s made the transition from academic to public, herself, so she has some credibility here. Before I apply for any more public jobs I need to rewrite my cover letter, definitely.

This has definitely been a good conference for me. I’m looking forward to going home tomorrow, but it’s been a good time.

Related Tales of a Librarian:

Missouri Library Association Conference, Day 3

Missouri Library Association Conference, Day 1

Schmoozing Skills

2016 missouri library association conference logo

Missouri Library Association Conference, Day 1

Well, that was a long three hour drive. I’ve managed to arrive at the hotel and convention center unscathed. Finding my room was a bit harrowing, though. The hotel is mid-century modern with several building expansions grafted onto it, including the convention center. What one finds here is a confusing network of stairways and hallways confronting a guest with a Thesian goal of locating one’s room. A task I utterly failed at until a generous housekeeper took pity on me and all but took me by the hand. There was a map, but it may as well have been written in Goa’uld for all the good it did me.

I’m registered, now. I have my tote bag and T-shirt. Waiting on my first session to start. It’s on tips for presenting at conferences, appropriately enough. I’ve done that before, actually, but not since 2013. The biggest problem I have is the topic. What do I have that is worthwhile to share? The first one grew out of a library school assignment. Left to my own devices I’m at a loss for what to say.

This is ironic if you know me.

(Ooh! First friend sighting!)

—45 minutes later—

Session was fun. More entertaining than informative, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Now, I’m waiting for the opening keynote speaker. At my last conference the speaker was so terrible that I got up and walked out. We were sitting at a table in the back, so it was easy. This time, though, I’m in the middle of a row a third of the way up and wondering if I made a mistake.

My friend came in and I moved to sit with her. Second row, aisle. Still, no good escape path.

—60 minutes later—

No mistake. This guy was great! He’s a body builder and librarian with Tourette syndrome. He was a great speaker who told emotional and personal stories. I bought his book, and got it signed.

Standing in line for the signing we were talking about first book signings. I mentioned how Mary Roach was my first, which engendered jealous awws from everyone. (Only librarians!) He dedicated the book to “Jeffrey, Mary Roach fanboy extraordinaire.”

Awesome.

Now, I’m waiting for the trivia night to start.

—several hours pass—

Guess what! We won! My team, Dewey Don’t We, kicked some trivia butt and took home the trophy, literally.

And with that a good first day of of MLA16 comes to a close.

More tomorrow.

Related Tales of a Librarian

Missouri Library Association Conference, Day 3

Missouri Library Association Conference, Day 2

Schmoozing Skills

book and red wine on a marble table

Schmoozing Skills

Like most library-types, I’m an introvert. I get my energy and approval primarily from within. I like being alone. I like quiet times. It’s why I was such a good task-oriented person and part of why I would be a good cataloger if I wanted to go that route. But over the years I’ve intentionally placed myself in situations in which I have to interact with people; be the center of attention; expose myself to criticism and (even worse) praise.

It started when I was doing amateur theatre. (Yes, that’s the correct spelling. Shut-up autocorrect!) Every night after the curtain fell we’d go out to meet and greet the people that came to the show. They’d all say how good we were and what a good job I did. For the first few years I reflexively diminished my talent (admittedly limited) or contribution. However, after a while I started to feel that not only was I being too self-critical, I was also being ungracious to my public. “Just take the damn compliment!” I’d say to myself. Not for my own sake, really, but to not be rude to those who came up to me and congratulated me on a job well done.

When I wasn’t in a play I’d find other ways to put myself in front of others. I’d read liturgy at church. I’d volunteer to go first when doing presentations for classes. I’d lead committee meetings. I’d sing karaoke. After I got the MOBIUS job at UMSL I started going to conferences. At the time, I started going to these not chiefly because I wanted to learn about what was happening in the profession, but because I wanted to put myself in a situation in which I was going to have to talk to strangers, and a large number of them.

Now, I go to these things and can start conversations with strangers — however briefly. I make connections, eat comfortably at communal tables, chat with people on shuttles, etc. The fact that I can do this now, however, should not be construed as it being something that is easy for me. Alcohol is still a much desired social lubricant, although not mandatory.

Interacting with new people — a.k.a. “networking” —  is necessary, though, if one is to be successful in the field, or really, any field. It is not easy, and it took years, but I learned how to do it.

Thus far, networking hasn’t helped me get a job, but, it has made it easier to interact with people in job interviews. I can talk in fully formed sentences and act graciously and openly with people I’ve never met before. In fact, my problem now is not saying too much; being too open. Eventually, the positive impressions that I make will help me transition into my first professional position.

In their 2007 article, “How to Network: 12 Tips for Shy People,” cio.com said,

But networking is a trial for shy people—geeks especially. They view it as insincere at best, manipulative at worst. They eschew networking for a variety of reasons including lack of confidence, fear of rejection and a sense of unworthiness.

If they could just relate to others more easily, if they just possessed more self-confidence and weren’t such self-conscious wallflowers, the world would be their oyster, and schmoozing would be so much easier.

Sound familiar?

That article has some advice that I think is great, and some that I’m not so fond of. I’ll try to paraphrase what I think are the highlights.

  1. Start Small/Find a Conference Buddy: Humans are pack animals. We seek out our tribes and we like to stay there. When entering a new situation where there are new people seek out someone with whom you are already familiar, preferably someone with more experience than you. Being with this person allows you to relax, and gives you the opportunity to meet your buddy’s acquaintances and friends. There’s no need to jump in to the deep end of the pool when you can ease in to the shallows.
    • WARNING: While we all like conference buddies, eventually you will have to branch out on your own. You will  want to wean yourself off of this tool.
  2. Don’t Apologize/Be Positive and SMILE: Shy and low self-esteem people are quick to apologize and self-denigrate. It’s hard, but you have to resist the temptation. Everyone was a newbie at some point. Networking is about building relationships, and no one wants to be in a relationship with a sourpuss. Look up. Make good eye-contact. and Smile. I promise, people will like you.
  3. Business Cards: I know, it may sound cheesy, but business cards have been around for literally centuries for a reason. They work. If your workplace does not provide you with business cards, or you are not currently in a library position, go out and make them on your own. I did, and I’m still working through my stock six years later. They are an inexpensive way to get your name, interest, and even your face out in the world.
    • NOTE: If you are working in a library and don’t have your own business cards already, be sure to check the organization’s website for a style guide. This way you can make the most official looking business cards possible. That’s what I did.
  4. Be Genuine/Be Open/Be Yourself: This goes with number two. The article refers to networking as building intimacy with new people. You are probably recoiling a that word as much as I am. While I think they are overstating it, I think the point is valid. Networking is not about gaining schmooze points. It’s not one point for every hand shake, five points for every introduction, and twenty points for every conversation. You are actually supposed to be building relationships, no matter how fleeting or “intimate.” Show people your best self, your most generous self, your most compassionate self, your most interested self. Do not pretend to have knowledge you do not have. Do not pretend to be interested where you are not. People will like you. All you have to do is crank up the volume on all of your best traits. And above all, PUT THE PHONE AWAY.

When it comes right down to it, networking for anyone — but especially shy people and introverts — all comes down to bravery. There is a great moment in The West Wing when Leo says to then-governor Bartlett “Act as if ye have faith and faith shall be given to you. Put it another way: fake it ’til you make it.” That’s essentially what we have to do. If we act as if we are outgoing people for long enough, frequently enough, then a funny thing happens.

We become outgoing people.

Be brave. Fake it ’til you make it. You’ll get there.

If you’d like to read more, here is some librarian specific advice you can read and absorb.