Why Should I Hire You? Defining Your Message
I have been exposed to the profession in different ways. First, as a library user and then as a graduate of the WSU LIS School I saw the skills needed for the work that we do. When I became a librarian and archivist myself and hired many of our graduates I better understood the customer service aspect. Now in providing Career Advising for the last few years, I see the struggle that most of us have with job hunting.
There seem to be certain trends in the way people apply for jobs:
- The Worrier – This is characterized by anxiety and a determination to research every possible circumstance in which they may be rejected. Typical comments are “I am probably not qualified for this but..”, “I have not heard anything from my application, I must need to re-do my resume.”, or “Why didn’t they call me for an interview? It must be my cover letter!” This method indicates a need to take time to better understand what you have to offer. From there you can develop your skillset to understand what you should be applying for and increase your chances of a perfect match.
- The Overconfident Blamer – “They obviously have overlooked my resume, I will call them.” “There must be something wrong with their email/phone/etc.”, “I don’t have the skills that they need but I can do the job. Why haven’t they called me?” In this economy, you need to be a “can-do” person that is agreeable, positive and skilled. You cannot shotgun job applications. Narrow your search to what you can match point by point. Overconfidence without proof of the ability will waste both your and the potential employers’ time.
- The Overachiever – This can be an asset to a certain level. Sometimes people use this as a way to paralyze their job search. They research institutions, employers and trends so thoroughly that they never feel done. They also might tweak their resume and cover letters so often it is hard for them to actually get to the step to send them.
Taking some workshops and meeting with mentors or Career Advisors can help to waylay your fears.
In order to move past a lack of confidence and/or knowledge, below are some thoughts about how to successfully sell yourself. There are some really key things to consider as you design your job hunt, cover letters, portfolios and resumes. Note that I did use the word “design”. This is the same activity as a corporation designing its communication message to sell it new product or service.
Think of yourself as a brand. What are your best selling points? What can you do? How would you accomplish tasks? What do you bring to the existing team?
Do not focus on the negative. How often have you seen a successful marketing campaign with the motto “Buy my product because the other one is worse?” Be sure to develop your communication in a manner that defines you as a positive force.
Many students and alum feel uncomfortable with “bragging” about their skills but this is a backwards perception. A potential employer is not psychic. They have not lived in your shoes and they know absolutely nothing about your abilities. You have to educate a potential employer about where you have been, what you learned, how you handled yourself and where you want to go. This is similar to the basics of journalism which is the how, what, why, when and where.
As mentioned in our Career Fair earlier in 2011, you can not “sell” yourself by issuing a boisterous line. It has to be backed up by concrete examples of how you tackled a problem, learned a new skill, resolved a patron complaint, etc. Think about how your life experiences have formed you as a potential employee. What value can you offer this institution? How can you give them examples of other situations that helped to develop your skills to achieve a goal?
Remember that a lot of your skills from other professions can be portable and of value. Customer service is very portable to archives and library science. We are a service profession. If you can masterfully deal with people, that is of great value. If you have management, education or technology experience that is all valued. If you look deep within your experiences you can develop a list of valuable skills that you offer.
The other advantage of examining your life experiences, is that it will increase your confidence. This will show in the execution of your cover letters, resumes and interview. It will help you to think about how you want to present yourself and define your message to answer “Why do I want to hire you?”