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July 28, 2015 - Ask Jan!
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Dear Jan,

I’ve been working as a librarian for nine years at the same library.  I feel ready to advance, and have taken every professional development opportunity I can find.  I keep applying for manager positions, but can’t seem to make it past the first interview.  I’m feeling frustrated and hopeless about ever moving forward in my career.  What do I need to do?




Dear Anonymous,

Your question is like the one asked by the NYC tourist:  “How do I get to Carnegie Hall? ---practice, practice, practice!”   That holds true for interviews, too.  Try this:

1)      See if you can determine likely questions you may face in the interview.  Most interviewers ask for experience that makes you especially relevant to the position; why you are the best choice, etc.  Brainstorm what you think is likely to be asked, then frame answers for these ahead of time (using specific experiences if possible).  Then, practice your responses out loud so you get used to hearing your own voice.  You’d be surprised at how many folks are unsettled by hearing their own responses.

2)      Consider asking your current supervisor for an opportunity to assist with her next project.  Sure, the continuing education classes you’ve taken are great, but hands-on experience solving problems in the real world may be even better.  Besides, showing that initiative may just raise your image at your home library!

3)      Volunteer to chair a statewide CLA committee—or at least help with one.  Bringing a project together through shared goals using folks who don’t normally work together is a solid way to show your flexibility and resourcefulness.  Besides, you’ll meet new people and probably have a great time.

4)      Get outside your usual routine and comfort zone.  The more you stretch yourself, the easier it becomes to face new experiences with confidence.  So, if you’re a couch potato, take a yoga class.  If you have the artistic sense of a gecko, take an art history class.  Anything that offers you a challenge and an opportunity to be more than you are right now will build your self-esteem.

So---practice, stretch yourself into new tasks, and take on new responsibilities.  I think you’ll find you have more confidence and knowledge and that in turn will show up as improved interactions when you are a serious candidate for promotion or a new position. 

Good Luck!

Jan Sanders, Director
Pasadena Public Library
CLA Board Member