Many find it difficult to know what they want to do with their career. Drifting from job to job developing skills as they come. I’ve always known it is handy to have a plan, but how do you know if your plan aligns to industry expectations?

Last week I attended a Career Workshop hosted by Museums Australia. I learned a bit about my work style and strengths through the team management profile tool. Plus many tips for developing an action plan, application writing, networking and interviews in relation to Museums and the GLAM sector in general.

So what is an action plan? It’s a table (or graph or list) you use to mark out what tasks you will take in a certain period of time to develop your career. These can be useful to highlight tasks that will require greater effort than others, plus it’s nice to have a visual reminder of  your end goals. This is your career so feel free to go crazy and visualize your action plan any way you want.

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There is a ton of advice on application writing out there and I found it comforting that the tips we were given in this workshop aligned with tips I had previously received from library career events. I had heard of the STAR model before and it was reiterated for cultural institutions that this is the model to use. However, we also fleshed out this type of application response to include starting with a point and finishing with that same point. Here is an example I wrote during the workshop, I’m not saying its perfect, but you can clearly see where I start and finish with the same point and use the STAR model to express a situation and outcome:

Q: Exceptional oral and written communication skills

A: In every position I have worked clear oral and written communication skills were vital to be efficient and effective in my work. These skills were most required when I was an Executive Assistant in the Australian Parliamentary Library. I regularly assisted with organising library lectures and the library was organising one for National Reconciliation Week. I constantly communicated via email and phone calls with Research Directors, the Assistant Secretary of Research Branch and the Parliamentary Librarian to check that all approvals were in order and that correct details were given to ParlAV and IHG for equipment and room bookings. The Friday before the event we heard rumors that ABC also wanted to broadcast the library lecture. I took the initiative, found clarification and provided guidance to ParlAV through clear communication. Therefore elevating any confusion for all parties. This example illustrates my commitment to providing clear instruction through exceptional oral and written communication skills.

Most people find it difficult to network and feel uncomfortable with the idea. During this workshop I found a different veiwpoint on networking that rang true for me.

Today, I think of networking more in terms of bringing people together and sharing information, support and opportunities. The best networkers I know run public or private events that bring people together, not for their own immediate benefit, but for the greater benefit of the group. Courtney Johnston, Director Dowse Art Museum, New Zealand

So how do you walk into a room feeling like you have something to contribute? Honestly, you can contribute just by sharing your opinions on some trend you’ve noticed in the industry. Never think you don’t know enough! When I decided in 2014 to make an effort to go to networking events, this is what worked for me:

  1. I researched the event, found its history and things that drew me to it. Then at the event I’d ask others why they came, or if they’d been previously, why they kept coming back.
  2. I had my elevator pitch ready. In a group of librarians, most times, its really easy to spot the one that wears something Marvel, DC, Sherlock or Harry Potter (we like our fandoms) so I start there. In case you guys are wondering, get me talking about the Wolverine comic book series, Percy Jackson series, the tv show Supernatural or World of Warcraft and Civilization 5 and you will have my attention all night!

At this workshop we had some really good advice for interviews that I’m so using in my next one. Remember that awkward moment at the end when the panel asks you if there is anything further your’d like to add or if you have any questions? Most of you probably have a couple questions planned, but how about this strategy: make a statement of 3 or 4 points that summaries your claims for the position. Basically, finish your interview by telling them exactly why they should hire you. Not only will you feel you have done everything you can to prove your worth but you will finish strong.

So go on, go find a job you’d love to have in the peak of your career and write down 3 concluding remarks why you think the ‘panel’ should hire you. Review your answer in 3 months or a year and add to it, have you gained skills that better match your ‘dream job’…. oh, this is actually a good career guidance activity, I might do that right now!

Till next time!
DFTBA (Don’t Forget to be Awesome).