Since I submitted my Fellowship portfolio I’ve been feeling quite ‘What next’? As I said in a previous post it feels like the end of an era and the right time to move on and do something else. As a result, I’m leaving my current role to move to Public Health England as a Knowledge and Evidence Specialist in October.
Having been in the same job for a long time in a niche sector (social care/work) I didn’t quite know how to pitch myself. I was put forward by recruiters for some terrifyingly grand jobs and was rejected by them. I gained considerable insight into structuring an application.
I wrote a key skills document for one role that I was approached to apply for, which highlighted areas of my current role that I really enjoy (my FCLIP portfolio was a good starting point, proving that it is useful beyond the qualification): building relationships with colleagues across departments, internally and externally and getting them to buy into and become advocates for a service; compiling literature searches and really getting under the hood of a subject; and (cheesy alert) helping to make other people’s lives better and supporting policymakers to affect positive change.
I picked up advice from friends. You shouldn’t overinvest in a role you’ve been ‘found’ for because it’s a recruiter’s job to find you, encourage you to apply for a role that’s well beyond your reach, help you craft a great application and then send you a rejection email prior to the first interview stage. If you’re very unlucky you won’t get an email, but you will see the role advertised by a different recruiter. Also, go for an interview if you’re offered one. The worst-case scenario is that you hone your interview technique and get to see a different workplace and the best-case scenario is that you get offered the job.
Since 2003 I have had four jobs; five if you count an internal promotion. I’ve been in my current role for ten years and I didn’t have to interview for it as I was TUPE’d over from my previous employer. During the LwL 50 AMA I talked about turning down a job a few years ago. I don’t regret the decision I made as my dream job in my twenties was no longer right for me in my thirties.
There are good and bad interview experiences. The good experiences make you feel better about yourself even when you don’t get the job. The prospective employer goes out of their way to make you feel comfortable, doesn’t act like you’ve shot them if you ask questions at the end of the interview, procedures are followed and promises of feedback kept.
I’ve had a few bad interview experiences over the years. Usually you get a ‘Please prepare a 5-10-minute presentation on X and Y’ in the interview invitation. On one occasion, with no warning, I was given 30 minutes prior to the interview to write an on the spot scenario-based PowerPoint presentation. I got about half-way through delivering the presentation, was enthusiastically outlining my plan for saving a failing, fictional but not really, library service and saw the HR representative on the panel roll their eyes. The interview got worse from there. I think they wanted someone to slash library services and I was all about saving and improving them. I didn’t get the job. Three and a half years later I’m still waiting for the promised feedback that I requested twice afterwards.
I was once asked to value a book in an interview, for a post that was mis-advertised as a library job but was really a curatorial role. The book dealer on the interview panel painstakingly explained how I should have been able to value the book he gave me based on the binding and some other subtle clues that I had absolutely no idea about. The ability to value books was not a requirement in the job description and I didn’t indicate that I possessed such a skill in my application.
Early in my career I had an interview for a library assistant role and it was clear the moment I walked through the door that they were just going through the motions of interviewing me. The interview lasted twenty minutes. At the time I thought I’d done something wrong (I requested feedback but didn’t get any) but now I think they’d already found someone amazing and I was simply making up the numbers.
Feedback tends to be along the lines of ‘The skills of another candidate more closely aligned with the job description than yours’, which roughly translates as ‘We liked someone else better than you’. I was once told to contact an email address for feedback on a job I didn’t get. The address they gave me was for a no-reply mailbox.
I saw an advert for the PHE role and crafted an application. I received an interview invitation before I was due to travel up to Manchester for the CILIP Conference, for the following week. The fact that I was so busy may have worked in my favour because I had less time to overthink the process.
Everyone I met at the interview was lovely and put me at ease. I raced through my presentation (the nerves!) and felt that I answered some of the questions better than others. I took myself off for a consolation Frappuccino afterwards. I was kicking myself because I thought of a really great example for one of the questions and it completely fell out of my head during the interview. I braced myself for a rejection email and feedback. I was shocked when I received a phone call offering me the job. I went away and spoke to my brains trust as I have three other people to factor into any decision I make. Their unanimous verdict was that I should accept the role.
I leave my current role on 27th September and I am actively supporting the recruitment process for my replacement. I start my new role on 1st October. I’m excited and terrified but most of all I’m looking forward to a new, very different, challenge.