Friday, 28 August 2015

Blaugust 28/31: Owl Would Like A Job

It's still Blaugust for a few more days. Three to go, people.

I was going to share the results of the tie election today, but due to popular demand I'm leaving it open for a while longer. Get your votes in people.

This leaves me with nothing for the blog, and not much time, so I'm just going to post one of the applications that I've written today. I'm terrible at writing job applications, so maybe I can get some pointers from you, the clever and eloquent readers, and maybe I can cheat one more blog post out along the way.

Anyway, I feel like this application sums my work life up pretty well, so maybe it will serve as a half-decent biography page. I've been meaning to make a biography page for a few years now, so...yay? If you're an employee from the Bodleian checking my application for plagiarism, please give me a job, m'kay?

Anyways...the best thing about applying for this job, apart from the little thrill I get in my stomach at the thought of working in one of the coolest libraries on the planet, is that in their diversity survey I got to fill in that I was a White, Anglo-Saxon, Heterosexual, Male Christian. It feels good to get all that privilege out on the table where everyone can see it, but I'm a little say that nobody asked me how much my dad pulls in a year.

The following thing is written in lurid purple because it's important to get your application NOTICED, people!

Dear Sir/Madam,

I wish to apply to fill the Part-Time Library Assistant position being advertised for the Humanities Libraries. My abiding interest in books and literature, as well as my strong work ethic and experience with IT support, administration roles and event management enable me to meet the job criteria in a professional and personable manner.

•             Educated to at least GCSE standard or equivalent, with a good level of literacy, numeracy and IT capability including the use of email, internet and general applications such as Microsoft Office
In 2006 I completed my South Australian Certificate of Education (equivalent of A-levels), taking courses in English Studies, Geography, Mathematics Studies, Mathematics Specialist, Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Media Studies. I have worked since 2008 in various administrative and IT support roles for a health services provider in Adelaide, South Australia, utilising the Microsoft Office suite with a particular focus on Microsoft Excel, and also employing a wide range of other programs and utilities including but not limited to web browsers, databases, and audio-visual editing software.

•             Strong customer service philosophy and an informed sympathy with the aims of library support for teaching, learning and research in a major academic institution
Since 2011, providing both in-person and remote IT support via telephone has been a major facet of my employment, a role which requires efficient identification of client needs and a drive to deliver creative, effective and timely solutions. I believe that acting in this role as a resource for users from a wide-range of backgrounds and differing levels of technical proficiency demonstrates an understanding of the value of providing customer support. This translates directly to supporting students and other library users and shows an understanding of some of the challenges involved in working in a library environment in an academic institution.

•             Able to communicate effectively and courteously with a wide range of library staff and users, both orally and in writing
In the course of my employment and volunteer roles, I have demonstrated a high level of written and verbal communication. In my role as Games Coordinator for a convention with in excess of 10,000 attendees, I frequently resolved client queries and complaints in a crowded, high-pressure, time-dependent environment or via electronic communication, as well as providing training, regular reports, and operating procedure documents for my fellow volunteers. My employed role in IT support involves on-the-job face-to-face training, as well as the regular development of written guides for use by other employees, to communicate technical or specialist knowledge to clerical and clinical staff of diverse backgrounds.

•             A flexible and constructive approach to work and to working in a team; ability to work without close supervision when required. Able to undertake routine tasks with care and accuracy and complete them in a timely manner
In my employment as a reporting analyst in 2008-2010 and since 2012 as IT support, I have worked closely in two-person teams and as part of larger groups to share workloads and distribute tasks with efficiency and flexibility. Some of these tasks include contributions to major Australian health databases, which require a high standard of data quality for submissions. I also routinely work alone and largely undirected and unsupervised on regular and one-off reporting tasks and to develop new tools and processes for staff, delivering high-quality and timely results for a range of internal and external stakeholders.
•             Able to work under pressure in a physically demanding environment, such as lifting and carrying books and pushing a trolley as the post requires daily shelving of material
My volunteer roles as Games Coordinator and Convention Staff have demonstrated my ability to work in a physically demanding role where required, as these roles can require some extended 8-10 hour, physically-active shifts including moving large television sets either by carrying or using trolleys as appropriate, navigating through large crowds and constant use of voice projection. I have previously represented South Australia in orienteering and won the Blue for sports during my secondary school education, so I believe any physical requirements of the role are likely to be within my capabilities.

•             Excellent time management skills
As my employment at Home Support Services is a dual role, split between IT support and analytics, it necessitates the ability to balance and manage a variety of tasks of differing priority to ensure that all tasks are delivered in a timely manner. I am proficient in the use of various common support programs, issue trackers and project management systems to ensure that tasks are completed to a high standard by all involved, accurately tracked and delivered to stakeholders within expected time-frames.

•             Experience of working in a higher education library
Unless volunteering in my primary school library at the age of twelve counts, I have no previous experience working in a higher-education library, but I have long desired to work in a library environment and would relish the challenge of learning any new skills required. I have frequented both the physical and digital collections of Adelaide University and my local library as a user, and I believe this equips me to have some understanding of the client expectations of a library assistant role.

•             Familiarity with a range of key online resources e.g. e-journals and databases
While my experience and familiarity with online journals and databases is limited, part of my role as reporting analyst has been as administrator for a clinical records database and site contact for our organisational contribution to a range of large health fund and government datasets. I have a working understanding of the structure and format of such databases, which should enable me to quickly develop my skills in this area.

•             An informed interest in any of the subjects covered in the Radcliffe Camera (currently History and English)
Though largely self-taught by academic standards, I take great joy in learning about many aspects of life, including those covered by the History and English departments at Oxford. I am an avid reader in a range of fields, and I am slowly building my own home library and working through a long-term project to complete reading of a Western canon. I am always eager to expand my fields of interest, and I am currently enrolled to participate in a short online course beginning in September on ancient Near-Eastern civilisations provided by the University of Liverpool.

•             Familiarity and experience with Aleph, SOLO, OXLIP+ and Oxford University e-journals
Though I am not familiar with these particular systems, I am a proficient database user and a quick learner, and I would anticipate being able to pick up the use of these systems in short order. I have used and developed a wide-range of databases on a number of different platforms and I am willing to experiment and self-direct my learning about them when and if opportunities present themselves.

I arrive in the UK from Australia on September 23rd but I can make myself available before that date for an online or telephone interview if appropriate. I hope that this will not impede my eligibility to interview for this position. I look forward to the opportunity of expanding my own horizons and serving the Bodleian Libraries if considered a viable candidate.

Yours sincerely,
Thomas Diment

What do you reckon, guys and girls? Would you employ me? I feel like I represented myself pretty well without resorting to too much corporate-speak. I even left a joke in (if I don't get the job, I'm blaming the joke).


Sylvia Morris said...


Sylvia Morris said...

Okay but also: feedback. (Take all of it with several spoonfuls of salt because I don't have a great track record of getting jobs.)

1. I reckon for the last few dot points, get rid of the first part of the answer that says "I don't know how to do this." It'll be implied anyway. But you want them to be thinking about all the things you do know and trying to slide their minds past the idea you don't /quite/ address the criteria.

So: "Part of my role as reporting analyst..." "I take great joy in..." "I am a proficient database user...". You don't need to change any of the rest of the answer, just skip straight ahead to what you do know and let them fill in the blanks for what you don't.

2. Can you namedrop avcon rather than just referring to it as a convention? I don't know that you play up avcon enough. Talk about how great you are at avcon. It's a googleable thing and makes you seem responsible.

3. I don't know how to fix this (and maybe it's not possible. maybe it's just applications in general) but while you seem competent, I don't think you're conveying how smart you are and how good at things you are.

You could maybe add another sentence before addressing the criteria where you play up avcon, and the versatility of your IT work? Or something. But yeah, I feel like this is the eternal problem of cover letters. You just wanna say "trust me, I can do this and I will be great at it because I am great" but /sigh/ apparently that doesn't cut it.

4. I think you want to be as active as possible in a cover letter. So you could do things like rewrite the first sentence of the second dot point to something more like "Since 2011, I have provided in person and remote IT support on a regular basis. I identify client needs efficiently and provide effective, creative and timely solutions." Yeah? Like it's better to say that you do something (as part of your job) than to say that something is part of your job (and so you do it).


Ysharros said...

Belatedly, I have voted!

I still think ALL the ties should come with you. I would ask the honourable member, Are these voicy major stockholders being required to leave behind their OWN ties and/or bras??

UnwiseOwl said...

Thanks for the feedback, Syl, I'll add it to my collection. You make some good points. A lot of that sort of stuff is missing because it's contained in the CV proper, but it could probably do with going over again here...

It's a common question, Ysharros. Six ties don’t take much space, but sixty ties do. Believe it or not, but sixty ties is the same amount of space as a suit, or a full set of bed-linen. Ties are a luxury item, and when we have two suitcases to pack our entire lives into for the next three years, we need to do without some luxuries, or at least dial them back a notch, so that we can take enough warm clothes to ensure that we don’t freeze to death in the bitter Northern winter, which Australians use as cautionary stories to scare their children. We’re going to be students, after all, and living out of a single suitcase and whatever we can scrounge is part of the whole experience. Rest assured that other shareholders are making similar, though less public, sacrifices.

Besides, I had fun running the election.