Insights from practitioners in Information Management

Issue 15 – Personal development

In this months issue we will be looking at the marketing and promotion of something very close to everyone of us – ourselves.  In particular, we will look at how to ensure that the time you spend putting a job application together is time well spent..

In this Issue we will be looking at:
• Personal & Professional Development
• Job Applications
• Interview Preparation
• A Thought to Ponder

Personal & Professional Development
What has personal development got to do with marketing and promotion of ourselves I can hear you ask.  Well unless we are constantly looking for ways that we can improve on ourselves, then we will never be able to change what other people see when they look at us.

It is about having confidence in ourselves and our skills, knowledge and abilities.  It is also about ensuring that we have the right work/life balance that can only be achieved by having the right mix of personal and professional development.

What was the last book that you read? What benefit did you receive from reading it? If it was purely for pleasure, then you should also ask yourself – is only reading for pleasure, ultimately benefiting my personal, professional or spiritual growth? Does it matter if it doesn’t – only you can answer that one.

Similary you should also ask yourself – who am I around? What are they asking me to do? To be? To think? And then you should ask yourself – is this acceptable? If it’s not, then it’s time to re-think who you are spending most of your time with.  A lot of what we do is habit, and with a little bit of planning and persistance we can change our “bad” habits for ones that will benefit not only us, but those people who are around us too.

Personal and Professional development is a little more than just attending a couple of training courses, but encompasses a whole range of activities, and should include things like:
• Reading (consider the non-fiction section rather than the latest best-seller if you want to really benefit);
• Networking;
• Attending industry functions and
• Specifically related training.

Before you say, this all sounds too expensive – let me assure you that it doesn’t have to cost a lot to ensure that personal and professional development takes a high priority in your day to day activities.

We are all very fortunate to have access to a public library system that allows us to borrow books and read newspapers and journals from across the world.  Similarly the internet has a range of newspapers and journals that are available free of charge.  Professional memberships provides you with industry journals, and opportunities to attend events at the lower price.  You can also join a variety of discussion groups and online forums that allow you to discuss matters of concern to you.

Before embarking on a range of measures that will improve your personal and professional development.  Consider taking a moment and having a look at your CV, where are your strengths and weaknesses? A word of caution though, don’t embark on a massive change choose one area that you would like to improve upon and work on that one first. That way you won’t get discouraged.

Job Applications
Having the correct mental attitudes is one of the most important aspects of getting what you want out of life. A positive mental attitude comes across in the way that you answer the questions laid out in the selection criteria, what you put in your covering letter, and the words that you use in your CV. 

How many times have you written something to answer a particular selection criteria, then said to yourself “that will do,” knowing full well that it won’t.  But you don’t have the time, patience, energy or inclination to write anything else.  If you have ever taken the time to re-read an application that you have put together and found yourself cringing at the lack of passion in your writing, the lack of positive comments and the stilted sentences.  Well if that’s what you see when you read it – then what do you think a prospective employer is going to see?

To put it bluntly, they are going to see that whilst you may be technically capable of doing the job, they will not short-list someone who “says” to them, well I couldn’t be bothered to write anything better.  I can’t promote myself well enough on paper, so why should you waste your time asking me to come in for an interview, after all I may have better things to do.

Poorly written covering letters, CV’s and selection criteria can prevent you from reaching the interview stage of any job that you have applied for. In order to succeed in your job applications, you have to believe in what you are writing.  You have to demonstrate in words what it is you are capable of, and you should believe in every word that you write.  It is important that every word that you use, should be promoting you as the best person for the job that is on offer.  If it’s not then take it out and use something else.

For example, telling a prospective employer that you do not have relevant experience or particular knowledge can mean that you reach the “thanks but no thanks” pile of applications very quickly. However, telling them that you are willing to obtain that knowledge proves that you take personal and professional development very seriously. 

However, regardless of whether or not you are successful at obtaining the position or not, chances are high that the same sort of experience, knowledge and/or skills will be required for similar positions.  It may therefore be sensible to ensure that you find a way of obtaining the relevant skills, knowledge and experience for future applications.  But before you head off to your local university or TAFE, consider the other areas in your life that you can perhaps adapt to fit the selection criteria. Unless a job application specifically asks for work related experience (in which case you might consider doing some voluntary work to gain some experience), then you can look to areas such as time spent at university, school or college, projects you have completed, part-time jobs that you have done.  Voluntary work and practicum placements that you have undertaken, committees and sports clubs that you may have been involved with these can all demonstrate your skills, knowledge and experience, that can be adapted to a more traditional working environment.

Interview Preparation
Before submitting your application, make sure that you keep a copy.  This is vital if you are called to attend an interview, as it enables you to re-read just what it was you said to your prospective employer, so that you do not repeat yourself.

However, there are some other more fundamental preparations that you should consider whilst you are wondering what questions an interviewer is likely to ask you.

Preparing yourself for an interview is important.  It’s also slightly more complicated than making sure that your suit is clean and your shoes are polished.

First and foremost, when you are telephoned by the company to attend the interview you may wish to ask where it will be held, as it may not be held at their offices.  Where do you have to go once you are in the building (Security, Reception etc), who you should ask for and the time of the interview (although they should have told you this). You may also like to ask how many people will be sitting in on the interview panel (the person may also give you the names), as well as whether you need to take anything with you. For example certificates, and copies of referees.

Once you have this information, you are then able to prepare for the interview itself. 

Do you know how to get there? Are you driving or taking public transport? Do you know how long it will take you to get there? Consider the time of the interview and allow yourself extra if you are travelling through peak times.

Remember to work out where to park and to take some change with you.

Dress appropriately.  First impressions really do count, and people can and do make up their minds about others within a few seconds.  Whilst this may not always be a true and accurate reflection of the person’s personality, skills and abilities, it’s usually a good starter indication.  Therefore, make sure that you are comfortable in the clothes that you have chosen, as it will be very obvious that you only wear a suit to weddings and interviews. Also try and make sure that any accessories also compliment the look you are trying to achieve.  If you are not sure, then get a second opinion.  That rather loud tie you have chosen because it stands out, might not be appropriate for a legal firm, it might also be the only thing they remember about you.

The day before make sure you re-read the job advertisement, application package, any notes that you made on the company when you did your research (if you didn’t research the company before you applied for the job I would suggest that you do it now) and your application.  Whilst the interview is designed to see if you are the best person to fit into their organisational structure, as well as being able to do the job – you also need to determine if you are happy with them.  Therefore any information that you can find out before you get to the interview may determine whether or not you actually want to work for them or not.

Do not take folders, files or shopping bags into the interview.  Put any bags you do take onto the floor when you are asked to sit down.  Make sure your mobile phone is switched off and your watch is in your bag. Do not have anything in your hands as you will sit and “fiddle” with it, this can be very distracting to an interviewer, not to mention yourself.

Smile, breathe deeply and remember that you are the best person for the job.

After all, they did ask you to attend the interview didn’t they? 
A Thought to Ponder:
“You will become that which you think about most of the time”
Tom Hopkins