I'm not really going to write about good looks. After all, I'm talking about libraries here. I just thought that was a catchy title.
It's becoming more obvious that some library school students are reading the AL, and I think some of the posts have had a lot of advice to offer them, often much more in the comments by others than in anything I have to say. (As a related aside, this is one of my favorite quotes about my blog: "The Annoyed Librarian sounds a bit crazy at first, but if you approach her (delightfully eloquent) blog with a grain of salt I think it can provide some enormously valuable perspective.")
Someone posted a comment on the last jobs post that I wanted to bring up that I think is often ignored by job seekers. Here's part of the comment:
"I think a big key to landing any job, but especially if you are young and freshly MLS-ed, is to have basic social skills.
Too many librarians do not (why is that??).
I have been on many, many search committees, in 4 different colleges & universities. There are so few candidates who have basic, BASIC, BASIC social skills, like:
1. Look people in the eyes when talking or listening.
2. Dress in reasonably clean, reasonably neat clothing.
3. Do not blow your nose with your fingers.
4. Smile occasionally, and look like you are at least moderately interested in the proceedings.
5. Do not chew gum, and especially do not smack if you are trying to chew gum discreetly.
6. Use a napkin when you eat.
7. Do not steal anything on your way out.
I agree completely with this comment. I've noted before that I think charm is important, but that assumes basic interpersonal skills. I was told once that I got a particular job because the other very strong candidate spent the day mumbling and staring at the ground and generally acting like an antisocial freak, who in addition gave a public talk where he spoke in a monotone and was in general very boring. On paper, we were almost identical. In person, we were very different.
I think some people who've been nothing but students think they should be judged on their accomplishments. After all, their professors didn't comment on their personalities, and many introverted, asocial geeks write wonderful essays or complete fantastic research projects. But from the perspective of the employer it's very different. It's a matter of collegiality, and to some extent, etiquette.
People looking for the first professional job have a lot to worry about, and they're often just worried about themselves. They understandably view the process from their perspective. But the potential employer doesn't care personally about them. The potential employer, and especially the colleagues, want someone who is good, but also someone they can work with. It really does come down to collegiality and charm. As a job candidate, you might think you're so great you'll just bowl everyone over with your smarts and skill sets. A lot of the professionals will be thinking, do I really want to spend the next 5, 10, 15, 20 years listening to this person in staff meetings or chatting with them in the break room?
And I think that collegiality and charm, or rather the lack thereof, are perfectly good reasons not to hire people, no matter how good they might otherwise be. If they're great at particular tasks, but irritate everyone they come in contact with, then they won't be good employees. If everyone hates working with them, then they're not good at their job, because part of their job is to get along with people at work.
This doesn't, by the way, mean that you have to agree with everyone, or kiss up to anyone, or go along with any party line. I've had plenty of professional disputes with many colleagues, some of which I've won and some lost, but I've never given colleagues any reason to think that I was spiteful or malicious or just plain rude. That's where collegiality and etiquette come together. Civility and courtesy are necessary virtues in any workplace.