I'd only intended this 'sabbatical' to last for a couple of months, and though the latest lockdown threw a spanner in some my plans for my 'doing whatever I want' time, there have been a few concerns growing in the back of my mind:
- Money. It almost goes without saying, but money is kind of a necessity in our society. Whilst I've saved to create an adequate buffer for the short-term, it will run out, and I'd like to have a job before that happens.
- Time. Few people would blink at a resume gap of a couple of months. More than that, and it becomes an issue. Whilst I enjoy having this time for me, I'm aware that there's a growing risk of long-term unemployment, the longer I take.
- Collaboration. But most importantly, I do miss having a team of people to gather with on a daily basis and work on interesting and challenging projects together. Jobs allow us to do this *and* get paid for it. I do currently get to do a little of this through my volunteer work, but it's mostly with people who volunteer on the side of full-time jobs, and so naturally it's not the same as collaborating with somebody who can dedicate a lot of time and energy to the thing.
So, I've been searching and applying for jobs. I've set myself a few ground-rules:
- Don't pigeonhole myself. It would be natural to simply just search for 'librarian' and 'communications' work, but there are interesting jobs out there that sit outside this scope. In fact, one of the more interesting jobs that I had an interview for was completely out of left-field, but still aligned closely with my skill-set. Similarly, temp agencies have sent me job descriptions for work that I would have never have considered. Admittedly, some of them were clearly not a good fit for me, but other suggestions have expanded my outlook for the kinds of work that I might want to consider.
- Don't apply for just anything that I can do. There are definitely jobs out there that I could do quite confidently, but I know that my heart just wouldn't be in it. If I have doubts during the application process - especially after speaking to the hiring manager - then I give myself permission to bow out, and focus more on those applications that I really feel enthusiastic about. Applying for jobs is hard enough, without dedicating the time and energy into an application that I'm not one hundred per cent sure about.
- Get paid more or learn more. I know where my strengths are, and what I'm worth. However, I also know where I want to build new skills, and in those areas it's worth considering roles at a lower level than I'm used to. To expand my experience at a comfortable level of responsibility, whilst being mentored by a good supervisor - definitely worth taking a pay cut.
There's one thing that I've particularly found useful and enjoyable about this process, that I haven't always taken advantage of previously. You see that bit in the job ad that says, 'For more information about the position, contact xxxxxx'?' I've come to realise that it's such an important part of the process that is often understated.
Firstly, it's an opportunity to become a familiar name and face if you're an otherwise-unknown entity. You can't assume that there won't be internal applicants - I can almost guarantee that there will be. It's a chance to make an initial impression on somebody who will be shortlisting applicants. So, while you're asking questions about the role, be sure to add little tidbits of information, like, 'Oh, I worked at the National Library for a few years and they used XXX platform. Do you use something similar?' It's also encouraging if they also ask you questions about yourself - so be ready to pitch yourself!
It's an opportunity for them to move away from the corporate speak of the position description, and give you a meaningful interpretation of what the job entails, and what particular skills and experience they prioritise and value. A good manager will already have a good pitch ready - after all, they want to attract good people to the role. If you come away from the conversation still having little idea of what's involved, then that could be a red flag.
Finally - and most importantly - it's a chance to gauge what this person might be like as a colleague and supervisor, and perhaps glean something about the work culture. In some cases, a couple of initial questions have turned into a fun and stimulating chat, all about the way they work, what some of the pleasures and challenges are about the job, and the different approaches there are out there in addressing the prevalent issues. These conversations really get me excited and enthusiastic about applying - and I hope they also get the hiring manager looking forward to seeing my application. These social connections are so important, right from the get-go, because they are going to influence everybody's impression of whether they want to work with you or not.
In one such conversation that really resonated with me, the manager acknowledged that they was a lot of movement happening, and that they were looking to take a chance and attract staff from the many people out there who were currently seeking 'new adventures'.
New adventures sound great to me, and I'm all for it.