Startup Mindset for Libraries

What is the Startup Mindset?

Simply put, the startup mindset is creative, flexible thinking.  Forbes.com has a great piece on this.  The article details 5 core philosophies of the startup mindset.  By adopting these, libraries and other organizations can bring useful services and efficient practices onboard more quickly than through traditional library thinking.  These philosophies are:

  1. Curiosity – Ask “why” and “what if” and “why not” and always seek to understand and find a better way.
  2.  Focus on Possibilities – Focus on what could be, rather than focusing on what is.
  3. Disregard for Status Quo – Work like you have nothing to loose, and forget about those sacred cows!
  4. Conquer Fear – Be brave in the face of change and risk.
  5. Speed – Get those services and improvements into production quickly and tweak them while they are live.

The Benefits of the Startup Mindset

One benefit of the startup mindset is clear:  it makes the workplace more interesting.  About six years ago my professional life was transformed simply by thinking differently about my job:  I began to look at my workplace as a lab in which I was to experiment with improving user services. I stopped worrying so much about what was not working and began thinking more objectively about how work differently to achieve my vision of what service could be.  Some things worked, others were chalked up as learning experiences.  But overall the benefits were clear: not only did service improve, but so did the workplace.  Suddenly it was all a lot more interesting.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was running my department like a startup.

A recent episode of the Coaching for Leaders podcast focuses on knowing when it is time to move on professionally.  It reports that “moving on” doesn’t necessarily mean finding a new job.  It may mean reinventing your current job.  Adopting the start up mindset is one way to do this.

Learn More About the Startup Mindset

Want to learn more about the startup mindset and how it applies to libraries?  Read Brian Matthews’ 2012, “Think Like a Startup:  A White Paper to Inspire Library Entrepreneurialism.” Seriously, READ IT! It is inspirational, well written and only 13 pages (including notes).  In my opinion it’s a half-hour well spent. What do you think?

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Disruptive Innovation Rethought

Rethinking Disruptive Innovation

Last spring I wrote a series of blog posts on disruptive innovation as applied to libraries.  In it I discussed ways in which ways in which certain business thinking can be applied to the mission driven sector.  While I still stand by those ideas, I just read a New Yorker article that really made me think. The article questions the value of disruption in business by questioning the research on which disruptive innovation is based, namely the research of Clay Christenson, author of The Innovator’s Dilemma.

Disruptive Innovation:  The Market is not Always Ready

The author makes some thought-provoking points, among them that disruptive innovation is not always successful because sometimes the market isn’t ready for a truly disruptive product.  This reminded me of the introduction of the ISO ILL standard in the late 1990s.  The marketplace (libraries) simply was not ready, and in an industry based on sharing a core group of partners had to be there in order to carry out the fundamental mission.

Disruptive Innovation and Failure

What I couldn’t fully grasp is if the author was arguing for an incremental model of innovation.  Does that still work in today’s world?  She argues that the “Logic of disruptive innovation is the logic of start ups”.  And as a point of fact, most start-ups fail.   “Disruptive innovation is a theory of why businesses fail.”  OK, I will buy that, but perhaps the focus should be less on success or failure and more on creativity?  Disruption is a process as opposed to a result–what if we think of it as simply casting side all preconceived notions and assumptions and looking at something in a completely new way? Certainly it can also lead to failure, but comfort with failure is the necessary flip side of innovation, and the possibility of failure needs to be embraced if we are to strive for true change.  And if one is trying to think in new ways about a problem does that not increase the likelihood that a solution will be found?

What Do Others Say About Disruptive Innovation?

This is indeed a provocative article, and there have been a number of responses to it.   Clay Christensen  himself responded in Businessweek; and others have responded in Slate, Forbes and The Boston Globe, to name a few.  As I work through my thoughts on this I would love to hear what others think about disruptive innovation.  Please leave a comment with your thoughts.

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Assessing Job Interviews: Ace the (Library) Interview, Part 6

The Importance of Assessing Job Interviews:

This month I have dedicated my posts to job interviewing.  Topics have included the importance of knowing the organization, evaluating “fit,” preparing for common questions and knowing which questions to ask.  With interviewing practice makes perfect.  Like many skills, interviewing is something that you get better at each time you do it.  This final installment of the “Ace the (Library) Interview” series is about evaluating the process.

Points for assessing interviews include fit,

How Assessing Job Interviews is Done:

The process of job interview assessment is quite simple.  After the interview, take a few minutes to objectively evaluate how it went.  Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What three things worked well?
  • What three things might be improved?
  • How well would fit in the organization?
  • Would you be happy in this job?  Why or why not?

The more you know about yourself in terms of how you interview and what type of organization you would like to work in the better your chances of landing your dream job.

The Result of Assessing Job Interviews:

By paying attention to the process you will see your interview skills improve.  Paying attention to the process ultimately means you will be better able to choose the right job for yourself.  So the next time you have a job interview do yourself a favor and take a few moments to objectively evaluate the interview process.  By thinking  about what you might do differently (and what you would do the same) next time.

Has this series been helpful to you? I'd love to hear why or why not.  
If you liked this series, please share it with someone you know.  

This is the final in a six part series that provides useful tips for interviews. Although provided in the context of interviewing for professional library jobs, the information in this series has application for other industries as well.

Common Interview Questions: Ace the (Library) Interview Part 5

Common Interview Questions–How Common Are They?

It is no secret that interview questions get recycled over and over again.  It is has become almost cliche to ask a candidate their strengths and weaknesses.  But what other common interview questions should you be prepared to answer?  Over the years I have collected some interview questions that are a good place to start when thinking about what to be prepared to answer.

  • Tell me about your greatest strength/greatest weakness?
  •  Tell us about a difficult person that you had to deal with on the job.  How did you handle that person?
  •  Why do you want to work here?
  •  Tell us about your work on library committees and task forces.
  •  Can you tell us about a situation in which you wished you had acted differently?
  •  Have you ever been in a situation where you had limited resources available to get the job done?  What did you do?  What was the result?
  •  Describe a situation in which the project assigned to you was completely new.  How did you go about learning more about this subject/project?
  •  Tell us about a project that you generated on your own.  What prompted you to begin the project?  What was the result?
  •  Have you ever recognized a recurring problem in a system (note:  system here does not necessarily mean IT, but rather a complex, interactive workflow) and identified a solution?  Describe the process and result.
  •  Tell us about a situation on you job when you were placed under a lot of pressure.  What happened?
  •  With what other departments do you frequently interface in your current job?  How often and under what conditions?
  •  Can you tell us about a time when you felt that a patron’s request was unreasonable?
  •  Have you done any public or group speaking?  (provide examples)
  •  What sort of writing do you do on the job?
  •  In your current job, how do you keep track of the various activities that you (and your staff, if applicable) are involved in?
  •  Describe a typical day.
  •  What are the most important changes going on in your organization
  •  What do you like best about your job?  What do you like least?

Common Interview Questions–How to Answer Them:

So how do you answer common interview questions, or any interview questions for that matter?  Just as in your resume and cover letter, interviewers are often looking for specifics. They are looking for data.  They are looking for numbers.  They are looking for specific examples of your experience.  They are looking for a full picture.  They are looking for how your experience translates to their organization.

Common Interview Questions–Help Me Build My List!

Have you identified a common interview question missing from the list?  Please share it with me!  Leave a comment on this post or use my contact form.

Continue to Part 6:  Assessment

This is the fifth in a six part series that provides useful tips for interviews. Although provided in the context of interviewing for professional library jobs, the information in this series has application for other industries as well.

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What to Ask at a Job Interview: Ace the (Library) Interview, Part 4

Don’t know what to ask at a job interview?  Chances are your potential employer is going to expect some intelligent questions.  Thanks to a smart colleague, I am fortunate to be in possession of a list of great interview questions asked by candidates at numerous library job interviews.  This individual collected the good questions that she heard at interviews–both as a candidate and interviewer–and shared them with me.  Over the past couple of decades I have added to the list.  Now here they are, shared publicly for the first time:
  • What one word describes the atmosphere here?
  • What is the most important or most pressing issue for you related to the library?
  •  What library resources do you personally use most?
  •  What qualities do you look for in library staff at any level?
  •  How do faculty use the library?
  •  Please describe the communication flow within the library, between departments (e.g. formal, informal, talk, meetings, etc.).  How does this translate to workflows?  How could this be improved?
  •  How do committees work within the library?
  •  Who is your ideal candidate for this position?
  •  What is a key quality for someone to succeed in this position?
  •  What is the most crucial skill/personality trait for someone to succeed at this position?
  •  How does the collection development process work?
  •  If someone has an idea, for instance about a possible process or procedure improvement, how is it usually introduced?
  •  Once a change is made how is it implemented with staff?
  •  Could you describe the interaction with various libraries at XXX?
  •  We have all worked at different libraries—what makes xxx different?
  •  What are some qualities of supervisors here or elsewhere with whom you have worked which you think are valuable?
  •  How often are intralibrary meetings held—for supervisors? for all staff? within departments?
  •  With small staff, limited resources, etc., what are some ways to keep everyone going when things are really busy?
  •  What is the support for professional activities and involvement?
  •  How would you describe [boss]’s management style?
  •  What responsibilities do you envision this position undertaking?
  •  What is important for new employees at xxx library to know?
  •  What are the most important skills to have here at xx library?
  •  What are the projects or goals for the upcoming year library wide?  What are they for [role you are applying for]?
  •  What are the top issues facing the library this year?
  •  What is your management style?
  •  How do you keep morale/motivation up?
  •  Where does the process go from here?
  •  What is the library’s five year plan?  What is [boss]’s five year plan for the department/division?
  •  What are the library/department’s top projects at the moment?
  •  Any other positions which were created and filled recently?
  •  Qualities or one significant quality of successful [position you are applying for] in the past here?
  •  What projects or roles would you like to see [position you are applying for] take on in the next year? beyond?

This list is by no means meant to be comprehensive, but rather should get candidates thinking about what to ask at a job interview.  Got any other great questions I have missed?  I would love to hear them.

 Continue to Part Five:  Common Interview Questions

This is the fourth in a six part series that provides useful tips for interviews. Although provided in the context of interviewing for professional library jobs, the information in this series has application for other industries as well.

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Organizational Fit: Ace the (Library) Interview, Part 3

What is Organizational Fit:

During an interview potential employers will be evaluating how well you fit with the mission, vision, values and style of the organization, and you as the candidate should be determining how well the organization fits with your personal and professional values and style.

How to Judge Organizational Fit:

One test for considering fit is commonly known as the “airport test.”  The person who is interviewing you may be thinking, “If I were on a business trip with this person and our flight were delayed, would I be comfortable spending a few hours in an airport with this person?”  And you should be thinking about this, too.
Inc.com recently published, “8 Questions Every Candidate Should Ask During Job Interviews,” which directly addresses fit and is worth a look.  Answers to questions like, “what would I be doing to make your job easier?” and “How does this library measure success?” can help you to assess if the job is right for you.  Fast Company has some great questions that really get at a company’s culture that can further assist you in determining how you’d fit in an organization.

Why Consider Organizational Fit?

Job interviews aren’t just about selling yourself; they are also about making a really important decision.  Asking the right questions can provide you with the appropriate data to do that.

Continue to Part 4:  What to Ask at An Interview.

 

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This is the third in a six part series that provides useful tips for interviews. Although provided in the context of interviewing for professional library jobs, the information in this series has application for other industries as well.

Interview Research: Ace the (Library) Interview, Part 2

Interview Research:  Know the Brand

One of the most important notions to convey during an interview is that you have a solid understanding of the organisation where you are interviewing.  You must know who they are and what is important to them.  In a recent Huffington Post article, Ariel Foxman from inStyle provides some excellent tips for job interviews, among them:  know the brand.

Why Conduct Interview Research?:

Without this solid understanding it is impossible to talk about your knowledge, skills and abilities in the appropriate context.  Employers want to know that you care enough about getting the job that researched the organization. They want to know that you understand who they are and what they do.

How to Conduct Interview Research:

Luckily, researching organizations is pretty easy to do.  Check the library’s website.  Spend some time playing with their discovery tool.  Read the library’s mission statement.  If the library is part of a larger organization check out the strategy of that as well.

Continue to Part 3: Organizational Fit

This is the second in a six part series that provides useful tips for interviews. Although provided in the context of interviewing for professional library jobs, the information in this series has application for other industries as well.

To comment, click on the speech bubble to the right
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Resumes and Cover Letters: Ace the (Library) Interview Part 1

Clients often ask me how to prepare resumes and cover letters for a library jobs.  Here are 3 easy tips to get your resume and cover letter interview worthy!

1.  Make Sure Resumes and Cover Letters Apply for the Job

One of the worst mistakes you can make is to send a generic resume and cover letter–especially a cover letter!  I recommend my clients prepare 3 versions of their resume.  Each version should address each basic job category they could see themselves in.  Having multiple versions of a resume is particularly important for early career librarians who are likely to change focus.

To write a specific cover letter try this exercise:  write a cover letter addressing each required and desired skill in the job announcement.  The cover letter should specifically mention your experience related to the requested skill.  The result will probably be very long, but you can edit for length after you have explored how your skills match what the employer wants.

2.  Add Data to Resumes and Cover Letters

Your potential boss will have a much better idea of your experience if you include data on your resume.  Rather than writing, “manage circulation desk,” write, “manage busy circulation desk with approximately 500,000 transactions per year.”  Instead of including, “taught library instruction classes,” say, “taught 30 on demand instruction sessions semesterly.”  Adding this type of data provides a fuller picture of your previous jobs.  It also has the added benefit of suggesting you understand metrics, which is so important to our profession.

3.  Edit Your Resumes and Cover Letters, then Call a Good Friend

Finally, proof-read, proof-read, proof-read.  Make sure your resumes and cover letters are well edited documents.  Then asks trusted friend or colleague to look over your application packet for you.  Be sure to also include a copy of the job announcement so they can check how well you have applied for the specific job.

Continue to Part 2: Interview Research

This is the first in a  six part series that provides useful tips for interviews. Although provided in the context of interviewing for professional library jobs, the information in this series has application for other industries as well.

How to Ace a Library Job Interview: An Overview

New Series:  How to Ace a Library Job Interview

Happy New Year!  If, like many people, you have resolved to find a new job in 2015 you have come to the right place.  It is only natural that as a coach I would help a lot of clients who are on the job market–coaches help people in transition, and one of the biggest transitions is finding a new job.  I am happy to present this five part series on job searching (some virtual mentoring) to share with a broader audience the tips and advice that my clients have found useful.

  • Part one addresses some practical approaches to the application packet.
  • Part two describes the single most important thing to demonstrate in any library job interview:  that you understand the organization.
  • Part three discusses the importance of fit, and how you can determine if a job is right for you.
  • Part four lists some questions to ask at your next library job interview.
  • Part five provides some common questions to be prepared to answer.
  • Part six explains an important but often overlooked part of the interview:  the debrief.

Need More Information?

As you go through these posts I am happy to answer any questions you have on library job interviews through my comments form.  Stay tuned for part two, and learn how to present the best resume/CV and cover letter you can!

Go to Part 1:  Resumes and Cover Letters

This is the first in a five part series that provides useful tips for interviews. Although provided in the context of interviewing for professional library jobs, the information in this series has application for other industries as well.

 

 

Even Sharper

Back in July I wrote a post about Sharpening the Saw–Covey’s notion of taking time from work to rest and rejuvenate in order to be effective at work.  Once again it is time for me to change my focus for the next few weeks.  Instead of leadership and self-improvement I will be thinking about (and engaging in) family time, travel and holiday magic.  In January I will be back to work with a multi-part blog series on interview skills followed by two new workshops and a number of interesting project that are taking shape.

Best wishes for a festive holiday season and a happy, healthy and productive 2015!!