It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. Should I do volunteer work in my field even if I’m cranky about it?
I have a master’s degree in library and information science, which has been ranked by Forbes magazine as being the #1 worst master’s degree for jobs. Predictably, I have not found a job in this field. I am currently unemployed after my job as a staff writer at a small private university was eliminated, haven’t had a library-related job for years, and graduated with my MLIS 2+ years ago.
I’ve talked with my local public library about volunteering to gain some experience, saying that I was interested in working with the young adult population and hoping that volunteering would get something library-related at the top of my resume again. The volunteer coordinator said she would see what the “volunteer needs” at the time were. I learned that that amounts to primarily doing data entry – not anything I could cite as “professional level” library work. I also learned that another MLIS grad is volunteering at the library. And that’s just at one branch – who knows how many other MLIS grads are volunteering at the other branches??
I’m already angry at myself for having gotten into debt for a useless degree, and am feeling angry towards others who have the jobs that I want, and resentful. Obviously, this is not a good attitude, but that’s how I feel, and I’m wondering if volunteering is just going to be a bad idea. I’ve never been an optimist, and I’m highly doubtful that this volunteering experience will amount to anything, especially with other MLIS grads volunteering with the same hopes of getting hired even part-time. But it also doesn’t seem smart to just dick around the house looking for jobs on the internet. I wonder if I’m better off just continuing to volunteer at the animal shelter, which I do once a week to get myself out of the house and give my mood a boost. What do you think? Volunteer and try my best to be happy and agreeable and there to help? Or just don’t bother?
If you’ll have anything less than a cheerful and pleasant attitude about being there, don’t do it. You’re more likely to do your job search harm than good, because even a hint of resentment or lack of enthusiasm will impact any contacts you make and any references you get from the volunteer work.
I’m more concerned about the broader issue here, which is whether you can reasonably expect to get a job in your field, or whether you should be looking at different types of roles. I don’t know the answer to that, but a good first step would be to talk with a wide swath of people working in your field about that question — not about the MLIS job market generally, but about your specific place in it. You want them looking at your resume and helping you to figure out what your prospects really are, so that you can plan accordingly. (And I’m sorry you’re dealing with this — this sucks.)
2. What should I ask in an internal interview with my current manager?
I have a phone interview coming up for which I am an internal candidate. The position I’m up for is essentially my current position (same department, same supervisor, 90% of the exact same job duties) with a small new component/set of duties.
What can I ask the my interviewers (one of whom is my current supervisor) during the “Do you have any questions for us?” portion? Obviously, I can focus in on the new duties, but could I also ask something like, “Ideally, what are your long-term goals for the person in this position?” or “How so you see my workday changing as a result of these new duties?” Or would those be too awkward to ask of your current supervisor?
No, those are exactly the sorts of questions you should be asking! Don’t let awkwardness get in the way here — ask exactly what you want to know, which will help you figure out if you even want the job … and as a nice side bonus, usually leads to a better, more substantive conversation with your interviewer (as long as those questions are about the work itself and not questions about perks or drug testing or so forth).
3. My former employer’s website still lists me as an active employee
My former employer still lists my photo and personal bio on its website. Shortly after I left, I had asked for my information to be taken down (or at least updated), but nothing came of it. It’s now been more than six months since I was last there.
I understand that updating these parts of a website isn’t always a priority, but I feel it’s misleading to my personal brand to be identified as an active employee of a company I am no longer working with. What is the appropriate response here? Is this something that is worth addressing?
You’re probably just going to have to keep following up until it’s removed. I’d email whoever in your company is the right person to deal with this (could be your web person, could be HR, could be your old manager, could be an office manager — depends on how your former workplace operated) and nicely say, “I just noticed that I’m still listed as a current staff member on your website, even though it’s been more than six months since I left. Could you remove the listing, since it’s now inaccurate?” If it’s not done a week later, send a polite follow-up email: “Hey Jane, just wanted to check back on this since it’s still up.” Wait another week and email again if it’s still there. Repeat until it’s removed. It’s annoying, but there’s no other way to force their hand.
4. Do employers research candidates’ age before interviewing them?
I am curious to know the real truth about age discrimination. I am 50 years old and looking for a position in the nonprofit sector (fundraising), where I thought age/experience would be less of a factor and more of an asset (I am closer in age to the potential donors). I have searched myself on spokeo, zabasearch and instantcheckmate and find that even without paying, anyone can find out my age, birthdate, address and relatives. Do recruiters or HR departments use this to prescreen before doing a phone interview or paid background check? Especially since it is essentially free?
No, employers do not typically use those services. And they don’t typically go looking for someone’s age either. Usually when age discrimination occurs, it’s because employers are picking up on a candidate’s age through evidence that’s right in front of them — like the length of your career or the year you graduated college (which you should feel free to leave off your resume once you’re over 30 anyway), or actually seeing/talking to you.
5. Writing a cover letter when you don’t know who the company is
I’ve been applying to a lot of administrative assistant positions on job boards like Monster, LinkedIn, CareerBuilder, etc, and I frequently come across a posting that I’d like to apply for, but I find many that list the company as “confidential,” either as a posting from the company itself or from an agency. Sometimes there’s a generous description of the company that from a Google search I can figure it out but sometimes there isn’t anything more than a town and an industry and I’m clueless.
I know that I have to tailor my cover letters and application materials to each posting, but how can I when I hardly have anything to go on? How can I sound genuinely interested in the position if I don’t even know who I’d be working for?
You tailor it to the job, not the company. Talk about why you’d be great at the work they’re advertising for, which is generally the most compelling part of a cover letter anyway.