My career posts usually get way more traffic than I’d expect. From how to write a bio, negotiate a deal to how to break into the field of college web strategy, content development or webmaster “personhood” , these posts have done pretty well with folks because well, I imagine they were having a hard time finding these sorts of things on the web. I know I did, it’s why I wrote them.
So it wasn’t a big surprise to me when a friend who happens to subscribe to my blog asked me a question, “What is the one piece of advice you’d get someone looking for a job…” He’s actually in the midst of applying for a job in higher ed as a web developer, after graduating and getting back from Iraq.
Anyway, I told him that the #1 thing I’d say is Ask the right questions. Rarely do the interviewers not give you a chance to “ask them questions you might have.” Save for the cursory questions and perhaps incisive ones specific to the job, it’s often that you might not want to “rock the boat” by coming off like you’re trying to interview the interviewers.
But you need to truly know what you’re getting yourself into, before it’s too late.
Some of the questions I came up with included:
1. What is your vision for this role?
2. Why is it a priority within the organization?
3. Do you anticipation any changes to the role in the immediate future (next 1-3 years)
4. What’s a day in the life like?
5. What happened to the last person who served in this capacity?
Those are just a few. I realize that some are more feasible than others and you might have a ton of time for deep questioning, depending on the venue. But if it’s anything like the interviews I’ve been through over the years, you’ll usually get a chance to really dig deep and find out more about the role you might be taking.
Once they call, you can ask and such, but I find it’s much easier to get as much information as possible for the various committees of folks who are chosen to interview you.
You owe it to yourself to assess even the most potentially exciting opportunities critically. Because it’s easy for the rhetoric to distract you from getting the best possible deal for yourself. You simply cannot risk allowing yourself to be mired in a situation that’s not representative of the best opportunities for you to grow professionally.
No job is perfect, of course. But the fit isn’t always about the one-way fit between what works for the institution, but it’s also about what works for you.
Don’t ever forget that.