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Bad Job Search Advice


Today I went in to the office I'll be working at this summer to get a quick primer on the operational-level stuff I'll be doing. Computer software, where stuff is in the office, etc.

Before I begin, I should start by pointing out that my most significant work experience was working as a clerk at the library in Berkeley. Most of my work involved various operations with the book and patron database, GLADIS. There was some general troubleshooting, periodic faxing and copying and laminating. Occasionally I worked with a typewriter. But mostly user-level databasey stuff.

When applying for this spring, I was told by everyone who offered me advice to de-emphasize the library stuff and find more volunteer/legal stuff. This was troublesome becaues I don't have a lot of experience with volunteer work or legal type stuff. Nonetheless, I reduced the library work to a bare minimum, practically a footnote on the resume, and replaced it with various relatively small-scale commitments (helping a friend teach a DE-Cal class, working as a poll worker in the 2002 California Primaries). Even that drew some comments from interviewers. "Library work? This is a legal job. How will that prepare you to work here?" I'd come to the opinion that I had wasted a year and a half working at the library, that my facility with GLADIS and Telnet and PINE and the IBM Selectric Typewriter were all a waste.

I arrived at the office this afternoon and was greeted by the paralegal who'll be coordinating most of my work this summer.

"Mostly what you'll be doing is working with these files that come in. You'll look up the tenant name in our database... Have you used a database before?"

"Yes, I have some experience."

"Oh, good. Well, you'll get a variety of different forms every day, each is handled in a different way, but I've put the details in this binder, which I've labelled the Intern Manual."

"Ah, I see. I think I should be able to handle that."

"Good. Anyhow, mostly you'll be processing these files and making alterations to the database."


"Now let me show you where the copier is."

"Oh, I think I've used that exact model of copier back at the library."

"Alright then, here's the cabinet in the back where we get office supplies... And this is our IBM Selectric Typewriter. I'll need to show you how to use this; we occasionally need to enter information into forms on it..."

"You know, actually, we used that exact model of typewriter back at the library for making labels."

"Well, okay then. I think you're set."

The whole training session took about 20 minutes. I will, essentially, be doing a slightly modified version of clerk work this summer. The only thing I've messed up so far, and that I need to get a handle on, is that I keep referring to the people in the database as "Patrons" rather than "Tenants." I only wish the files we were working with came on 3x5 cards rather than regular sheets of paper.

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