Entrepreneurialism

I went to purchase my school books at the beginning of the semester, and I was rather confused that an entrepreneurial book was one of my required texts.  I was not particularly looking forward to the read.  As an academic historian, I know exactly what I want to do with my life.  I want to teach!  Teaching is fulfilling, always changing, and personable: everything I could ask for.  While I do not want to be a businessman and I have no desire to run a business, I did enjoy reading Chris Guillebeau’s “The $100 Startup.”   The book was informative, inspirational, and accessible.  Unlike many texts assigned in academia, this text was simple and to the point.  Guillebeau’s enthusiasm drenches every page; he truly wants to help people start their own small business.  For a person that is interested in doing just that, this is a must read.  His use of real life examples, real people and real businesses, substantiates his claims.  Many “How To” books lack this depth, focusing solely on the author’s personal experiences.  Guillebeau’s discussion regarding the “knowledge economy” explained how this text fits into public history.  Many budding historians do not want to fill traditional history roles in society (teachers, museum curators, or historical bureaucrats).  It is these historians that will gain from Guillebeau’s “The $100 Startup.”  These historians need only key in on what aspect of the “knowledge economy” they wish to fulfill, and begin!  These historians have skills, and are continually gaining more skills, and these historians have interests.  What these historians need to do, according to Guillebeau, is connect these skills and interests with what other people, their potentially clients, want.  Even historians filling traditional roles (teachers, museum curators, and historical bureaucrats) can gain from Guillebeau’s basic idea; the biggest difference being that that these individuals are selling themselves (their skills and interests) in hopes of a “traditional” job and a “traditional” paycheck.

“Historians as Consultants and Contractors” explained that there are numerous things a history consultant can do, many of which we have discussed in our Public History class.  Historical consulting is a growing industry that is almost always in need of hiring professional historians for short-term contracts.  As an educator, I immediately thought about how many summer opportunities there must be for a High School History teacher!  While I might be “constrained” during the school year, I will be the definition of flexible over the summer months.  While I am still in my initial year in the Masters of Applied Historical Research program, I have already gained invaluable insights into how to bring history alive, the digital humanities, and so much more.  These skills combined with my growing interests will allow me to gain a part time position as a historical consultant whenever I so desire.  This chapter stressed the importance of complementing a history degree, and I really liked reading that.  All too often, academic readings contain such a narrow focus that interdisciplinary approaches are rarely even mentioned.

Tyler Rudd Putman’s “Crafting a New Historian” elicits deep thinking.  While Putman could be described as a typical academic, he has a Master’s Degree and he is currently pursuing his Doctoral Degree, he could also be described as an atypical academic.  After earning his Master’s Degree, he spent a year sewing clothes to make a living.  It is this year outside of the traditional academic scope that led him to figure out what he truly wants in life, what he enjoys doing, and what academia entails.  For those individuals with an exclusive view of what “doing history” entails, Putman was no longer “doing history” in the garment business.  For those with an inclusive view of what “doing history” entails, Putman never left the history field; he merely found another way to “do” history, through sewing historical clothing.  He was making a modest living, enjoying what he was doing, and had time to yearn for academic comforts like the library.  Putman states that “the cognitive overload of an academic life prevents us from being truly thoughtful,” and I would argue that there is much truth to this statement.  Many academic are confined to specific topics, are embarrassed by their hobbies, and fail to associate themselves with the real world.  I agree with Putman, “Academic historians need to spend less time in the library and more time confronting the rigorously critical world of the nonacademic public.”  This is essential for anyone hoping to work in the public history field.  Putman concludes his article with explaining numerous reasons not to get a PhD, most importantly that there is a very real possibility that he will be sewing clothes after gaining his degree.  Despite problems like these, he is currently working towards his Doctoral Degree; to say I was shocked by his decision would be an understatement.

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