Find a job path or Play the Lotto? Either way the odds are not in your favor.

My 2 cents:

I have a love/hate relationship with the BLS occupational outlook pages. Every time I read these statistics I get a warm feeling that “hey thats not too bad.” But then I see the little line that says “there are 4,000 jobs in 2010, 57 percent of which were in government.” My math degree taught me 4000 jobs out of 300 million people is bad ratio. 4000 historians. That’s it. 6100 Archivists. So then I start searching other fields…accountants….there are 1,216,900 accountants. Median pay is $61,690 per year! Why did I pick this field?!? Then I settle down, or more accurately my wife calms me down, and I remember nobody tells an accountant “Wow I wish I could read historic documents all day, this must be a cool place to work.”

I think the truth is there are very few jobs that are quantifiably “historian” or “archivist” or “curator,” BUT there are many more jobs that are very close and just as fun. There is no set path to these types of jobs. I think you just have to stick with the field and if you’re good at your work you’ll find something to do. If you’re not good at history, you might end up just being an accountant…and make double the salary.

I take issue with the blog posts from History @ Work.

All of us chose to continue our education probably in hopes it would put us ahead of the curve in the stack of applications for our future job. The most important element of the MAHR program, in my opinion, is the internships. Internships give students added lines on a resume that show employers they applied their education in the “real world.” The blog post “What employers seek in public history graduates” suggests this real world experience is not as important as time in the classroom. I whole heartedly disagree. I think the author’s point is the student’s primary goal should be to learn how to do good history. While this is true, the question he was answering was “what employers seek in public history graduates.” The answer to that question is flat-out: INTERNSHIPS. He even admits “(I have noticed this has changed since then, as there is an Internship requirement in the program today).”

I have participated in many searches for archivist and librarians at Boise State, I have also served on a few hiring committees for archivists. The strongest resumes had at least one internship. An impressive internship can make up for work experience if you’re trying to enter into the field.

There is of course one very important caveat: published work can in some cases trump internships. Having your work published can show employers that you do have the educational background desired. It is strange the authors did not mention the importance of published work…

It seems to me these blog posts were more for higher ed program developers trying to design programs with limited budgets and time institutions have to provide internships for students. Both used a sheen of advice to graduate students to mask the real argument about keeping public history programs more like their traditional counterpart. They put all the responsibility on the graduate students (joining professional associations, contributing to the community, etc.) and argue for continuing program’s tradition role as classroom teacher.

I say don’t let your public history program off the hook! They might say their job is just to teach at you, it is the student’s job to find non-school based experience. Don’t believe it. Find as many ways to blur the lines between professional and educational work. I for one, don’t have time to wait until I’m done with school to start my professional work. The more times I can get a resume reader to say “was this a classroom assignment or did he do this for work?” the better.

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