It’s a big world out there…let’s go for it!

Post for 3/30/15
I often hear that there are few federal jobs in our field. While it’s true many are higher-graded jobs, if you are willing to relocate for a bit, opportunities exist! My experience with the feds was that once you were in the door, and proved yourself a hard worker, many people work to help your career along. One of my regrets was that I never did work in D.C. As Dr. Madsen-Brooks noted, what an opportunity to work at the Smithsonian as a museum tech, or even for a summer at a national park!

Versatilephd – neat site! I love the community aspects of this –vesatilephd group opportunities for discussion and connection Hoping Dr Madsen-Broosk talks more abut this resource and how it has helped her.

The field of history
Out most recent experience at Boise State with the history department’s fate is a great example of a failure to understand the depth and breadth of history. As can be seen by the AHA Careers site, professional careers are as diverse, complex, and hopefully – rewarding – as any person could ever want. What I can’t help but think is we need to step up more to “defend” the relevance of history. If we buy into myths that there are not opportunities, or that history is narrow in scope, the demise of this amazing field is sure to occur. The beauty of public history is its flexibility, and applicability, to everyday people in the “real world.” It gets us in the public, in the classroom, and in communities – not just within a small academic scope. That, I believe is where our greatest impact can be made.

Personal Histories:
Wow! I loved this APH “The Life Story People” site! Does anyone want to do something like that here with me? I had no idea that there was an organization of people who work to tell life stories. I love oral history, and have enjoyed the honor of interviewing Basque people. Preserving the stories of others is one way to help preserve the historic record. This made me get really excited to try something like this in a more dedicated way. I recently went to Portland Oregon for a day-long documentary film I am working on about a program I help with in Boise that gets kids outside and watching birds. The filmmaker and I were talking about wanting to do oral histories in Boise, so I will share this with him as well. One thing we asked about, which is a huge issue for oral history is the state of technology and the preservation of film records. Digital technology is a double-edged sword, and he was saying it is the most troublesome issue for him today. He is absolutely high-tech as most film people are, and incredibly creative…his points about preserving digital images are good:
– You are only as current as the most recent software (or hardware) update.
– If you fall behind, there is often no way to preserve the record (consider computer disk floppies)
– If someone can not access your files, they are “lost”
– It seems once something is digitized it can often be forgotten due to intangible record storage. Think about back-up hard copy storage.
– Sharing visuals is one way of perpetuating stories and sharing the power of memory – if access is limited to a select few, is this really accomplishing that?

Consulting as a Profession
I know Barbara and Elizabeth, and they have worked darned hard to get where they are today! Their business has had its ups and owns, ins and outs, but they are rock-steady professionals. I appreciated their two tips: try to get some federal/state experience and learn about business before attempting to strike out on your own. I took some courses at the Small Business Association Women’s Small Business program, and the tips such as writing a business plan were really good. There is help for women especially, but it’s hard to wrangle through the federal red tape for some of it. Meeting small business criteria can also be difficult. Partnerships are good ways to enter into consulting, but they can also be very difficult if you have divergent work habits, perspectives, or methods of accomplishing goals. I do a little freelance business, and my biggest issue is underestimating the time it takes to do something very well. Oh, and saying “yes,” when I should say….”let me think about it,” then really do take the time to think about it and if it is worth your energy to do 120% well. Consulting is hard work, but it can be gratifying and very creative. I have enjoyed trying consulting and want to do more because I have skills in several areas, like graphic design and interpretive signage, and it’s hard to find people who can write and design. They are my two loves. Carving out a niche to do that takes time and flexibility. I am forever grateful for the experiences I had in a government agency because it taught me a lot about organizations and how individuals work in teams to accomplish great things.

Great food for thought! I appreciated the perspectives about training, and business, especially. Barbara and Elizabeth also mentioned the need for business training of some sort. I don’t know the local Stevens firm, but they seem like they ahev built a nice business, too. One thing for sure, an independent consultant must be organized and disciplined, and must also have good “people skills” to be able to communicate vision. I learned most recently that some people though not intentionally, may take advantage of your skills and/or underestimate the time and talent you may have to accomplish their project. My solution: a contract. It spells out the scope of work, expectations, and rough cost estimates. Specialized skills can may or break a professional project – that’s sometimes hard to sell. BUT! Contracting is often, as the article says, a good way for institutions to accomplish their goals and stay within tight budgets, without having to hire an employee and pay overhead and wages. It may be worth trying to pick up a few little projects to see if you like this.

Graduates and Careers
Good advice! Join associations! Learning from others is so great, and the networking is very helpful, even if it’s uncomfortable at first. I am thrilled to have joined NCPH…
I also printed out their 8 tips and hung them right y my computer where I can read them very day to remind me of my intentions in public history.

2 thoughts on “It’s a big world out there…let’s go for it!”

  1. I like your comment that, “If we buy into myths that there are not opportunities, or that history is narrow in scope, the demise of this amazing field is sure to occur.” You’re right! It is up to the current and up-and-coming historians to show how very relevant history is to everyone.

  2. It is so true! Really, when we were undergrads, how many career opportunities in history were presented besides being a high school history teacher? ( That is, if you also can coach football).

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