Is it Performance Anxiety or are you trying to find a job as a Historian?

In reviewing all of the materials presented for this week I felt compelled to quote President George W. Bush’s comments following the inaugural speech of the current occupant of the White House, “That was some weird shit.” (Please excuse the profanity.)

I hate to throw that quote in, but it kind of captures my thoughts after exploring all of the links and articles. I had no idea just how many options and opportunities there are for historians. Granted, both Tyler Rudd Putman’s article Crafting a New Historian on the Chronicle of Higher Education site and the AHA story Historians as Consultants and Contractors point out all of the obstacles and challenges which await newly minted historians. In this vein, the comments by former National Council of Public History President Robert Weyeneth, found on their web site, are probably the most disheartening. The abbreviated summary goes like this, “There are now too many public history programs,…producing record numbers of new MAs, …who can’t find jobs,…in part because they are poorly trained…[or because]…the stodgy curricula haven’t kept up with the realities of the twenty-first-century economy and the digital revolution.” (http://ncph.org/what-is-public-history/weyeneth-essay/)

Continuing my exploration I was startled by a comment Bob Beatty in his blog about, What employers seek in public history graduates Part 1, “One reason I pulled this session together is that more than anything, I don’t believe it’s the job of history departments to train museum professionals.” Why am I here then? He goes on to make a case that universities should focus on training historians and museums and professional organizations can train history graduates with the “technical skills of museum work.”

Part 2 of What employers seek in public history graduates, written by Scott Stroh provides a list of concrete skills that are useful for history professionals, which I won’t repeat here. In the paragraph that follows that list, he shares what he looks for when he hires someone. It should come as no surprise that virtually every employer looks for the same qualities in their new employees. I can’t say I was impressed by this particular exchange.Deer in the Headlight

All of this left me with both rose-colored glasses and the “deer in the headlights” look. I have over fifty years of experience looking for jobs and I am generally optimistic that I will find something “worth” doing in the field of history.

 

I’ll end with a fun link I discovered while exploring. It gives me hope that history and historians may not be too dry:  http://blog.historians.org/2017/04/aha-2018-annual-meeting-relocated-swamp-luxury-cruise-ship/

2 thoughts on “Is it Performance Anxiety or are you trying to find a job as a Historian?”

  1. What do you think classrooms should be teaching historians then? (I was also perplexed by this). I am glad you felt optimistic about the job market as well!

    1. My take away is that he (Beatty) thinks educational institutions should focus on teaching history and leave the “practicals” to the employers. I once heard a quote attributed to Velma Morrison. She said, “When it comes to hiring, I’d rather hire a philosophy major than an MBA. I can teach anyone how to do the job, but the philosophy major has learned how to think.” I’m not sure if that makes sense, but I think that is the point Beatty is trying to make.

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