At first glance the readings for this week seemed rather limited in scope. Although I appreciate that most people go into public history in order to work in museums or archives or in a related field, the training public historians receive can be applied to so many different fields. Knowing that I do no plan on taking the conventional route, I tried to approach this week’s reading with an open mind. I also decided to tackle the list of hyperlinks backwards, just to mix things up a bit.
Out of all of the links, I ended up spending the most time reading the forums on Versatile Ph. D. While I have certainly enjoyed my time in school, I have always known that I am not interested in working in academia. For that reason it was encouraging to see a site that promotes non-academic career paths. I appreciated that they offered realistic advice for young professionals who are trying to decide what to do after graduate school. I also appreciated that they acknowledged that the job market is less than ideal. While it is fine to list statistics (such as those found on the BLS links) to highlight positive growth in the field or to try to make a dismal job market seem better than it is, we all have to be realistic. And I am not trying to sound pessimistic about the situation. On the contrary, I think having insight into the experiences of people who are in similar situations as me makes the prospects of looking for work and building a career more manageable. I know what I am up against. I can learn from the mistakes other have made. It is also nice knowing that if I make mistakes along the way or face unforeseen challenges that I can rely on the advice and support of such a large online community of people (who, by the way practice polite, professional, and engaging discourse!) Plus, having this type of knowledge is much more comforting that reading statistics saying that the “job outlook for historians from 2010-2020 is expected to grow by 18% (about as fast as average)” and that they hope to add 700 new positions in the next seven years. These numbers tell me nothing about my chances of landing a career where I will be able to use my skills and knowledge as a historian.
After realizing that I do not want to be some number used by statisticians to build a façade of false optimism, I read the blog by Bob Beatty “What Employers Seek in Public History Graduates (Part 1): An online discussion in preparation for NCPH 2013.” What I ultimately took away from this article seems to be the take-away message of the semester. History is about people and relationships. I found the mention of the importance of collaboration within the field of public history very intriguing. I know that people in all fields are pushing for us to “work across the aisle” and seek solidarity. And I do agree that this is a necessary and in many instances rewarding part of life. But with any venture (even the solitary work encouraged within academia) you have to be smart about it. Protect yourself, your ideas, and your work. This is a habit that needs to start in college, and at the very least in graduate school! If legal agreements were required of all undergraduate/graduate group projects it would make for more streamlined collaboration later on in life. In essence these legal protections (copyright agreements, etc.) would become part of the assumed etiquette of collaboration.