Being a new archival professional is terrifying. You are scared of stepping on toes, of being viewed as competition, of making a fool of yourself. Often this means that we hesitate to step out of our comfort zones.
Unless of course, you make a pact with a colleague…
When I entered the profession in 2013, it took welcoming and encouraging colleagues to convince me to submit my first conference abstract, publish my first blog post and attend my first professional association meeting.
Once I did these things however, I realised that not only was I welcome to do so, the established professionals asked me how they could get more new professionals to get involved. In every archival association meeting I’ve attended, the question has been asked “Where are our new professionals and how can we better engage with them?”
It became clear that we new professionals have two things which are sought after in every level of our associations and workplaces:
- We have enthusiasm, and more importantly;
- We have time.
On the heels of this realisation, my colleague Nicola Laurent and myself made a pact at the beginning of 2016 to put our hands up for every opportunity which came our way, no matter how under-qualified we felt.
Without this conscious commitment to stick our necks out, I don’t think that we could have achieved half of the things we did in 2016.
I started the year as a research assistant and ended it as a project manager, a reviews editor, the coordinator of the Information Technologies Indigenous Communities Symposium, the recipient of an international bursary and the author of a minor thesis and journal article.
2016 was a wild ride, and whilst it sucked on a global scale, it won’t be easily surpassed on a personal/professional level. I encourage any new professionals out there to make the same pact. Chuck your hand up, even if the only thing you feel you can offer is your time. You have no idea how welcome your contribution is and what doors it will open along the way.
When Annelie suggested this pact, I thought ‘how many opportunities could come my way?’ By the end of the year friends were training me how to say no, because I literally did not have the time to do more. If you had told me a year ago everything I have since achieved, I would have laughed and said I don’t think you’ve got the right person.
My year started with a mentoring opportunity to meet David Fricker, Director-General of National Archives of Australia and President of the International Council on Archives (ICA), through the Australian Society of Archivists (ASA). I was nervous, but I had made the pact so I went for it. I asked colleagues (and Google) the types of questions people should ask of a mentor, I flew to Canberra with my notes, and I came home with the message to ‘change the world’ and with so much inspiration for the year ahead.
Much the same as Annelie, I started the year having done a lot less – I was a Project Archivist, the Communications Officer for the ASA Victorian Branch and I had just submitted a conference abstract after a lot of encouragement and help. I ended the year, as a higher paid Project Archivist, a Councillor for the ASA, Secretary of the VIC branch, a recipient of ICA’s New Professional bursary (and therefore a member of the ICA’s New Professional Programme) and helping to organise patriarchive.com. I now have 4 conference presentations (including two at an international congress), a poster presentation at a conference and multiple talks for my work under my belt. I’m also now on YouTube thanks to one of my conference presentations and on the ICA’s homepage promoting the bursary for 2017 and I have an incredible network of new and experienced professionals who help, encourage, mentor and support each other so we all achieve our best.
I had so many amazing moments in 2016, I learnt and continue to learn so much, I met some incredible people, made great friends, and I’m sure that the whirlwind of amazing is definitely going to continue. But don’t think it will all be easy, sometimes you will wonder why you said yes or what you have signed up for, or if you can really manage it, but in the end it will all work out. Looking forward, I’ve already applied for an international conference for 2017, and I’m in the process of finishing my first conference paper and journal article and I will soon be launching a blog on advocacy and outreach (two things that I have found at every turn on my journey so far).
So believe in yourself, smile, and I hope that from this blog post you can see that you have value as a new professional within the archival profession and that you are wanted. Without the encouragement of Annelie and our pact, I know that I wouldn’t have gone for half the opportunities and done half the things I have, despite my supportive workplace. So if you need someone to give you the confidence to say yes, and to get involved, or throw your hat in the ring then find us on twitter and I’m sure we can help 🙂
Where to start:
- Get in touch with your professional association, whether it’s local (Australian Society of Archivists) or international (International Council on Archives)
- Remember that it’s not about what the association can offer you, it’s about what you can do for the association which also benefits yourself, ie. volunteer to write content for their social media accounts – This will help you to meet other professionals and develop an employable skill, whilst being of benefit to your association.
- Check out call for papers for conferences
- Submitting abstracts to conferences is an invaluable step toward developing your networks and career.
- If you need help, here is a tip sheet that Nicola, Annelie and Mike Jones developed for anyone wanting to submit for the 2017 Australian Society of Archivists conference.
- If you can’t afford to go to a conference, get in touch with the conference organisers and ask whether you can attend the conference for free in exchange for volunteering as a helper.
- Get writing
- Do you have blogs in your region that are dedicated to archives? Why not write a guest blog post? Write something for your professional association’s newsletter. I know that the ICA New Professionals welcome submissions to their newsletters.
- If you would like to do a research project one day, have a look at Annelie’s post about conducting archival research.
- Apply for bursaries
- Apply for bursaries such as the ICA New Professional bursary (hurry as applications are closing soon).
- Keep an eye out
- Sign up for the newsletters and listservs of professional associations in order to keep abreast of upcoming opportunities. Once you know where to look, and start developing your networks, you will find that there is no limit to the opportunities open to you.