Contributed by Jessica Hoffman
What a wonderful turnout we had for the DVAG/DUSAA Archives Career Panel on Thursday, May 29! It was an interesting, informative conversation about attractive job skills in the current job market, as well as advice on cover letters and networking. We had several different valuable perspectives on the panel and a wide variety of career paths and stages.
Some major takeaways from the panel include:
- “Technical” skills are important in this field, but you don’t need to know everything, as panelist Scott Zeigler pointed out. Don’t go crazy trying to learn every software or metadata standard—instead, learn which of your colleagues in the field has knowledge that you don’t posses and ask for help.
- Learn to advocate for yourself! Know your strengths and know how to talk about them.
- YES, they do read your cover letter. You wouldn’t have the same interview for every job, right? So you should not send the same cover letter for every job application. Speak directly to the job requirements and how you will fulfill them. Highlight complimentary strengths and skills. Check out http://www.opencoverletters.com, where you’ll find examples of cover letters from hired librarians and archivists.
- In the same vein, take advantage of DVAG’s Resume and Practice Interview Bureau: http://beta.dvarchivists.org/the-dvag-resume-and-practice-interview-bureau/
- No one likes “networking,” right? It’s self-serving and feels forced at times. However, you will develop relationships that will serve you later, and you may have the chance to return the favor and help others as you can.
- Above all, put yourself out there! Join your local library and/or archives organization chapters, go to meetings, get involved, put a face to your resume. If you need some experience under your belt, take a volunteer position if you can. In other words, create opportunities for yourself. You will be much more likely to get that interview and get a foot in the door if someone has met you.
- This was mentioned to me later by moderator Susan Davis—be aware of your online presence. Make sure your social media pages reflect how you want to be perceived to your colleagues.
- This last point is my own two cents. As an emerging archives professional, I have found that archivists are exceedingly friendly and willing to help. So take advantage of this. Ask for a tour of the archives, ask lots of questions, just ask! You’ll find that most professional archivists are willing to take an hour to show you around, talk about what they’re working on, and answer some questions. It’s overwhelming to think about starting a new career. However, everyone has to get started somewhere, and it usually starts with talking to someone.
The link to the panel recording is below. Apologies for the quality of the sound—the microphones weren’t picking up the panelists very well.
Heartfelt thanks to our panel: moderator, Susan Davis, and speakers, Christiana Dobrzynski Grippe, Matthew Lyons, Margery Sly, Ashley Stevens and Scott Ziegler. Thanks also to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania for hosting us (specifically Chris Damiani, Beth Twiss Houting, Vincent Fraley, and Bethany Chisholm), to the Drexel College of Computing & Informatics and Jen Lally for providing the catering!