Last Wednesday I attended my second ARA London Region AGM/meeting, and it was just as enjoyable as the one I attended last year (which you can read about here). This year featured a panel of archive and conservation professionals from a range of workplaces who took questions from the room. This blog post features a summary of the topics.
Advice for students:
- Get on board with digital. It’s happening NOW, and you WILL need it. (Absolutely vital piece of advice).
- Go to the gym, archive work involves lots of manual labour. (This I can absolutely testify to. Anyone who has spent a whole day working on a delivery of thousands of new archive boxes, or who works with heavy collections knows that upper body strength is essential).
- Take risks and go for things when you’re a student whilst you have the time; join professional interest groups, volunteer at different places etc.
- Take notice of what people are doing in your archival organisation – how can you help? Being proactive gets you noticed and gets your networking.
- Make the most of the archive community – they are friendly! The archive community are incredibly helpful and generous with their time: talk to people, follow other archivists on Twitter to see what other people are doing, ask questions, join the Archives & Records Association and its Section for New Professionals.
- Don’t worry about your MA grades – but make sure you pass! (I cannot stress this enough. Employers will not ask you what grade you got on your coursework, or whether you passed your MA with a pass, merit or distinction!)
- Don’t forget your people skills! If you are not confident, you can teach yourself to be approachable. Being an archivist is not one of those jobs where you can hide yourself away from people.
- It’s OK not to know something. No-one enters the profession knowing everything; experience and asking questions helps. There is no such thing as a silly question. (I would argue that a silly question is a question that is never asked!)
- Management skills are absolutely vital. (Again, yes, I completely agree. UCL’s Record-Keeping Professional module is one of the most helpful modules I have taken so far).
- You can learn to be good at job applications and interview; practice job interviews will help you get into the right mindset.
Does the archives MA count?
- Employers are not all about the MA, and experience counts for a lot; your experience and what you have done will stand out. People with more experience may have more drive and may be easier to work with. The nature of this job is changing. Do what is right for now, and what is right for you.
Information about Records Management volunteering opportunities?
- Records management does not really lend itself to volunteering in the same way that archives do. There are some organisations that will offer internships, but these are few and far between. Some organisations may not have thought about the possibilities of volunteering, so it doesn’t hurt to ask!
Who are the most annoying people to work with?
- Local authority senior managers – they have a job to do in potentially difficult circumstances; they are not bad people, just trying to do what they can with a hard task and limited resources.
- Management at senior management level – in an organisation they may not have much knowledge or interest in the archive. Senior management listen to numbers, so talk about your collection in terms of numbers. This is not what we are used to, as we tend to have an emotional attachment to the stuff, but this is something we need to learn to be good at. Use the RAG (red, amber or green) traffic light system when communicating. It’s an easy way to highlight to senior management where things are going well or not going so well, and you can infer your own meaning into the system.