Career Reflections

The year 2012 has been a big one for me, career-wise.

If I look back on the past 6 years, there have been lots of “big” accomplishments: starting/finishing grad school (the first time – MA); getting married (“woohoo!”); getting my first full time job (“yippee!”); adjusting to my first full time job (slightly less “yippee!”); realizing that working full time is actually easier than working 40 hours a week at multiple part-time jobs while going to grad school full time (“yippee!” again); starting/finishing grad school (a second time – MLIS) while working full time (because I am a crazy person); and on top of all that, tearing our house apart and putting it back together (now with 100% more awesomeness) – basement, kitchen, family room, roof, master bedroom (again, because I am a crazy person – incidentally, I watched that Tom Hanks movie The Money Pit in the midst of all this and laughed maniacally throught he whole thing because now I truly appreciate it).

So, yeah…I’ve been party to “big things” for a number of years now. I’m not really a “go to work, come home, do only the things that must be done, and let the rest of my life pass me by” kind of person. I like to feel like I’m always “getting somewhere.” So maybe that’s why I constantly find myself in the midst of “big things.” I really don’t know.

But back to 2012: The Year of A Little Less Home Destruction and Homework.

Here, in brief (don’t worry – you know I’ll expound in a minute), is a list of my shiny gold resume-worthy accomplishments for 2012:

  • I was invited to run for and was subsequently elected (in May) to the Society of Ohio Archivists Council for 2012-2014.
  • In August, I sat for the Academy of Certified Archivists examination, and a few weeks later, I found out that I had passed with flying colors.
  • Also in August, I was offered (and accepted) the Chairmanship of the Miami Valley Archives Roundtable.
  • In July-September, I applied for, interviewed for (both on the phone and in person), and was offered the position of Archivist for Digital Initiatives & Outreach at Wright State University Special Collections & Archives.
  • I also spoke on several occasions (3 or 4, if I recall correctly) to the Public History students at Wright State—something I consider quite an honor, really, since just a few short years ago, I was sitting in those very seats!

In some ways, I feel like this Year of Big Career Stuff just kind of fell in my lap. I mean, I didn’t wake up one morning in January and say, I declare this the year that I add tons of stuff to my resume.

I think the only one of those things on the list that I had total control over was signing up for, studying for, and taking the CA exam.

I obviously, I don’t have any control over whether I am invited to be on SOA Council, lead an organization, or be a guest speaker. Nor can I control when and where archives jobs happen to open up. (Boy, if I could, I know some of my friends would have some requests!)

On the other hand, I guess in some ways I do have some control over those other things. Not whether I was invited to run for Council or be Chair or to speak to the students, but WHY I was invited to those things. And again, not the fact that there WAS an opening at the WSU Archives, but WHY they chose me.

I suppose I was chosen for all of those things…because I must be doing something good. (Cue that song from The Sound of Music.) And that’s something I do have a measure of control over—what I do and how I do it. Obviously, if we’re talking about a professional position, there’s only going to be a a certain amount of leeway in your job duties, based on what’s needed/required from your position. But there’s always going to be a way to make yourself shine—in your job or your education or your “extracurriculars.” (Can’t do it at work? Maybe you can do it on an “unofficial” basis [*cough*thisblog*cough*] or volunteer somewhere that needs a skill you want to hone for your resume.)

But whatever you’re doing, assuming you have the ability needed for the task, you have total control over how well you do it. Some people have a tendency to do the minimum required. Perhaps because they are just lazy, are happy where they are career-wise and maybe hard work isn’t properly rewarded anyway, or just don’t realize that it’s going to matter to a potential future employer.

In my case, it just seems to be in my nature to not half-ass things. I just have this tendency to work hard and want things done right. (I realize I sound like a pompous asshole right now. Forewarning, it’s probably only going to get worse in the next few sentences.) It’s always been this way. In grade school, I remember getting a “C” on a minor homework paper once, and I cried. I’ve had college professors tell me that they would put my paper on top, grade it first, and use it as a sort of yardstick for the others. (I’m not joking.) I think sometimes I do a lot more work than I need to, but I like feeling satisfied with myself that I’ve done a good job and that I’ve done my best. And if sometimes that happens to have resulted in more work than what was strictly required, then so be it.

But getting back to my reflections on my career and the “big stuff of 2012” (and veering away from sounding like an arrogant SOB, which I swear wasn’t my intention but was probably a result nonetheless), what I’m trying to say is: I firmly believe that hard work and awesomeness is rewarded.

Sometimes it is its own reward. (I know–gag, how after-school-special–but sometimes it’s true.) When you know you’ve done a good job or done something awesome, you just feel good inside.

Sometimes the rewards are in the form of being recognized by your professional peers as someone who would make a good SOA Council member, MVAR Chair, or guest speaker…

Sometimes you might get rewarded by finding a full-time job in your field (and in your town!) right out of grad school, that you’re pretty sure has something to do with that second job in grad school that you couldn’t pass up applying for and actually got, so you worked your ass off at 2 jobs and school…

And sometimes, if you’re really lucky, the rewards come when you see a job posting that sounds perfect for you (even people I barely knew where telling me so)…in your town…at your alma mater, a place that already feels like “home” and where you already know the archives team is amazing…and after 3 months of stressing over the resume, cover letter, phone interview, all-day in-person interview, and then just waiting for the phone to ring again……you’ll find out that the Search Committee (some of whom were your former professors!) apparnetly agreed that you would be a good fit for the job…and when the Library Director calls to offer you the job, maybe you’ll even startle him a little bit with your excitment when you say, “Yes!…Yes, yes, yes!”

Yes, indeed, I was so excited to be offered that position at WSU last month. I’m excited about the job. I was excited when I read the posting. Here’s the job description:

Promote Special Collections and Archives’ resources by expanding online presence through a variety of digital initiatives, including social media, website content enhancement, and development and management of departmental digitization projects. Manage organization and preservation of Archives’ electronic (born digital) collections. Represent Special Collections and Archives on the University Libraries’ web team.

Actually, I get excited about a lot of things in my work. And I think it shows. And I like to think maybe that is part of why things keep coming my way, career-wise. I mean, sure, sometimes I think, “My God, I’m so lucky,” when, at the same time, I know I’ve worked hard, do my best, and show enthusiasm, as well as having experience in a lot of different areas of the archives field.

But when you do something you like and that you’re (apparently) good at, it’s easy. It feels a lot less like “work” and a lot more like getting paid to do something you already consider kickass.

So I’ll leave you with this little blurb from an article I read in June [Jack and Suzy Welch, “Dear Summer Intern: This is an Audition for Your Future,” Reuters blog, 14 June 2012] that I’ve had in the back of my mind for months but never could think of a good wrapper for writing about it:

The pastor and author Terry A. Smith makes the case that people are happiest when they are working in their “Area of Destiny” – that gorgeous piece of emotional and intellectual real estate that exists at the intersection of what you’re uniquely good at and what deeply interests and excites you.

Thanks to nearly 30 years of working hard (even when I didn’t always realize it), always trying to do my best, and probably a certain amount of pure dumb luck, I’ve been able to do fulfilling work at a variety of locations but always in my “Area of Destiny.”

Starting in November, that location will be Wright State University Special Collections & Archives.

I get to work in my Area of Destiny, and I sincerely hope the rest of you are lucky enough to be able to do the same.

3 responses to “Career Reflections

  1. Congratulations Lisa! We are very proud of you. There is something to be said for hard work and I am always happy when someone is rewarded for it.
    I always enjoy your blogs.

  2. Pingback: Remember me | Glancing Backwards

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