Life is funny. Navigating a career is even funnier. (Bear with me.)
The last 6-7 months has been a whirlwind of activity. So much change happened so quickly. For those interested, I refer you here. My sense of normalcy, personally and professionally, changed. During that time, I spent quite a few months away from this blog. I’ve missed it. I frequently thought about it.
What to write? What to say? What could I say…legally? I became painfully aware of the limitations I found myself in as a government employee and a pseduo-professional blogger. Like in all things, if I don’t know what to say, I said nothing and let the silence reign. I reached out to those who could answer my questions and alleviate my fears (big kudos to NixoNARA).
In the middle of all this work craziness, opportunity after opportunity found me. By that I mean, I didn’t actively go looking for it. Well, that’s sort of true….only one such opportunity (my poster session at SAA) was of my making. All the others conveniently popped up in the form of emails to my work email address.
After 2 years of online conversation via Twitter, @NixoNARA and I finally meet at the 2014 SAA Conference in Washington, D.C.
These opportunities stressed to me two things. First, the importance of remaining open to what comes your way professionally and even personally. Don’t close yourself off to new things, new experiences, and new challenges. It’s in the new that you uncover even more about yourself. To clarify, I’m not advocating taking on more then you can feasibly handle at the time. Let’s not get crazy. I say this from personal experience. During my time away, I became dangerously close to career burnout. Luckily, those around me brought it to my attention.
Second, never underestimate your value to the profession. It’s so easy to think that no one notices what you do. You’re toiling away in your own little corner of the archival profession. Guess what? You matter. And so does the work you do. When I entered the profession, I had these grand ambitions (I still do with a healthy dose of reality that I am, in fact, not Wonder Woman all the time) of all the things I hoped to accomplish such as develop and implement a successful archival outreach program. That hasn’t happened….yet. But its still on my career to do list (everyone should have one). Instead, I found myself toiling away at other projects. You know, “doing my own thing” and discovering my interests.
If you told me that eventually I would be managing my institution’s Facebook page AND I would enjoy doing it, then I would have simultaneously broke out in a flop sweat and called you a liar. (I don’t actually break out into flop sweat. More like my mouth goes painfully dry).
I contributed here and there to various projects and talked about archives and history. It’s in doing these things, people started to take notice. I can recall the first time I had a “who me?” moment. I got a notification on Twitter that I was mentioned in a tweet. As usual, I checked to see what the convo was about. Turns out, one of my archival colleagues, @DerangeDescribe, who I respect and admire, recommended a new archivist talk to me about my work with K-12 students. I was flattered. This was one of many such experiences.
Pretty soon, I had people reaching out to me to write an article, to give a talk, and to serve on committees. I’m still in shock over it. I mean, I was just doing my thing. But, that’s the rub. In whatever you do, in your career and in life, do your best. I promise you someone will take notice.