This particular Open Office Hour, hosted by the Digital Scholarship Group, was all about how to market yourself as a digital historian in the current job market. I think it would have been significantly more helpful for me if I was not still struggling to figure out what I want to do when I graduate, which threw any more practical questions I could have asked were out the window.
It was valuable to hear from people who stood where I am now, however. The two presenters, Caroline Klibanoff and Jim McGrath, have both gone on to work in the field. Jim McGrath is Postdoctoral Fellow at Brown in Digital Public Humanities. For him, digital humanities opened up an entire world, one that he is continuing to pursue. He talked about how that transition had worked for him, and emphasized the importance of being able to give an “elevator pitch” kind of explanation of who you are and what you bring to the table. Being able to quickly and concisely give an explanation like that helps cement you in the interviewer’s mind, and any advantage you can leverage is a very good thing, especially in this job market.
Caroline Klibanoff works at the MIT museum in a much more traditional public history role. As the Exhibitions Project Manager at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Museum, her work is significantly less oriented towards digital history projects. However, she still found that her knowledge of digital humanities was incredibly useful when interviewing. Having the skills and tools to do digital humanities well helped her land interviews and then gave her a strong basis for her to talk about her other skills as well and helped set her apart in the interviewer’s mind.
One of the really helpful pieces of advice they gave was to go to as many interviews as possible. Caroline in particular said that going to every interview helped make her more comfortable speaking about herself and her skills. She went to a lot of interviews before she received any offers and believes strongly that by relaxing and just practicing in as many different places as possible helped make her interviews natural, rather than tense and stilted. All the studying and preparation in the world cannot make up for the comfort that comes when you are truly practiced at something.
Another valuable thing they both emphasized was going to conferences whenever possible. Meeting people in person and connecting with them is the single best way to get jobs. Connections can help, not only because they may know of openings that you would be well suited for, but also because in a small field like public history where everyone knows everyone, being a known quantity is incredibly helpful.
Overall, there was less information specifically about getting a job in the digital humanities than I was expecting, but it was a valuable talk about how to look for a get a job in public history.