Category Archives: Employment

Preliminary Results from Mid-Career Archivists Pop-Up Survey

In April, SAA fielded a pop-up survey focused on mid-career archivists. “Mid-career” was defined as more than five years in the profession and more than 10 years until retirement. The goal of the survey was not necessarily statistical, but to collect ideas and issues for education programming and to ensure that we are considering the concerns and needs of this group in SAA’s strategic planning. Here are some preliminary results.

How long have you been working in the archives field?

There were 698 responses that broke down as follows:

5-10 years:         40.54% (283)
10-15 years:       28.80% (201)
16-20 years:       20.06% (140)
21+:                      10.60% (74)

What issues are of the greatest concern to you at this stage of your career?

The three issues at the highest level were burnout and stress; little opportunity for growth and promotion; and life balance. Although SAA may not be able to deal with these issues directly, it’s important that you can rely on your professional organization for support for your continued development, networking, and career progress.

What do you find most challenging at this stage of your career?

The answers (in priority order) were staying current, career planning, salary, workloads, networking, and internal advocacy. SAA’s education programming is there to help you with training needs. We’re already planning a webcast on salary negotiation (see this past post too) and are working on gathering other online resources on career planning and advocacy.

What do you think that SAA, as your professional organization, should do or provide to help you at this stage of your career?

Online courses: 57.48%
Courses and training: 48.59%
Annual meeting programming: 42.81%
Certificate program in leadership and/or management: 40.89%

Overall, the survey answers were both enlightening and worrying. One resource that I hope more members will consider is participating in the SAA Mentoring Program, either mentoring others or being mentored. SAA will continue to advocate for the needs of archivists and explore programming to answer some of the difficult questions raised by the survey participants, but it is also up to us to take care of each other as much as we can.

 

 

Guest Post: Becoming an Archives Consultant

At our most recent SAA Council meeting, we discussed potential changes for participating in the Directory of Archives Consultants.  In response to feedback received from their members, the Independent Archivists Section recommended that SAA reconsider the current pricing structure of the Archival Consultants Directory. The section leaders believe that reduced pricing would stimulate greater participation by section members and result in a more robust resource for those seeking a consultant.
The Council discussed the implications of these changes and ultimately directed this business decision to the staff to determine the best solution. Staff will be in contact with the Independent Archivists Section to discuss further.

However, this started me thinking about the practice of archives consulting, and how one might move into a consulting practice–whether part-time, full-time, or as a retirement job. Margot Note and Rachel Woody agreed to share about their transition experiences.

author/consultant bios

Margot Note has 20 years of experience in information work in the national and international sectors. She’s the founder and principal of Margot Note Consulting, LLC, a New York City based archives and records management consulting company. She is an author, a Certified Archivist, and a Certified Records Manager. She received her Master of Arts in History from Sarah Lawrence College, and holds a Master’s in Library and Information Science and Post-Master’s in Archives & Records Management, both from Drexel University. She is a professor in the graduate history program at Sarah Lawrence College.

Rachael Cristine Woody has 10 years of experience in archives, with expertise in creating or relaunching archival programs. She is the owner of Rachael Cristine Consulting, a firm that provides services to archives, libraries, and museums. Previously she was at the Freer|Sackler Museum of the Smithsonian Institution and the Oregon Wine History Archive at Linfield College. She is active in Northwest Archivists and the Society of American Archivists, and is an alumna of the Archives Leadership Institute, a National Historical Publications & Records Commission (NHPRC) program. She received her Master of Science in Library and Information Science from Simmons College.

  1.       Why Consulting?

Rachael Woody: As is true in many areas of the United States, archivists jobs are hard to come by in the Pacific Northwest. I have 10 years of experience in the profession which has placed me in the awkward position of no longer being a beginning-level archivist, but also not competitive enough for the few senior-level positions. There’s an unfortunate, but not uncommon phenomenon of mid-range archivist roles no longer being available. This is a huge problem for the profession as I see many of my colleagues leaving the profession entirely, or they’re left with the depressing prospect of staying in jobs they’ve grown out of. What will happen when higher-level jobs need to be filled? We’re not only losing talented professionals, we’re losing contributors to our field and institutional (individual organization and SAA) memory.

Margot Note: Becoming a consultant was coincidental. Like Rachael, I had worked for a decade as an archivist, and longer in the library field, and was considering my next steps. Two years ago, I anticipated a layoff and was job searching, but couldn’t find an employer who was the right fit. After I was laid off, I slowly realized that being an independent consultant was what I wanted to do, even though I knew it would be challenging. Now, I have a better work/life balance and can build wealth while doing work that I love. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

  1.       What surprises have you encountered?

Margot Note: The biggest surprise is the market. I first assumed that established archives would hire me. Most of my clients, however, are organizations that want to launch their archival programs. Potential clients abound, but they might not even know our profession exists or that they can hire archival consultants.

Rachael Woody: How interesting! I’ve found that to be true for me as well! While I do consult with a couple organizations that are more traditional in form, most of my client base are emerging archives and/or archives that exist in communities outside of the traditional museum, government, or school organization. These are archives that may not be able to afford a full-time/permanent archivist, but can afford a temporary expert to help provide them assessments, training, project creation and management, and expertise.

  1.       What challenges have you come up against?

Rachael Woody: I’ve spent the last year really investing in business fundamentals. While I’m an experienced and credentialed archivist, I’m was new to business basics when I started consulting. It was often hard to reconcile the uncomfortable feeling of having confidence in myself as an archivist, but having little confidence in my identity as a business woman. I have archival skills and expertise up to here *gestures to head* but only business skills to here *gestures to kneecaps*. As a result, I would sometimes sell myself short or battle with imposter syndrome.

Margot Note: Yes. My main challenges are conquering imposter syndrome and becoming comfortable with a fluctuating income. To battle imposter syndrome, I remind myself that I have the training and experience to offer my clients tremendous value and insight. As far as income, thriving in a feast or famine environment is part of the consulting experience. I supplement my income beyond project work through writing, teaching, and editing.

  1.       How does SAA support your consulting work?

Margot Note: SAA’s listing of consultants is invaluable to me. My entry has produced more potential than any other source.

Rachael Woody: Yes, I agree with Margot. I’ve found SAA’s consultant directory to be the place my clients will go to in order to find a credentialed consultant. In addition, SAA members William Villano and Michelle Ganz recently (in the last year) started the Independent Archivists Section. The group has grown quickly with 460 archivists listed as members of the Section. While it’s still young, I believe this group has great potential to support consulting archivists who are navigating consulting fundamentals, seek solopreneur support, and provide business referrals. I look forward to seeing where this Section evolves.

  1.       What do you wish your fellow archivists knew about consulting archivists?

Rachael Woody: Consulting doesn’t appear to be common for our profession and as a result, I think archivists in traditional, brick and mortar organizations have a hard time knowing how we operate or how they may engage with us. There can be misunderstandings of what my time looks like – usually people assume I have a lot of free time to come out and meet them or take on an additional volunteer task. Sometimes I do have that flexibility, but the misunderstanding seems to be that non-consultants aren’t aware of how much work goes into a business before, after, and outside of the direct client work. In addition, I’ve noticed consultants aren’t often thought of when it comes to professional programs, events, resources, or education offerings. As consultants we’re in a variety of environments and often have a depth of experiences we can draw on to help inform partnerships, panels, papers, and the profession as a whole. I’d like to see us more represented when it comes to what we can offer our colleagues and the profession, and what our colleagues and the profession can offer us. As I mentioned above, there are 460 SAA members that have joined the Independent Archivists Section – clearly there’s a solid portion of membership that identify as an independent archivist.

Margot Note: Yes, and even more specifically, I wish the field would better address and advocate for archivists that work as lone arrangers or independently. Understandably, academic archives that are reasonably funded and staffed are well-represented in our profession–in membership, in the  professional literature, and at conferences. The exciting stuff happens at the edges with community archives, family and personal archives, and institutions with burgeoning archival collections. Work beyond traditional repositories is where our sustainability as a profession lies.

Rachael Woody: Yes, exactly! SAA and regional membership outlets have clearly shifted to community archives as a priority, and yet, the consultants who have extensive exposure to community archives through their consulting work are not nearly as well-represented! Something for us to work on, for sure.

  1.       When should an organization bring in a consultant?

Margot Note: An organization hires a consultant when there is an urgency. Most people will agree that information assets are significant, but a crisis has to be eminent enough to have someone contact a professional. This pain point can be either physical,  such as building renovations or moves, or fiscal, such as sales of collections or the potential to receive grant money. Having a burning need presses the client not only to take action by hiring a consultant, but also allows the consultant to manage change within the organization successfully. Hire an archival consultant if you want to fix that pressing problem!

Rachael Woody: Yes, Margot brings up excellent points. In addition, many of the clients I work with are interested in archives, but either 1. Don’t have an archives background; and/or 2. Don’t have the time necessary to dedicate to the project. A lot of pressure is placed on my clients to meet grant, stakeholder, and/or regulatory requirements and they need a temporary person with a high-level of experience and expertise to help them successfully execute their archival projects.

Incerto Exitu Victoriae (Of Uncertain Victory), or The Successful Job Candidate’s Lament: Guest Post by Beth Myers

Tanya Zanish-Belcher: A key competency for any archivist starting out or moving up is the ability to negotiate a fair and equitable salary. Statistics show that accepting a smaller salary than you deserve can cost you thousands over the course of your career, so it is well worth investing the time to develop the skill of negotiating with a potential employer.

To that end, Beth Myers, Director of Special Collections at Smith College, agreed to write a guest post focusing on this issue. Beth and I taught a workshop on Career Planning for Archivists at the Midwest Archives Conference (MAC) Annual Meeting in Milwaukee (2016) and salary negotiation was a component of the curriculum. While we are taking a break from teaching this workshop for the year, it will be available as part of MAC’s Speakers’ Bureau (hosting fee only) in 2019: http://www.midwestarchives.org/speakers-bureau

Although there are many archivists who do not have an MLIS, the American Library Association’s Advocating for Better Salaries Toolkit (2017) provides additional information on this important topic:
http://ala-apa.org/files/2010/02/2017-ALA-APA-BETTER-SALARIES-TOOLKIT-6th-ed.pdf

The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) recently published this research on the salary negotiation patterns between men and women in academic libraries. The American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) also provides resources.

Beth Myers, Smith College

If ever there was a reason to celebrate, a successful job search is at the top of the list. For most people there is a palpable relief that so much hard work is in the rearview mirror — mulling the posting and potential ramifications of getting a new job (good, bad, and unknown), crafting and submitting the application, the waiting, the interview(s), the reference calls, the waiting. But in other ways hard work still lies ahead and few other psychological roadblocks loom as large for so many people as the salary negotiation. The negotiation period places the job seeker and organization making the offer in a nebulous sociocultural-economic space loaded with assumptions, guess work, power dynamics, and awkwardness. Like an ABD distinction for PhDs, the salary negotiation period conveys the status of incomplete (or perhaps uncertain) success—a journey not yet finished.

Not all jobs come with a period of negotiation for salary and benefits, let alone so-called perks. Some first offers are also final offers due to internal constraints that are rarely visible to the job candidate. Term positions, hourly positions, and entry-level salaries are often, but not always, fixed. Some organizations don’t negotiate as part of a unique workplace culture or, more whimsically, the habit of a particular administrator. Some organizations are more transparent in the process than others, but none that I know of completely reveal the boundaries or wiggle room or define exactly what is on offer. In the absence of specifics, most job candidates are forced to guess at the limitations of the offer:  Where is the real ceiling and where is the real floor? All the while, a psychological ripple begins for the job candidate:  How much do they like me? Need me? What if I ask for too much? The reverse of this can also be true. Hiring managers often function under institutional pressure to keep labor costs low. If too low, the best candidates may well (and rightly) be out of reach.

There are steps a candidate can take to enter the negotiation period with confidence that, with some luck, will result in a quadam victoria — certain victory (or, more likely, certain compromise). First and most important is knowing what your red line is. The red line is the package that you need in order to live the quality of life that you require. The red line is so-called because it is non-negotiable, solid, and inflexible. The red line exists so that you know well in advance what it will take to complete the negotiation and at what point you are willing to walk away regardless of how tempting the job might be.

You will know your red line because you’ve done your homework to determine the amount of income and benefits that you, and often your family, need to flourish: 1) if relocating, cost-of-living changes from housing to commuting costs, gas, electric, insurance, and similar; 2) health insurance, including dental and eye care; and 3) long-term benefits, such as retirement package and employee support for dependents of any age. That includes school tuition discounts and family leave support not otherwise determined by the federal government. There are a bevy of tools out there to help you determine the economics of your job transition. One of the more oft-cited is the living wage calculator from MIT.

There are other ways to do your research a bit closer to the profession. Some of these sources are dated now, but can be instructive: SAA’s A*CENSUS (2004), SAA Salary Survey (2015), Association of American University Women (2016), Digital Asset Management Foundation (2014/2016), and Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Handbook (2014). Newer work, especially the 2017 WArS/SAA Salary Survey: Initial Results and Analysis by Robin H. Israel and Jodi Reeves Eyre of Eyre & Israel, LLC, is also very helpful.

It is also important to gather as much unofficial information as possible. Tap your professional networks and friends and, by extension, their networks and friends. Although there is a general reluctance in U.S. culture to talk about salaries, there absolutely should not be. Ask around — public academic and government job salaries and grades are typically posted publicly; academic and corporate jobs are as often obscured. Sometimes the only way to get a sense of the salary is to ask friends or former employees at that institution. If quality of home life is a main motivator to change jobs, talk to people who live in the area. The more you know, the better prepared you will be.

Once you have done the homework, determine your red line. Remember to consider the full package on offer, not just the pre-tax salary. The employer will be thinking in terms of salary + insurance + retirement + cost of employment over time, and so should you. The retirement package in particular is often overlooked, especially by new/newer professionals, but it has the greatest long-term impact on the employee.

Do some soul searching: How much do you really want the job? No job is perfect, no institution is perfect. Even self-employment has its drawbacks. What a new position offers is potential and hope. That hope can be for advancement.  How does the job fit in the longer professional trajectory? That hope can be for a better work environment and culture. How do people get along at work? How does the institution support its workers? That hope can be for a better living environment. Is it time to leave the city for the town or vice versa? Although it would be easier to reduce a prospective job to the salary, such an approach ignores the real impact and complexity of making a professional move.

A few more suggestions to keep in mind prior to starting your salary negotiations:

  • Know that everyone wants a positive outcome.
  • Odds are that no one is trying to deceive you, but it’s good to remember that there are systems and expectations at work that will not be visible to you.
  • While it is important and reasonable to have high expectations about the offer, be prepared to compromise.
  • It is likely that your initial salary number will be high and the first offer low. Respond professionally. This is a 5K, not a sprint.

There are also practical concerns when negotiating salary. Typically negotiations will take place over the phone. You will likely be negotiating with the person who will be your supervisor, but it might be a representative from human resources or another person in the organization who is authorized to negotiate. Typically the first offer comes from the employer. Keep notes on the conversation to reflect on later. Ask clarifying questions. If you feel pressure or are uncertain, ask for a little time to think about the offer. Twenty-four hours is common, but you can ask for more time. If the offer is truly too low and below your red line, tell the employer and provide a counter offer. If you think the negotiation is not moving forward productively, you can ask to speak to someone in human resources (although responses to that request will vary by institution).

Importantly, do not forget about so-called “periphery benefits”: What kind of tech package do you need to be successful on the job? What support is guaranteed for professional development and training and professional association memberships on an annual basis? What is the organization’s approach to short-term schedule flexibility? What support will the institution offer for a trailing partner or spouse? Is there a chance for a one-time signing bonus? Ask about raises: What’s the five-year average for merit-based raises or contractually mandated raises? Are funds for continuing education for advanced degrees and certifications available? Does the institution support paid leave for research and scholarship? Does the institution offer subsidized housing? Relocation support?

No matter how high the stress or emotions involved, avoid ultimatums and framing your needs in absolutes. (This is a poor negotiation tactic in any circumstance!) Instead, frame your needs from a practical point of view. The core language of a job search is that an organization has a need / opportunity and that you are the best possible answer to that need. Throughout the negotiation, restate your commitment to the job, the specific ways in which hiring you will benefit the organization, and the unique skills and abilities you will bring—all of which translates to how you are worth the investment.  Because you are.

Finally, no deal is final until you get the offer in writing from the institution, so hold off on making any public announcements or giving notice at your current position until that all-important letter arrives. Once it does, put on the party music because it’s time to celebrate a victory for all involved.

 

Selecting an Archival Education Program: Supporting our Prospective Colleagues

I was at MARAC last week (my compliments to the Host and Program Committee members for a great conference and to SAA Vice President Kathleen Roe for an outstanding plenary speech) and between sessions spent a lot of time talking to students, new professionals and some longer tenured archivists about issues relating to archival education programs. Continue reading

Throwing the Cat Amongst the Pigeons or Where do Archivists belong? With Librarians, Historians, Both or Neither?

It’s been interesting reading the comments and ideas that have come out of the post I did on the employment situation for archivists. The comments have been thought provoking and I was glad to see that some of them were similar to ideas that SAA has been considering for a while.

Several of these ideas related to education programs. Several suggested the need for salary guidelines. Others have suggested the need for a checklist for those considering archival education programs. And a number also recommended that we need to explore accreditation of archival education programs. Continue reading

The Jobs Thing…

Special thanks to Nancy Beaumont and Kathleen Roe for their input on this post.

When I came back from Chicago after the SAA Council and Foundation Board meetings I had planned to write a brief post noting some of the highlights of both meetings. I was excited that we got our strategic plan actions finished and that we have a living document that will help guide us for the next few years.   We also reviewed six issue briefs created by the Committee on Advocacy and Public Policy that we hope to have available in May, did background work to inform SAA’s next budget and reviewed the annual reports of the sections, roundtables, committees and task forces of the Society.  The Foundation Board began discussing fund raising opportunities but also how the funds raised could support ongoing research projects and new educational programming.

But there is one issue that continues to be at the forefront for many of our members. It’s one we discussed several times during our Council meeting including spending one half day totally focused on this one issue. Before I could get unpacked and attack the massive piles on my desk, I felt it was important to share information on the topic of employment because it is of serious concern to our membership and to Council. Continue reading