Year in the Life: Emily Vigor, Pt. 12

Here is Emily’s final Year in the Life series post. If you would like to participate in the Year in the Life series, send an email to the blog editor


Here I am at my final post of the year, and I’ve been trying to think about what to write. Last month I summed up what lies ahead for me at the Environmental Design Archives, so for this last post I’d like to focus instead on several lessons I’ve learned over the course of my first year working in an archives. These are of course my own personal experiences, and while I’m sharing them here I’m not touting them as the only lessons to be learned during the first year on the job!

1. Apply for jobs that you’re passionate about, even if they seem beyond your level of professional experience. It never hurts to apply, it’s excellent practice in keeping your cover letter writing and resuming editing skills up to snuff, and you never know how your enthusiasm could work for you.

2. Make connections with as many people as you can whether you have the job you want or are still searching. This was one of the hardest things for me to do while I was still completing my degree online through San Jose State University. Reach out to people in institutions you’d love to work for and ask them if they would allow you to conduct an informational interview or meet for an informal talk over coffee. If you can attend a conference on a student budget, do it! Seek out regional groups through Facebook or Meetup, or start your own. It helps to get your face out there and meet new people = community!

3. When processing collections with a specific deadline, create a timeline of anticipated milestones. One year ago I was overwhelmed by the amount of work that lay ahead of me. Being able to break down tasks into monthly increments helped me immensely, as did adding them to my Google calendar so that I could see them in relation to other events I had on the horizon.

4. Never underestimate the power of a checklist! Feeling overwhelmed? Make a checklist of everything you need to do to feel like you’re on track. I’m still a fan of the old paper and pen method (due to the gratification of physically checking things off), but there are digital formats aplenty in the cloud.

5. I’ve learned to take up every professional development opportunity that comes my way, whether it’s a webinar, a committee to serve on, or a conference to go to. Yes, some do cost money, but there are chances to participate free of cost. They’ve helped me continue to educate myself outside of graduate school and I can apply what I learn at my job, hopefully continuing to prove my worth within my institution.

6. Be flexible. There will inevitably be some surprising bumps in the road, and you may need to change plans (and calendar deadlines).

7. Help others in any way you can. We have all been students, and understand that the leap from graduate school to professional job can feel insurmountable. Offer advice, recommend listservs to join, job boards to watch, etc. We’re all in this profession together!
I’d like to thank SNAP for giving me the opportunity to share the experience of my first year of working in archives! This blog had provided me with a lot of useful advice, and has been an excellent resource to consult over the past 12 months. I hope the “Year in the Life” posts continue on!

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About Lisa H

Lisa is the archivist/librarian at the Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center at Augustana College. She stumbled into archival work by way of the museum world and is always seeking ways to break down the silos of these professions. Lisa has worked in museums, libraries, and archives in Illinois, New York, and Alaska. While not at work, Lisa spends her free time biking, working on art projects, and putting her useless knowledge to good use on bar trivia teams. You can find her on Twitter @lisahuntsha.

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