In my current position, I oversee the day-to-day operations of the Berklee Archives, which documents the history and activities of Berklee College of Music (est. 1945) and Boston Conservatory (est. 1867), with additional special collections focusing on popular music and the performing arts. My responsibilities include fielding and managing reference requests and special projects, contributing to the ongoing maintenance and development of our nascent institutional repository, project managing our current GRAMMY grant project, working with departments and donors to develop deeds of gift or transfer agreements, social media, and supervising one full-time professional.
- Feelings of closure on the job will be rare. Cherish those moments and celebrate your successes. Document them (no joke: I now keep a dedicated email folder). Revisit them.
- Expertise takes time. Be patient with yourself. Don’t be afraid to say “it depends” and to own it. Don’t be afraid to say “let me do a little research and get back to you.” The sheer breadth of queries you will face can feel overwhelming at first, but it gets better. I promise.
- Recognize that you will need to be comfortable with (or at least tolerant of) ambiguity and change to a degree that may feel untenable at times. No two days will be alike. Very little will be under your direct control. Aim for progress, not perfection.
- Be prepared to listen. A lot. And to compromise. A lot. And to explain. A lot. All three (but especially that first one) will get you far. Trust me.
- And finally, know yourself and whether this is the right kind of environment for you (in the short and/or long-term). For instance: Do you want to specialize or do you prefer being a generalist? Do you enjoy being part of a large collaborative team or do you like figuring things out for yourself?
More generally, be intentional about keeping yourself grounded, particularly within a profession that often demands transience of its young professionals or those seeking to advance.
- Find and prioritize your professional “tribe” (whether individuals and/or organizations) and invest in them as well as mentors.
- Know your deal-breakers and boundaries. Both on the job market as well as on the job. Be mindful that these will likely evolve and change, but keep them ever-present.
And finally, pace yourself: your career is a marathon and not a sprint. Don’t let the necessary periods of hustling and powering through become a way of life.
- Identify areas for growth and/or activities that nourish you and work to ensure your extracurricular and/or professional commitments reflect your needs and wants (to the extent possible, obviously). Stretch yourself, but take care of yourself.
- It may feel foreign at first, but don’t be afraid to say no to optional requests that don’t fit into the above categories, particularly as you gain more experience. The striving, getting-your-foot-in-the-door, period is the means and not the end.