This post is part of our “Transitions” Series, which highlights the experiences of recent graduates and early career archivists. If you are an early career archivist (0-5 years in the field) who would like to participate in this series, please contact us.
Guest author: Nathalie Proulx
Reference Archivist, Carson Brierly Giffin Dance Library, University of Denver
Nathalie Proulx (far right) at the premiere of her 30-minute documentary: Rising Stars.
There are three forces that I believe are helpful in the job search: passion, persistence and selectiveness. I believe knowing what you are looking for in a career is as vital as persistence in finding a job after graduation; Finding that key interest or passion that leads you to filling out some applications while passing on others. For example, knowing you are interested in historical collections and museums rather than records management. The passion is what pushes you to continue applying. The rejection hurts at first but once you are hired for a job you would actually want and see for your future, it’s all forgotten.
My decision to become an archivist started once I entered graduate school. I chose to get a degree in Library and Information Science after working in a used bookstore the year after graduating with my Bachelors in History. I loved the organization, the sorting and handling of thousands of books. Like many, I had graduated without any ideas of how to move forward to a career other than teaching. I did not even know library sciences existed until researching graduate programs in Colorado. Once I found the program though, I knew it was my next step. Even further once I was accepted and started the on the Archives track of courses, I was certain I had found my place.
My transition from my formal education to my career differs from the traditional in that it all took place in the same Special Collections and Archives department. I graduated from the University of Denver (DU) in 2015 with my MLIS. During my education at DU, I had begun working at the Special Collections and Archives department at our library. This setting provided a constant while the transitional aspect was my position and in turn my confidence in that position. With the support of my wonderful supervisor, I obtained a temporary position within the department as Project Archivist for the Carson Brierly Giffin Dance Library, one of our collecting areas. The creation of the position was due to new funding to the collection. I was familiar with the collections, applying for jobs, and really just in the right place at the right time.
Nathalie’s dance exhibit at the University of Denver.
After obtaining this position is when my real transition took place. As a grad student, my position was at the front desk working with patrons and providing minimal processing of small collections. As project archivist (and the only employee) for one collecting area I now had more control and authority over these collections. Within that yearlong position, I was challenged but grew in my confidence and skills. I was not a dancer and in processing collections, my knowledge of the art grew every day. Through the encouragement of my supervisor, I pushed my boundaries and worked with new software creating a 30-minute documentary and assisted in creating an exhibit. It was absolutely wonderful.
One year later and that temporary position has now become a permanent position within the library. My work and confidence continues to grow with each project. I love my work and collections. I am very fortunate that my transition from graduate student to archivist was without the many variables that can occur in finding a job after graduating. I had applied for many positions and had a few interviews but eventually found the right one through luck.
Passion is the key; whether that be for the job, the environment, or the materials. Something keeps you engaged, ensuring you return day after day or filling out endless applications. Find what you love and work for it; it will pay off through luck or perseverance.