Surviving and thriving and getting that professional archives position.

Welcome. If you're here, you're probably wondering how to get some job--maybe the perfect professional archives position or maybe just something you can use as a springboard--and you're seeking advice on how to do that. From searching for advertisements to writing a resume or cover letter to making it through the interview. And hopefully even beyond.

No guarantees, you probably already know a lot of this, but maybe some help from a lot of people who want to make sure that good candidates get good jobs. If you've got better advice? or need further explanation? Please share in the comments.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

BTP: Certified Archivist

Okay. This is in response to Daria's query about the role of the CA in the job search process on an earlier posting. For those of you who haven't been following the comments, I strongly suggest you do so. I've been getting some excellent advice out of them and they will help drive some of the future postings. So not only read, add to the discussion please!

Heads-up, I really, really don't like to talk about the CA. I have the CA credential and will be reupping by petition this year (I probably should have sent that off before I wrote this paragraph). I have many friends (or did until I wrote this) who are strong proponents of the CA. I'm not such a proponent, and no, I'm not going to tell you why. But since I know mine is an unpopular viewpoint, I feel it's only fair to you to let you know it up front. There you go. Wow. Is that the longest caveat I've written yet? Well, except the introduction posting.

Well, now that I've said all that, what's my take on Daria's question? I've read some of what the Academy of Certified Archivists says about the value of the credential and their website contains a lot of information along those lines. Go look at it--it's interesting. I've heard lots of testimonials as to the value of the credential (some of which are on the site). Some institutions require it. So in that sense, it may be worthwhile because some of the jobs you might be interested in applying for may have it as a requirement and if you don't have it, you can't even apply. Do you want to cut those positions out of your search up front? Can you afford to cut those positions out of your search up front?

What I haven't seen is an empirical study as to the value of the CA in terms of your hireability and/or a resultant increase in wage potential. I figured that if such a study existed, it would be on or linked through the ACA site and I only spent about 10 minutes today skimming over possible options and didn't see it. (If such a study exists, please share where we can all see it?) But let me make very clear that I am NOT saying that the hypothesis CA=Hires+$ is wrong. It could well be that the CA will not only increase your likelihood of getting a job, that it will also improve your earnings potential. I'm not saying it does, I'm not saying it doesn't. I don't know.

Studying for the CA will take some time--the process of the CA, studying aside, takes some time. I think it was May/June (application) to Sept/Oct (notification) when I did it and there's no way to shorten that time frame. Paying for the exam, perhaps getting to an exam location, and the certification costs will take some money. Is it worth it to you? What I would suggest is that if you find getting the CA is burdensome for you, then you need to do a cost/benefit analysis as it applies to your search specifically. Go look through the postings of the A&A listserv (since so many of us advertise jobs there as you'll see in Monday's posting) for whatever period of time you think would be helpful, and look at the ads for institutions or jobs that you would want if they came open now. Figure out what the cut-off would be (10%, 20%, 30%, 50%, ?% requiring the CA) for you to decide the CA would be something that would assist you in your search. You may very well discover that it's worth it for you.

Again, I don't know of any circumstances under which having the CA would hamper you in getting a job unless you were applying for something that was not a professional position with an institution and interviewers who knew nothing about archives as a profession. Then this might take you out of the pool as overqualified (and in that case I'd just advise leaving it off your resume, just like you might fail to include your graduate degree though leaving off an educational credential may result in a time gap that has to be explained lest somebody assume you were serving time). Are you likely to be looking at those types of jobs? Possibly and I totally understand it since I've been there, done that too. Got the "you can get a degree in this?" query from the interviewer for that job that paid $2/hr over minimum. But the job was the right one for me at the time although maybe not the best power source for my career trajectory.

That last bit is mostly unhelpful, I realize. Let me get back on the track of seeking a professional archives position, which is what this blog is supposed to be about. I'm hoping that my failure to provide a resounding "Yes! Get the CA" is still a fairly even-handed treatment of the subject. I know that at best this is coming across as damned with faint praise for CA advocates. And even knowing I could be setting myself up for a fair bit of unhappiness, I'll remind you that the comments option is open here and the reason I set up the blog that way is because I'm well aware that I am not a spokesman for the majority of the profession on any topic covered here. So was the CA worth it for you in your job search? Share. Found--or done yourself--a study on the value of the CA in the job market? Let's hear the results. Oh, and I'm also willing to give equal time. Are you a recruiter who requires or prefers it of applicants? Send me an email and I'll be glad to give you a BTP posting on what it does for your institution and for your applicants sometime in the next week (first email gets first shot at the posting so make it quick).

And Monday, we'll take a look at where to find the job adverts. Something I'm much more comfortable with discussing. And by the way, where my survey respondents have indeed mentioned the CA, I will tell you along the way.


  1. I've found the CA useful and am glad I have it, but not so extraordinary that I would ford streams or go in debt to get it. In my current position, it was a preferred qualification, so I'm thinking it gave a bonus point or two in the scoring--and who knows, maybe that one point was the difference in getting the job (then again, probably not). I've continued the practice as I hire--CA gets you bonus points, but not having it doesn't hurt you. I've also used my recertification as a talking point in a pre-tenure evaluation. It was quite useful in pointing to the profession's evaluation of my activities as good enough to be recertified, since the committee looking at my pre-tenure review had absolutely no idea what I did and was inclined to think whatever it was wasn't faculty-worthy. So, definitely helpful, but a lack of a CA isn't likely to be hurtful (I think I ended up with as much faint praise as you, Arlene!).

  2. You offered the comment of leaving off a graduate degree from your resume in a fairly unproblematic way. Understandable, in that this wasn't the point of your post.

    As a resource for people who may be wrestling with the pros and cons of resume slight-of-hand (or outright deception, depending on your pt of view), I recommend the WRK4US listserv. It's for folks with advanced degrees who are working outside of academia. They routinely give a thorough treatment to this decision, and it may be helpful to readers here.

  3. Thanks Joy. Yes, please understand I'm not advising lying in your application materials. Generally I think you put down whatever archival credentials you have if you're applying for an archives-related job, professional or otherwise. If you're applying outside archives, I'm really trying not to address that here as Joy noted. Have fun with that listserv.