‘We’re all in this together, once we know, that we are, we’re all stars, and we see that’.
You’ll be glad that this is not an audio post, as you really don’t want to hear me sing this famous line from High School Musical! It’s an upbeat tune, that is full of hope about the future, based on the idea of team work and mutual support.
‘We’re all in this together’ might be a great (if idealistic) anthem on how to get through secondary school, but it’s also a very true comment when it comes to historians.
The single most important piece of advice that you can give any budding historian is to network relentlessly. Whether it is emailing a historian whose work is vital to your dissertation or thesis, meeting people at conferences, or attending lectures given by guest speakers, networking is the fastest way to ensure that people know your name, and appreciate your ability to have a positive impact.
There is a need for a bit of common sense here – if you are emailing historians with a host questions that you want answered to improve your essay, then you will obviously get a pretty cold reception. You also have to bear in mind that not every historian is going to be keen on helping out every person who emails. Sometimes you do get slightly disinterested responses back from people, or even no response at all. When this happens, there is obviously no choice but to accept it. If you don’t take the opportunities though, you significantly hamper the chances of people realising the great work that you are doing.
Below are a few tips to any historian who is new to the business and looking to get ahead:
· Try to get a quality piece of work published – refine a dissertation, or other semi-lengthy piece of work, and send it to a journal. If you are unsuccessful, send it to another one, after working on their feedback. Don’t send it to multiple journals at once thought – it’s frowned upon!
· Get some experience mentoring undergraduates – if you can spare the time, create some kind of project mentoring a team of undergraduates researching an area that you specialise in.
· Try to have visible public impact with your work – this could include giving talks to members of the public, using twitter or Youtube, or other online media
· Go to conferences when you can, and try to present a paper periodically – there is no better way to get noticed that to have people discussing your research with you
· Meet as many people as you can, and introduce yourself – only by talking to people will you become aware of the opportunities that are out
· Join historical associations relevant to your subject area, and make use of any online forums that exist.
One last piece of advice – never sell yourself short. Exploit the potential of what you do to the full. Never forget: you are a potential star in the making.
The only person who can stop you is yourself!