In Part 1 of this post, participants in a Northwest History Network professional development program called Who Hires Consulting Historians? talked about some of the “soft skills” that employers look for. Part 2 is an additional excerpt from the discussion. You can hear a podcast of the entire program here.
~ Morgen Young, Alder LLC
Greg Shine (Historian at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site): I would echo all that and emphasize digital media fluency. I think that is going to be the key for anyone being a successful public historian, especially consultants. So that means not only doing the research and having the skill set that was just so aptly described, but also how do you lay that out, how do you operate InDesign, can you lay out a wayside exhibit. Can you do that research, but can you also artfully present that in a way that is creative, but also meets needs?
The same goes for a report now. Reviewing documents now, especially with the federal government, is electronic and requires digital fluency. Reviewing documents in GoogleApps. You’re not marking up and handing around a physical copy, you’re doing that in the cloud. Being able to function in the cloud, being able to hold meetings in WebX or GoToMeeting, those are all standards that are pretty much expected. Some projects we’re doing, for instance, are developing mobile apps for the entire Park Service. So sometimes there are smaller projects, under $2,500, that we contract out. So, if you’re a historian who knows how to code, that’s a super added bonus. If you have video production skills and not only can you script something out, but you can film it, that’s an added bonus. Having skills in digital media is going to exponentially increase your value to organizations as we’re moving forward into this age.
Christina Robertson-Gardiner (Planner at City of Oregon City): I totally agree. A technical issue, since most of my money comes from the State Historic Preservation Office, you need to meet Secretary of the Interior standards, which is pretty easy to do. Check to make sure you have everything you need. That’s always one of the requirements to move forward. Also, I’ve found that really good sub-consultants are often on multiple proposal teams. Be it a transportation engineer who everyone loves or a consulting historian who knows a lot of information, it is very common for them to be on many teams and we’re very used to that.
We actually had a project where a consultant was chosen and we recommended that they submit their final scope of work with a sub-consultant. They were the one who did not have the expertise for the project. That often happens that you’re brought in as the ringer. If you really have the knowledge, you can sell yourself that way. I think for me, as someone who has a passion for history, there is always a time where I really appreciate when we can bring in a consulting historian, bring in that historical context. It’s not just me approving a National Register nomination.
I don’t think there has been a good job with architectural firms or other consulting teams that really sell that as a value added. That’s something you need to promote, by saying hiring me as sub-consultant can set your team apart because I bring these skills that the other team does not have. The budget is important, but if we’re just talking a little bit different and your skill set just knocks the project out of the park and really separates you, usually we’ll find the money to make it happen.
Listen to the full podcast here.