Apologies for my late submission. I just came out of a work haze on several projects that, appropriate to this question, involved collaborating with individuals, groups, and stakeholders.
I am also contributing late because I struggled a lot with question #2. I kept asking myself why I was having so much trouble conceiving an answer or engaging in a conversation about it. As several people have already implied in their posts, the answer to question #2 seems contingent on one’s financial needs and personal obligations at various times in our lives. I can imagine we’ve all had projects on which we had to pass because they didn’t provide compensation enough to, as Nick says, pay the rent and bills. As Nancy and others indicate, the demands of our personal and familial lives also shape these decisions. I’ll also reiterate and add to the observations of those who brought up the complex issue of unpaid labor: beyond financial hardship, what are the professional costs of taking low-paid or unpaid positions on promising projects? Can such a decision actually be perceived as a step back in one’s career?
But whether here on the blog or in person in April, I’d also like to shift the conversation slightly and ask the following: what professional skills can we develop that will on the one hand allow us to be better historians, public educators, and liaisons between the academy and the public, and on the other hand be valued by the market, which most of us don’t have the option of opting out of? Put bluntly : what are some skills we can leverage for money while improving as professionals? Further, how can we leverage those skills to improve the public history careers that already exist, and conceive new ones, especially those drawing on new technologies and social media?
Everyone’s goals for conference working groups are slightly different, of course, but these kinds of nitty gritty brainstorms were what I envisioned when I applied to join this group.
To the question I proposed above, I will start the list with a few skills ideas that I’d love to hear other people’s feedback on: (1) presentation and public speaking (2) web design and social media management and (3) the ability to write content – for websites, labels, any publicly consumed material – that blends clarity, pithiness, and scholarly rigor.