Archive for July, 2012

An open letter to employers (well…anyone, really) – Guest Blogger

July 23, 2012 2 comments

I am delighted to introduce my latest guest-blogger Jenn Nelson.  Jenn graduated from Huron in 2010 with a BA in History and Political Science and then went on to complete an MA in Public History at Western University.  She has a abundance of experience and expertise in the promotion of museums and cultural institutions through the use of social media.  You can check out her blog unmuseum at

I am writing this letter, on behalf of History graduates (both undergraduate and graduate) to explain the benefits, to you as an employer, of hiring someone with a History degree.

“[A] ny fool can make history, but it takes a genius to write it.”

Oscar Wilde

I am sure that you have read many resumes and CVs (hundreds if not thousands) during your time as an employer and have dismissed those who have had said History degree.


Firstly, ask yourself why you may have dismissed said application. Is your first thought, “What can someone who knows everything about the War of 1812 do to support and contribute to our business?” This is the first mistake. Don’t think about the subject matter; focus on the skills. As Historians, we can’t tell you everything that’s happened in History, that’s not what we do. Among other things, we study trends, theories and problems, that are very relevant to today, and communicate and interpret them.

Secondly, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that having a History degree means that we are qualified for everything.

Yes, for the most part (and I’m the first to admit it), Historians are HUGE Geeks, but most of us don’t love the History Channel (that’s another blog post in itself). That aside, we develop a wide variety of skills that are applicable to any workplace.

So, what are some of these skills?

1. We analyze and interpret research. Throughout both of my History degrees, I sifted through hundreds (if not thousands) of documents; primary and secondary sources. I learned how to evaluate what research was valuable and what was garbage. I always had a back up to a back up and learned how to use these documents to my advantage.

2. We are awesome communicators. Personally, I’ve developed this from studying Public History (how we communicate the academic stuff to the regular Joe on the street, who has no knowledge or background in History). Historians develop key presentation skills when studying History. We learn how to speak in a concise way, as well as write clearly and to the point.

3. We pick up on the little things. We pick up on things that you might not event think of! We also develop this through years of writing papers and sifting through the research.

4. We analyze trends. As stated previously, we reflect on the present by referring to the past. This can be very helpful when looking at business success or failure.

I could go on…but this is a blog post and not a book.

Key skills to take away from this (I’m not saying every Historian will have these, but the majority do):

  • Effective communication skills (both written and oral)
  • Key problem solving and the ability to critically analyze situations
  • Independent thinking
  • Highly organized
  • Ability to work with others and on an individual basis
  • Manage time, stick to deadlines and work under pressure

…and the list goes on….

I’m not saying that studying other subjects can’t give you these skills, but sometimes you have to point them out when it isn’t so obvious 🙂

I’d also like to say, don’t rule out extra curricular activities and the skills that can be developed from taking part in them. Just because it isn’t paid, doesn’t mean it’s not valuable.

In conclusion, I hope I’ve shed some light on the skills that Historians develop.




Job Search Survival – 3 Tips For Maintaining Motivation

July 5, 2012 Leave a comment

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in getting up every time we do.”  Confucius

I try to teach this to my children when they are learning to skate or running on the soccer field.  It is not easy to get up and get back at it especially when your ego and your knees are bruised and scraped; but, if you want to succeed, that is exactly what you need to do.  The same applies in a job search, particularly these days when the economy is in tough shape.

The people I admire most are those that have the determination and resilience to keep going even when times are tough.  Often I find that those who are most deserving of success are the ones that complain the least when things do go wrong.  They are not the students that are in begging for leniency, but instead, are the ones that are rallying themselves, using resources to get things together and then moving forward.

Our ability to do this stems from our capacity to set goals, look at things from a positive perspective, and find the motivation to move on.  Overall, having a positive outlook and approach to life will help to carry us through difficult times.

Sonja Lyubomirsky, a researcher at the University of California, has conducted studies that illustrate that although a percentage of our happiness and resilience is determined by genetics and circumstance a significant portion, about 40%, is within our direct control.  Furthermore, in their book Positive Psychology Coaching, Robert Biswas-Diener and Ben Dean assert “you can manifest your own happiness by making smart choices.  Time and again goals, relationships and positive thinking have been shown to be important contributors to individual fulfillment and a life well lived.” (61)

When you are on the job market, faced with putting yourself out there and facing rejection time and again, you will need to stay focussed on what matters to you, set smaller attainable goals, and find internal motivators that are sustainable.  If you are going to have the ability to pick yourself up, you will need to manage the 40% of your propensity for happiness and resilience that is within your control.

To do this, focus on 3 main strategies that will help build the stamina you need to keep going.

1)Set Modest Goals:  Rather than striving for a potentially unattainable dream job, set your sights on something that is within your grasp and see it as a stepping stone rather than a final destination.  Also set goals that relate directly to the search and not just the final outcome.  This way, even if you don’t get a particular job you can still feel a sense of accomplishment in making it to the interview stage, or making a new contact, for example.  You need to give yourself some credit for the effort if you have any hope of sustaining yourself throughout the process.  Set the goal of making 5 new contacts this week, or conducting 3 informational interviews.  Developing those relationships will help to build your confidence and broaden your network.

2) Focus on Intrinsic Rather than Extrinsic Motivators:  Think about what makes you feel satisfied, interested and rewarded (intrinsic factors) and set your sites on those jobs.  Because those sorts of goals are based on your values and things that you care about you are going to find that it is easier to motivate yourself to work towards them.  If you are looking for a job that is going to impress others or make you the most money (extrinsic factors) then you are less likely to be genuinely motivated to achieve those goals and may burn out sooner.

3) Frame Your Goals Positively: Rather than striving to avoid something negative like unemployment or being dissatisfied at work, (“avoidance goals”) think of yourself as moving toward something positive such as finding a fulfilling job (“approach goals”).  As Biswas-Diener and Dean explain, “There is a preponderance of research evidence linking avoidance goals to increased distress and anxiety, decreased levels of happiness, lower levels of social satisfaction, and poorer perceptions of health.”(66)  By focussing on moving toward something positive rather than avoiding something negative you will find that you have more energy to focus on action and you’re using less energy on worrying.

No matter how you approach it, searching for a job is hard and potentially disheartening work.  You need to do all that you can to look after yourself and find the motivation to keep going.  As hard as it is, try not to take the rejection as a sign of your failings.  Many times, there may already be someone in mind for the position or there just may be really stiff competition.  Do, however, ask for feedback so that you can improve with every attempt and bring yourself closer to getting that job.

For more on this topic check out:

How to Survive Looking For a New Job:

How to Survive if You Cannot Find a Job:

Sonja Lyubomirsky

Positive Psychology Coaching:


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