The Mentee’s Experience – Sophie Denman
I was already aware of the ARA’s Peer Pals e-mentoring scheme, but it wasn’t until Katrina Madeley from the Section for New Professionals talked about it during a guest lecture for my postgraduate course, that I really thought it could be something for me. My mentor was Sîan, an Archives Assistant at Gladstone’s Library, and like me, was new to mentoring.
Right from the start, I entered the scheme with a clear idea of what I wanted to get out of it: some advice and guidance on applying for jobs in the archives and records sector, setting out my CV, and on the content of my blog, and I think that having clear goals in mind gave us both a good starting point. Sîan gave me some great advice on how to present myself in a CV and covering letter and I took her advice, applying it to a number of job applications, including an exciting Assistant Archivist role at Harrods. I was later interviewed for the role, and have now been working at Harrods for just over a month!
I have been running an active blog, Learning About Archives, since starting my MA in Archives and Records Management at University College London in September 2016. I really wanted Sîan’s professional perspective, and it was really helpful to receive some constructive feedback on the frequency of my posts. I have a tendency to be overly enthusiastic and post a lot of things in quick succession, so it was great to have feedback from a reader’s perspective telling me to slow down!
We did have a little difficulty with our communication at first; our Peer Pals relationship was conducted entirely by e-mail, and whilst we started off by introducing ourselves, we did not set out our expectations of the frequency of our communication. We started out with sporadic exchanges until this point was addressed, and from then on, we were aware of each other’s expectations, and our communications progressed more smoothly.
My experience of Peer Pals was extremely positive, and Sîan and I got on well – her advice was instrumental in my application for the Assistant Archivist role, for which I am very grateful! Even without this successful ending, I would still recommend Peer Pals to new archive professionals, and anyone interested in a career in archives and records. The experience is a great way to ask early career questions and gain an insight into the profession from someone who has been in your shoes.
The Mentor’s Experience – Sian Morgan
I’ll be completely honest, I’d initially had hoped to be a mentee rather than a mentor as I still felt having graduated from Aberystwyth a few months previous, a little lost and wanted some guidance with what to do with my new qualification.
After contacting the New Professional’s group, I was directed to the Peer Pals scheme and was told I met the requirements to be a mentor. I was a little nervous at first having limited experience of mentoring, but with support and assurance from the ARA Peer Pals team, we were on our way.
I was matched with Sophie who was at the start of her Archives course. She introduced herself and her blog (which I encourage you to sign up for), and her enthusiasm for archives was infectious. After some initial correspondence, Sophie asked for guidance with her CV and blog. Her talent for blogging was something that I thought she should shot off in an application process and I don’t think I can take much credit, but she quickly secured an interview and job at Harrods.
What I feel we should have established at the beginning was the level of contact that was expected. As our communication was all by email, this was sometimes difficult to manage but a learning process for us all! I’d recommend setting aims and having realistic expectations of contact time as things can easily crop up and disrupt the flow. In my role as Archives Assistant, I work alongside interns who can make the most of having advice readily available from myself and colleagues. This is fantastic for them, but obviously when myself and Sophie were communicating via emails, where every sentence is checked and edited, this meant a delay which I feel was frustrating to us both.
I’d recommend the Peer Pals scheme; from my perspective it challenged the way that I thought about my own role and how I should progress now that I’ve graduated. What I’d learned from my mentoring with Sophie was not only what I’ve already learned, but what else I can learn and improve on. Hopefully I can do this with my next mentee……
We are always seeking new mentors and mentees. If you’re a member of ARA and are interested in getting involved with Peer Pals, please click here for more information.