Make Friends, Learn Skills and Improve your CV – Reflections on Being an ARA Officer with the SfNP

As the Section for New Professionals advertises four committee vacancies this month, we hear from some of our outgoing officers about their experiences of being an ARA officer. Sara Brimble has been Chair of the SfNP – acting as head of the committee, chairing meetings and liaising with the ARA board and office on behalf of the committee – and previously Treasurer – responsible for managing our budget. Michael Kelliher is our outgoing Secretary, responsible for managing the SfNP email inbox, writing up meeting agendas and minutes and generally keeping us all organised. Alex Duthie has acted as Communications Officer, promoting the SfNP and engaging with our members via social media and keeping our ARA webpages up to date. Here we share a Q&A with them about their time on the SfNP committee.

2018 SS
The committee at the all-important post-event pub trip following the 2018 Summer Seminar.

What first attracted you to applying for a committee position with the SfNP?

Sara: To gain more experience. I was initially the Treasurer and thought it would be great to get an understanding of budgets and how to apply for funding. It gave me a low amount of work and I got to help out other committee members if there was a lot of work on. I applied for the New Professionals as I really wanted to help create somewhere for people to go when they were starting out to engage with ARA and the profession.

Michael: I liked that committee meetings were by teleconference. When I joined the committee, I was based in Cork and the fact that I did not have to travel regularly to meetings was very appealing. The chance to meet new professionals outside of my ARA nation and expand my professional network was another draw. In addition, I was able to attend events in places where I otherwise would not have had the opportunity to visit.

Alex: At the time I applied to be Communications Officer, I had graduated from university and had been in my first archives job for six months. Though I enjoyed the role, it was pretty limited in terms of my responsibilities. I felt that by branching out and taking on a voluntary position, I would be more attractive to future employers. I also thought it would be fun to meet other professionals at a similar stage to myself.

What have you learned from your time on the committee?

Sara: How to come together as a group and produce something for others to enjoy. It really showed me how enriching volunteering could be to your professional life. Work-life balance is crucial when you are starting out in a career and the committee has always felt like something that could fit alongside my other commitments and provide new skills. When I became Chair, I tried to pass on this lesson to my committee members and ensure they aren’t feeling too pressured by their committee role.

Michael: I think the most valuable thing I learned was how to work within a team whose members were geographically dispersed. Time management was another skill my committee role forced me to grapple with. It taught me how to meet multiple demands and to think seriously about how I allocate my free time.

Alex: I’ve learned a lot, both technically and in regards to ‘soft skills’. I’ve learned how to manage social media profiles, tweeting on a daily basis and creating engaging content for our sector. I’ve also enjoyed learning how to work effectively in a team and think creatively about how to help the Section thrive.

A speaker at the 2019 Summer Seminar.

What has been your favourite experience with the SfNP?

Sara: I really enjoy our events, as it is very stressful leading up and then once people arrive and are taking part it is a huge relief! I would say a specific highlight was representing the SfNP on the ARA Pay Review Group and working with members and committees across ARA to set a new precedent on pay, which tends to impact new professionals the most with low salaries for high expectations of experience and responsibilities. Now there is something tangible for someone new to the sector to guide them, thanks to the collective work of that group.

Michael: There have been a few highlights. In October 2019, I went to the joint SfNP and ARA East event in Essex Record Office. My MA dissertation was on local archives in Ireland and it was fascinating to see how English local archives compared to those at home. The SfNP’s recent online table quiz was a lot of fun as well and I think it is something worth repeating in the future. Not to sound too corny, but I think the highlight was working with and getting to know my committee colleagues.

Alex: My favourite experience has undoubtedly been attending our training events. I travelled cities I never had the chance to explore before, like Manchester and Leeds. I’ve also gotten to make pals with fellow archivists from Cork to Aberdeen. I’ll carry these friendships forward into the rest of my career.

Recruitment panel SS 2017
Sara speaking on a panel at a 2017 SfNP event.

What do you think are the main benefits of taking on a committee position with ARA?

Sara: You really learn about ARA and the work that is possible; through engagement with other committees and the board members you see how the association is developing and growing. There are always projects and exciting things happening that, through being on the committee, you can feel more involved with than as a member.

Michael: It gives you something to put on your CV to highlight your enthusiasm for the profession. It’s hard to tell how my work on an ARA committee affected my career prospects, but I think it might have given me a slight edge. The SfNP is a particularly good committee to get involved with as it gives record keepers in the earlier part of their career an opportunity to take responsibility and learn how to interact on a committee. I think a lot of people are put off joining committees because they feel they do not have the experience and, in that light, I think the SfNP provides a good training ground for someone to get that experience and build confidence. ARA also pays the travel costs for SfNP committee members to go to SfNP events, which represents a very good opportunity for new professionals who may not otherwise be able to afford to travel to events outside of their locality.

Alex: Make friends, learn skills and improve your CV. What’s not to like?!

A big thank you to Sara, Alex and Michael for all their work for the SfNP – you will all be missed! If you are interested in joining the committee, keep an eye out for info about our vacancies on our social media and webpages.

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