Celebrating success: Rachael Jones RMARA

Please give a brief overview of your career so far

I wasn’t really aware of the existence of archives until my voluntary student placement at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, Glasgow, during my undergraduate degree in Classics. Until then, it was ancient history that fascinated me, but during this project I came across a letter from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in the collections. As an avid Sherlock Holmes fan, I was hooked on archives from then on. After graduating I undertook a 1-year internship at the University of Glasgow Archives and Special Collections and this cemented my desire to work in the sector. After my degree in Information Management, I held various temporary roles in areas including engagement and cataloguing at other Glasgow Higher Education Archives until finally gaining a longer-term role as Assistant Archivist at the University of Strathclyde in 2019. The variety of temporary roles helped me gain the diverse experience I needed for this role.

Why did you apply for Registered Membership?

I knew about ARA professional registration as many of my colleagues were Registered Members (I saw some certificates proudly displayed in offices!) I always considered it as an important opportunity for further professional development after completing my academic qualifications and seemed like a logical step. I was also aware that, although it felt like an uphill struggle at times, the many temporary posts that many newly qualified archivists need to undertake before something permanent comes up were furnishing me with a varied range of experiences that were perfect for my professional portfolio.

Like many newly qualified archivists I accepted a number of temporary posts before securing a permanent role. Although it felt like an uphill struggle at times, I knew the varied range of experiences gained with each role would be perfect for my professional portfolio.

Why do you think continuing professional development is important?

I think that continuing professional development happens naturally when you are interested in your profession and helps maintain job satisfaction. If you enjoy what you are doing, then you’ll find yourself wanting to keep your skills up and looking out for training and projects that further your understanding. I think the trick is to get used to documenting this, as it can be difficult to remember exactly what your day-to-day development has been. Reviewing your development can help identify other areas to focus on in the future. Also, most jobs include an annual review of some kind, so keeping your professional development up to date is a great way of killing two birds with one stone.

Attending training, sectoral events or committees, and finding out what sector colleagues are up to, is also great for keeping in contact with other professionals, and maybe even bumping into old colleagues!

What do you think are the benefits of having qualified as a Registered Member of the ARA?

An instant benefit of the process to become a Registered Member of the ARA for me was the way it provided me with fantastic interview preparation. Having reflected upon my experiences in a wide range of archival skills for my application meant that I had some well-developed and considered answers ready for job applications and interviews.

Having submitted a successful application is a great feeling, and it does give you a sense of validation for all the hard work you put into your work. It also acts as a professional seal of approval that you can show to your institution to ensure they recognise your worth. Similarly, it provides great evidence of your professionalism for job applications.

What advice would you offer to others thinking of enrolling and qualifying as a Registered Member?

Completing your application might seem daunting to begin with, but you can give yourself plenty of time to work through each competency at a steady pace. I found it useful to set aside a regular time to put in a couple of hours each week which helped me maintain progress, as it’s easy to let it lie for weeks at a time. Booking in meetings with your mentor is also a useful way of setting yourself deadlines.

In terms of the content, really concentrating on reflecting upon your experiences, how they went and what you might do differently next time, rather than describing them will make for the strongest application. After all, the most useful part of the whole exercise is reviewing your experiences and learning from them. Good luck with your application!

Image courtesy of University of Strathclyde Archives and Special Collections

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