Saturday, October 12, 2013

5 Things I Didn't Learn as a History Major

A friend from high school & I were chatting on Facebook the other night about our respective careers & our blogs. He mentioned a "fluff" piece he should be writing instead of chatting with me & suggesting articles to read. His idea of fluff is different from mine. I think of something like celebrity gossip, he thinks of something you already know quite a bit about so no additional research is required. So, I guess what I am getting at is... Here is my fluff piece.

5 Things I Didn't Learn as a History Major

5.) Basic Office Skills
I didn't realize how much office work was involved in being an Historian. Call me naive, but I think this is one of the biggest issues with choosing a career. You have an idea that you like a certain field, but you have no idea the day-in-the-life-of that profession. Luckily, this is where all of those other jobs came in handy. I learned how to answer a phone, take messages, file, reply to letters & e-mail.

Subject files in historian's office

4.) Creating a Filing System
This is daunting. I had no subject files. You might think that growing up in the area meant I might have a clue about Greenwich History. I did not (& there are still many people who know more than me), but I do know how to look things up. The problem was I couldn't find the information. I had to create a filing system. I had a vague idea, but I went to a conference with APHNYS & one of the historians passed out her filing guidelines. I was so excited that I didn't have to start from scratch!

Family Name files in historian's office

3.) Dealing with someone else's  Filing System or Two!
I am still dealing with this. Since the filing system (family names) is functional, if a bit redundant, I have yet to change it, though I did weed out some duplicate files while moving my office.

2.) Assembling office furniture
I have assembled 2 bookcases, one swivel chair with casters, & more than a few of... I don't know what they are called. Those metal things that go inside a filing cabinet drawer to hold the hanging files. (see image below) These things I learned from my parents & sisters after trips to the Joy Store &, more recently, IKEA & Target. (Tip, never throw out the Allen wrench. Put it in a plastic, re-sealable bag with the instructions & any leftover hardware. Tape it to the underside or back of the furniture or keep them all together in one drawer.)

The most difficult bit of office furniture to assemble
 & finally...

1.) Customer Service
I have worked in a number of retail & service oriented jobs. Customer Service is the most important skill you can learn. There are a myriad of books, training videos, seminars, etc on this topic. But, the only way to learn is to practice. I think everyone should have to work retail or in a restaurant before they are allowed out into the "real world," but my main philosophy on customer service is this: if you can help, help; if you can't help, find someone who can.

Fluff piece out. We will return to our regularly scheduled blog posts next week. Same bat-time, same bat-channel.

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