Nora Plant is an Audio-Visual Archivist at the University of Wyoming. She will be serving on the SAA Membership Committee as Key Contact for Wyoming beginning in August.
Jennifer Motszko works at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. She is the current Chair of the SAA Membership Committee, and Chair-elect for the Manuscripts Repository Section.
Motszko volunteered as a mentor and has been working with Plant since August of 2020.
The Society of American Archivists’ Mentoring Program welcomes applications throughout the year. In this blog series, mentoring participants share about their experience in the program. Would you like to write a post? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What have you gained from this mentorship?
Ultimately, this mentorship has really opened my eyes to the overall flow of the archival profession. I have acquired tips to enhance my career- both generally and specifically in a faculty position. I have also learned new ways to approach certain topics or challenges in my daily workflow, and I have gained a professional networking contact.
Mentoring is personally satisfying. Working with Nora has helped me to reflect on my successes and failures and see them as stepping stones to where I am now in my career. If sharing my experiences can aid Nora as she navigates the early stages of her career, I feel that I have contributed to the profession in a significant way.
What inspired you to sign up for the SAA Mentoring Program?
The professional world can be intimidating as it is, but with my first full-time position out of graduate school being a faculty position at a University, it felt like a lot was coming at me all at once. I attended the SAA 2020 Annual Conference: Creating Our Future, and there was a session about the SAA Mentoring Program. After attending that session, I reflected on how helpful that program would be for me, so I decided to send in an application for a mentor- ultimately unsure if anything would actually come of it. Sooner than I had expected, I was contacted about a match, and the rest is history.
The main reason I became a mentor was because I wished I had had someone to turn to when I was a new archivist. Having someone in the profession who has been where you have been and can offer advice or lend an ear to listen is important. While I enjoy helping others with CVs, interviewing and job searching skills, the most fulfilling part of being a mentor is forming a relationship with another archivist.
How do you communicate with your mentoring partner (telephone, video call, weekly, monthly, quarterly)?
Nora and I meet monthly for about an hour via video chat. That is one of the good things to come out of the pandemic. With previous mentoring relationships, my mentoring partner and I would communicate over the phone or through email. Using video conferencing gives more of a face-to-face experience and helps to build (in my opinion) a more comfortable relationship.
Do you have tips for participants in the Mentoring Program and others thinking about participation?
I think one thing to keep in mind is that meetings do not have to be completely structured. It is a good idea to have some structure, and it is helpful to try to continue conversations from previous meetings, but I seem to get the most out of our meetings when we are simply able to discuss what is going on. It is important to be able to talk about things you have accomplished, things that frustrate you, things you are considering, things that you are proud of, etc. These discussions also lead into more important overarching topics, as well as give you a chance to get additional perspective on what you are working on or dealing with.
Meeting regularly is key. Nora and I speak about once a month, which seems to be a good interval to establish a relationship and stay up to date on new challenges and concerns. Having a broad idea about what you want out of the mentoring relationship is important. However, meetings do not have to have a formal structure. Sharing ideas is a fun, low-key, and non-stressful experience that is rewarding for both the mentor and mentee.
How has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted your mentoring relationship?
The Covid-19 pandemic is new for everyone, so I think this time has given us an even level for us to relate on- even with our different professional levels in the field. It is one aspect that is completely new to both of us, so there is a lot to talk about. It has given us a chance to talk about how we have been working through these obstacles and how we are furthering our archival services during a largely remote period in everyone’s lives. Additionally, as mentioned above, the pandemic has actually made connecting to each other somewhat easier because of a lot of new conferencing technology. We are now able to meet in various formats and ways. I am able to easily share projects, share my screen, and be able to have a more genuine connection over video conferencing than I would have over email or phone.
The single best thing to come out of the pandemic is the increase in the use of web conferencing over phone or email communication. During my past mentoring relationship, we would meet primarily via the phone. While that is more personal than email, being able to have a face-to-face conversation has been an enjoyable change. Because Covid-19 brought challenges to almost all aspects of our careers, these added obstacles permeated conversations on networking, professional development, and job duties in ways that were new to everyone. I was able to give ideas on what may work, but it was also nice to hear what had worked for Nora and apply those suggestions in my situation. I feel like we supported each other through the pandemic and, in a time when connections with the outside world were more difficult, we each had someone who understood those challenges and could commiserate.
How has your mentorship affected your outlook on the archival profession? How has it changed from your perspective prior to participation in the program?
Being in the mentoring program has really made me realize how common certain challenges are in the professional archival field. It has shown me that I am not alone in my obstacles and has proven to me that the archival community is very open and happy to help.
Mentoring has given me the opportunity to meet bright and wonderful archivists from different places and at different points in their careers. I feel a sense of hope for the future of the archival profession and a pride in the colleagues I have met along the way.