One of our recent graduates tells us how the skills he gained studying at Portsmouth, and the volunteer experience he gained while studying, helped him secure an exciting job in the heritage sector. For security reasons, he has not been named.
Having graduated in the summer of 2019 and with a firm understanding that it was now time to get back into the world of work, the task was on to find a job, one that both stimulated me and used the great many skills learned through the three years at Portsmouth. Upon entering university I knew that my one objective was to better myself in both educational values and the world of work. Having worked in the retail sector for 10 years prior to going to Uni I was fully aware that I did not want a career in this industry. However, with a passion for working with people, the desire to work in Public History was one I knew I would like to take.
During year two at Portsmouth I had undertaken a one-term course in Public History, this lead by Dr Mel Basset and with the assistance from the National Museum of the Royal Navy Library gave me a stronger understanding of both heritage and public history as a whole. Public History as defined by the US based National Council of Public History “is to promote the utility to the masses by use of historical professionalism”. This being said, history should be available to all and the display of it in museums, public buildings and historical houses was a key framework to the course undertaken in Year 2. This, coupled with a continued volunteerism at the NMRN, along with my retail experience, has lead me to want to work further in this field. Discussion with various tutors, both retired and active members of staff, allowed me to explore the idea of a Master’s in Heritage Management, with a goal of allowing the knowledge gained through both my undergraduate course and proposed MA to develop a career within this sector. It however became clear that despite adequate funding for the course, maintenance would not be financially viable.
This leads to graduation and beyond, with the prospect of returning to the retail sector it was time to start looking for a job. Having worked in the industry now for 13 years, returning during the holidays, I had built up vast experience. This experience was supported and made the better by the fact that up until the year prior to deciding to go to Uni I had been a supervisor. With a CV full of various volunteer options, work as a Uni Ambassador and my retail career, a job in the public facing sector of Public History awaited. Applying as soon as I had gained my grades in early July opportunities were both varied and sometimes out of reach.
Many jobs in this industry require further study to the BA or vast amounts of volunteer experience. Or, as in my case, to have a relative understanding of the world of work. About late August I was invited to interview at Windsor Castle, after which I was given and accepted a role in the Visitor Services dept as a Warden. This role is one that both encompasses my BA and my many years of working with the public. Ultimately as a custodian to the varied and vast collection on display at Windsor, a Warden’s role is to advise, impart knowledge and maintain the security of a site that is both a working Royal palace and a 900 year old castle. The skills that I learnt through my time at Uni and my working career have allowed me to excel in this role. The way in which the role allows me to learn from Wardens and historians on a daily basis is of great benefit. The role is not one that I would like to be in until the end of my working life, it is however one that will be a stepping stone into the career in the Public History sector. If I do not get to go down the route of Heritage Management this will be ok, the skills I am able to learn through my role will impart on me just as the skills learnt before and during Uni.
As a stepping stone my degree from Portsmouth, with its wide ranging courses, lecturers and Tutorship gave me a wider understanding of the roles that would be available to me once a graduate. There must always be discussion throughout your time at Uni of what you are going to do next, even if it is just a loose plan to have an understanding is better than nothing at all. The role that I now hold could have been obtained without a degree, however with the knowledge gained at Portsmouth allows for wider understanding of the historical perspective of both Windsor and Public History as a whole.
Barbara J. Howe, “Reflections on an Idea: NCPH’s First Decade”, The Public Historian, Vol. 11, no. 3 (Summer 1989): 69–85