Jordan Wilms '06, Records Management Consultant at UN agency
1) What career or course of study are you in right now?
I graduated with a B.A. with a major in History and a minor in German from UWO in 2006. I also received a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Nebraska-Omaha in 2010. From 2007-2009 I was the director of the Tri-State Museum in Belle Fourche, South Dakota. From 2009-2013, I worked as the Director of Economic Development for Houston County, Minnesota. Last April, I moved with my family to the Köln, Germany area, and since September 2013 have been working as a Records Management Consultant for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bonn.
2) How does your history major help you in this career or course of study?
My history major, together with the practical experience I gained interning and volunteering at the Oshkosh Public Museum ultimately led to me landing my first professional job at a small museum in South Dakota called the Tri-State Museum. I was the director with two part-time paid staff and over 30 volunteers. This job also led me back to school, as I wanted to learn to be a better manager, I studied Public Administration. My career path took a major turn in 2009, when I accepted a job as the Economic Development Director for Houston County, MN. My hope at the time was to pursue a career in city/county administration, and this seemed to be a good step in that direction. My wife is originally from Germany, and after the birth of our daughter in 2012, we decided to move to Germany to be near her family. Since moving abroad, I have been working to get back into the field of historic preservation, and my experience at the Tri-State Museum led me to my current position. I currently work as a records management consultant for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. My work primarily includes appraising a backlog of historic documents for their preservation or destruction, and then implementing that work. The organization also has a historic collection of artifacts from their earlier conferences/events which also need to be appraised and preserved. My history degree and the skills I gained through my museum work have helped me immensely in this field.
3) Do you have any advice for current history majors who will be on the job market soon?
During my time at UWO, I did a one semester internship and then volunteered for an additional 1.5 years at the Oshkosh Public Museum. During my internship I gained a broad overview of museum management and operations, as well as hands on experience accessioning artifacts into the museum database, and writing artifact descriptions. This experience was invaluable to my job search and ultimately landing a job in a museum. If you are looking at a career in historic preservation, I highly recommend getting in touch with the Oshkosh Public Museum.
I can’t stress enough the importance of networking within your desired field, and it’s never too early to begin. In the museum field, keep an eye on national, regional and state associations. The ones I am most familiar with such as the American Alliance of Museums, Association of South Dakota Museums and Mountain Plains Museum Association all keep updated job boards, and usually offer discounted rates for students to attend their conferences. You never know when you might meet somebody who can help you get your foot in the door.
For the past seven months I have been working as a consultant to the UNFCCC in their records management department. This is a growing field of work not only within public institutions but also in private businesses as well. The records management department has grown from one staff in 2008 to five today in our organization with plans on further expansion in the next few years. This field meshes traditional physical records management (i.e. archiving) with digital records management. Two of the five people in the department I work in have a degree in history. My advice is to research the field of records management, especially if you have a background or interest in information systems as well.
Search far and wide for jobs. When I was searching for work in a museum, I applied for jobs as far away as Alaska. Sometimes smaller museums don’t post on the statewide job boards and you have to find their ads in local newspapers or on their websites. It takes a lot of time, but if you do find such openings, there can be a smaller pool of qualified candidates.