Monday, February 22, 2010

Response: Getting a Job with the NPS

In my last post, while introducing you to the blog "In The Service Of Clio," I talked about how hard it is to get a job teaching history at the college level. If I failed to make the point, it's very competitive in other areas of history as well. A lot of people want to get paid for "doin' history." My friend John, who I talked about last post, responded in an email. I wanted to share with you his comments (with his permission) on applying for a job with the National Park Service (NPS):

It is just as hard getting a job with the NPS as it is teaching. During the summer we employ about maybe six graduate students as seasonal rangers and another four as interns. Many of them would love to work for the NPS once they graduate from school but for every position, (when they become available) there is usually over one hundred applicants. Some are only open to permanent, (as opposed to seasonal) NPS employees. For all positions, the Park Service considers KSAs (knowledge, skills, abilities), education, experience, and assigns a certain point value. I don't know how this works exactly but there is a system. Veterans and applicants with disabilities get an additional 5-10 points. That means that usually a recent college graduate with a bachelor’s degree, or even a master’s degree, usually isn't going to make the cut.

All hope isn't lost though. There are a couple of other ways to get in. One way is through the STEP program, where a student can work full time for the Park Service while they are going to school. While you may work the entire year through STEP, you still aren't considered a permanent, full time employee. There are no benefits except a paycheck and once school is finished you are still out of a job, but I have known a few people who have managed to stretch their time in STEP over several years and in one case, it did lead to a permanent position.

Another way to get in is through what are known as "gateway parks.” These are parks that see a lot of turnover. They are usually very popular with visitors, but are somewhat stressful and exhausting to work at. Examples of "gateway parks" are the Mall in Washington D.C., Independence Hall in Philadelphia, and Boston National Historic Park. Because they have high turnover it is a little bit easier to get a job at these parks. [Then hope to transfer to another park at a later date] However, it may be years before a position at the park that the applicant really wants to work at opens up.

While these are permanent, full time jobs with benefits, it doesn't necessarily mean you will be working the entire year. Some of these jobs are subject to furlough, which means you may only work six or nine months out of the year. Also, these are entry level GS-4/5 jobs which means you aren't making a lot of money. Unless you have a [working] spouse or some other additional income, you might not be able to get by on just an NPS paycheck. If I didn't have an Army retirement paycheck I probably couldn't do this. Considering my experience and education, I'm making a lot less than most people my age with similar backgrounds, but this is one of the best jobs in the world.

Thanks for the input, John!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

In the Service of Clio

In Greek Mythology, Clio is the muse of history. Therefore, “In the Service of Clio” is what historian Nicholas Evan Sarantakes has titled his blog. I have been following this blog for several months now and enjoyed it so much that I went back and read every post in it. In the Service of Clio is a good read for those who have considered taking on the challenge of obtaining a doctorate in history. The benefit for the rest of us is seeing what there is to do in the field of history other than teaching on the university level.

Dr. Sarantakes is a military, diplomatic, and political historian who is the author of several books and multiple published articles. He has his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California and is currently an associate professor at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. What is unique about his blog is that he has “guest bloggers” post articles concerning a career in academic history and the state of the profession. In the earlier postings on his blog, Dr. Sarantakes has discussed some alternate employment options for Ph.D.s in history. In the last couple of months, the subject is the budget strategy taken by universities to hire cheaper adjunct professors over more costly tenured positions and what effect that has on the job market in that field.

The bottom line is that there are too many Ph.D.s for the number of university teaching jobs available. That drives down salary and benefits, as it would in any profession. I hate to sound like my dad here, but a couple of old adages used to fly around my house, as I am sure they did in most of yours. The first piece of advice is to “do what you love and the money will follow.” The other thing dad used to say was “Whatever you do, be the best at it and you’ll always have a job.”

The best example I know of these wisdoms in action is my friend John. We met in the masters program at Shippensburg. We have a lot in common and I have a great admiration and respect for him. John retired from the army and is better read on the Civil War than anyone I know. The job market for MAs in history is as tight and pay is as low as it is for Ph.D.s. Nevertheless, John started the program knowing what he wanted to do when he finished. He wanted to work for the National Park Service and be a ranger at one of the Civil War Battlefields. While still pursuing his masters, John interned with the NPS. He networked and he studied the job market. Today, John is leading tours at Gettysburg Battlefield. I wonder if he knows how really amazing that is. Do what you love and the money will follow. Be the best at what you do and you will always have a job. Livin’ the dream. Way to go, John!

Monday, February 1, 2010

There's more to it than you think...

The following post was originally published as a newsletter article for our graphic design business, Military Vet Shop. I thought I'd share it with you here, along with another appeal for you veterans to get your story and pictures into an archive or at least up on the web! Read what I've said about that in an older post. As always, I invite your comments.

Does making t-shirt graphics have anything to do with history? You bet it does. We thought it might be appropriate to share with our friends and fellow veterans what the process is for making our designs and in what order.

Let us say again that it is our goal to provide every veteran with the shirt or coffee mug that they want to honor their service to our country. That’s a pretty big goal considering the time limitations that we have. Military Vet Shop is our favorite pursuit. Unfortunately, it is not our only one. Sheila and Jim have a “day job” running Wave of the Future, our website development business. Moreover, Jim recently completed his MA in applied history and is researching a book length project: a history of the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion. You’ll be able to read more about it on his blog, The Roving Historian, in the near future.

So how do we choose what to create, given the limited time available? Remember the old Burger King™ commercial with the song “hold the pickles, hold the lettuce...special orders don’t upset us...” You’re singing it right now, aren’t you? Well, that’s us. We love special requests. A request was behind the new badges section and the branches section. A request was made for the 30th Medical Command patch. A request was made for the CH-46, CH-47, and the M551 Sheridan. We figure that if you want it, there must be others out there that want it. Hopefully, you know some folks who want it and will tell them about it. For that reason, requests automatically go to the top of the “to-do” list.

Now here is where the history comes in. After the request list, we are then prioritizing a list of every major unit patch that was in Vietnam. For each patch that we choose to create a set of graphics for, while Sheila (the graphics artist) is making the patch object, Jim is researching the history of the patch. We have to determine if the patch was in Vietnam, or Iraq, or Afghanistan. Then we need to determine what vehicles the veterans who wore that patch used. It is in this task that veteran’s websites and the pictures posted on the web are invaluable. If enough information is available, we’ll even produce a summary history of the unit patch on our website.

Making patches is a relatively quick task, but making an original, photo-realistic, graphic image of a vehicle or aircraft is a time intensive project. Sheila puts hours of work into these projects. That’s why it takes a few weeks for requests of vehicle graphics to be fulfilled. Moreover, the operative word here is original. We completely respect the work of others and are careful not to violate the copyrights of any artist. We will not cut corners by copying from others. That is also why you won’t find the image you buy from us on any other site. (If you do, please let us know for obvious reasons!)

As you can see, you the veteran, our customers, are a crucial player in obtaining our goal of getting every veteran the design they want. We welcome your input!