SHA Mentoring Program
by Jenna Coplin Sponsored by the SHA’s Gender and Minority Affairs Committee and the Academic…
Students at all levels are looking to develop skills that will serve them as they make that next step. The SSC Social Media Liaison, Mary Pertich-Guy, proposed an occasional blog that would discuss professional development issues for students and encourage contributions of ideas and experiences through their comments. Oral communication skills seem to be on everyone’s short list. Whether it is reading a conference paper on someone’s behalf or introducing yourself to classmates at the beginning of a semester, archaeology students are asked to talk about work often. There are many opportunities to improve oral communication skills.
Or call an uncle or an old friend; it doesn’t matter. Just make sure it’s someone who knows nothing about your work (likely easy to find), and is willing to listen (possibly a bit harder). The questions they ask can help you hone in on things you might make clearer.
The elevator doors shut and you have until they open again to describe your project or research interests in a compelling way. This exercise helps you to eliminate unnecessary details and focus on the interesting parts.
Many teach as adjuncts in anthropology departments. Few things will improve your communication skills quicker. However, not everyone is in the position to teach courses. Speak to your local schoolteachers, they often welcome presentations, and students can ask challenging questions. Adult education programs may also welcome a guest speaker. These opportunities force you to organize materials, think about your audience and do not require a semester of your time.
Libraries and historical societies commonly have programs that invite guest speakers. These presentations can be great opportunities to present preliminary work. Those in attendance can encourage you to think on your feet.
Make plans to meet with classmates and take turns presenting problems you are encountering. This is practice both for asking productive questions and fielding them.
Many departments offer students the opportunity to present work. This is a great way to get feedback on a work in progress at any stage. If your department does not do this, it is easy enough to organize. All you need is the approval from the Chair and a student listserv.
Many people are hesitant to throw themselves in front of a crowd. With today’s technology a bit of self-critique is easy to do. Record yourself and watch it later. Audio is good but video might be better; you never know what odd gestures you might make unconsciously.