When is the “Right Time” to Apply?
– by Tim Hoogland
When I was considering my application for SHA it took a year of looking at the promotional brochure, reading the emails, and pondering the question that all applicants must consider – is it the “right time” to apply.
For me there was also another layer of consideration. The intent of the seminar is to develop emerging leaders, and although there is no age restriction in the application, to me that seemed to be those “thirty-somethings” who were rising in their organizations. I had already been on much of that journey. As I considered my application I was nearly 50 and a senior manager at one of the largest historical organizations in the country. But the prospect of the Seminar still called to me.
After a year of contemplation I finally decided to apply. The key to my decision wasn’t about my age or experience. What drove my application is that much of my career was spent in a single programmatic area. My focus was on education outreach programs (especially National History Day), K-12 curriculum and higher education partnerships. My office was in a building anchored by a museum, filled with archival and manuscript collections, the central administration of our historic sites network, and home to the State Historic Preservation Office. Proximity, however, did not break down the silos of my work.
In my application essay I emphasized that the value of the Seminar would be to fill in those gaps in my experience. It would have been possible for me to further network through my own institution, but that also brings with it the limits of insularity. I would be the first applicant from the Minnesota Historical Society in many years. In addition to my own experience I hoped that this would broaden our institutional perspective.
So – how did it all turn out?
Applying to the seminar was the best decision of my career. It turns out that older dogs can learn new tricks. I built on the experiences of my cohort to improve my work. I learned more about interpretation, museum practice and the challenges of leadership than I could have hoped. I continue to benefit from the network that consists of my class and others that followed. The Minnesota Historical Society has had members in every class since 2008, and I enjoy the privilege of co-instructing the SHA workshop at the AASLH annual meeting.
Regardless of your age or experience, if you feel the call of the kind of professional development that SHA provides, then take the leap and apply. Even if you don’t think the timing is quite right, I hope that you consider the workshop in Louisville and get a sample of the SHA experience.
Director of Education Outreach Programs
Minnesota Historical Society
Affiliated Instructor of History
University of Minnesota