Nicola finds records management fulfilling and consistently challenging. Find out how taking a postgraduate qualification in archives and records management helped her enter the field
How did you get your job?
I studied for a PGDip Archives and Records Management at the University of Liverpool. While on the course, the job of information governance officer was circulated to students by one of our tutors. They'd been contacted by Alternative Futures Group (AFG), a health and social care charity, who had previously employed graduates with the qualification. I applied and was successful.
While my postgraduate qualification wasn't a requirement, it definitely helped to demonstrate I had the skills and put me a step ahead of the candidates without.
What's a typical working day like?
It varies. I spend probably one day a week cataloguing and processing operational records and maintaining the database. The rest of the time I'm office-based. I manage the response to data requests and breaches and provide professional advice across the organisation on everything relating to creation, storage, use and sharing of information. This means I'm a point of contact for enquiries and consultancy on all projects and functions which affect data, both at head office and with external parties, so my days differ greatly depending on where I'm needed.
I also develop training on information governance for all levels and awareness-raising campaigns for records management and compliance, and have responsibility for policy reviews and development.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I enjoy having such a varied work schedule, and being part of a relatively small organisation means I act as an archivist, records manager and data protection officer all in one. I'm proud of the work AFG do and glad I'm able to contribute to it.
What are the challenges?
A lot of my work is reactive, so the workload can vary and is at times challenging. It's also often difficult to gain buy-in from others in the organisation as they underestimate the importance of records management (until something goes wrong), but in my experience this is uniform across all sectors.
In what way is your degree relevant?
My degree gave me a theoretical and practical grounding in records theory, and was well balanced with the practical experience to apply it. As I lead on information governance policy development for my organisation this has been extremely valuable, and the normative theories and practical applications I gained on the course inform my approach and values every day.
How has your role developed? What are your career ambitions?
I'm currently managing the project to adapt to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and AFG have recently started offering my services on this basis as a consultant to other charities.
In the future I hope to develop the AFG archive and records functions, but there is only so far I can progress here. When the time comes to move on, I'll seek a position as corporate archivist or records manager in a larger business.
What are your tips for choosing a Masters?
Where applicable, look at accreditation and/or the course's relationship with the relevant professional bodies. University league tables may not reflect the prestige or teaching quality of a more specialist vocational course at different institutions.
What's your advice to others wanting to get into records management?
- Do as much volunteering as possible in as many different places as possible and keep your eyes open. Experience across different industries is invaluable, and developing a professional network, including using forums such as the ARA listserv, will give you the best possible foundation for studying and working in the sector.
- Open your mind to records management. Most people I've met in this field start off wanting to be archivists or curators, but there is much more we can do with these skills.
- Be willing to move – I've been extremely lucky, but most new professionals will need to relocate for their first position and that job is likely to be temporary. Records professionals need to be open to moving around, at least at the beginning of their career.
Records management isn't for everyone, but if you have a passion for organisation and are willing to go back to university after some time in work, I can't recommend it enough.
Find out more
- Learn more about becoming a records manager.
- Search graduate jobs in information, research and analysis.