Breaking down the brick walls (and marble columns) into the Museum Sector: An Early Careers Journey
When I joined the board for the London Museums Group, one of my ambitions was to develop my skills and network with professionals who were already working in the museum sector. As a recent graduate, I have not found the transition from full-time study to applying for graduate work in the heritage sector to be an easy one. In fact, I had found my progress impeded on nearly all fronts by a lack of experience and relevant work history. Five months on, I am working a full-time job outside of the sector, with the aim of circling back around once I have more experience under my belt. I have spoken to friends and acquaintances who have followed a similar path to my own, some more successfully than others, which has led me to the conclusion that my position is not unique. Breaking into the heritage sector is not as simple as having the passion and relevant degree for it. With that in mind, I wanted to put together a series of blog posts featuring tips and experiences that I encounter along the way.
The first part of this series will focus on the theme of ‘experience’. The heritage sector has an broad spectrum of roles and professions (curation, development, communication, public engagement, conservation etc). It can be daunting to know where to begin. I, like many others in my position, decided to volunteer with a local museum. I worked in a role which was primarily front-of-house, but also gave me experiences of object handling and display-making. One of the best things you can do in any volunteer experience you take on is to ask for any additional opportunities that may come up. It is a small industry and the more relevant experience you can talk about in an application, the better. I’d also recommend connecting on LinkedIn with as many heritage professionals as you can, and having a read of their posts; many of them will have come from a similar position as you and, if asked nicely, would probably be happy to discuss their experiences and offer helpful advice.
Another way to gain relevant experience of the sector is to keep an eye on events and talks – both digital and in-person - put on by museums you’re interested in working with, which you can often find advertised through their social media and networking groups like the London Museums Group and others. You never know when the responsibilities of a job might require you to step out of your comfort zone and explore new ideas, and it’s good to show that you are proactive in thinking about ways to develop in any role you go into. Knowing where to start looking for your first job is also very helpful. I would recommend starting out with the Leicester Museum Jobs Desk, who collate a weekly list of museum-related job listings every Thursday, and can be found on Facebook. Other useful sites to bookmark include the Guardian Jobs webpage, which can be filtered specifically for museum jobs. Depending on your age and experience, you might also want to look into work experience schemes or Kickstart placements. The Kickstart scheme is a government-run work programme which aims to connect young people between 18-25 with a range of short-term, part-time work opportunities, in order to help them gain valuable experience of working in sectors that interest them, and there are often a number of these positions available in museums.
I’d like to wrap up this first post of the new, relaunched London Museums Group blog by emphasizing the importance of staying motivated and flexible in your job hunt. I’d wager there are many of us here in the heritage job-sphere who relate to the struggle for that meaningful job role, and wish there’d been more support and knowledge to share around when they’d been stuck. People are the best resource we have – don’t be afraid to ask for a little help and guidance once in a while. And finally, always keep your goals in sight and seek out meaningful experiences that will put you on the road to reaching them.
Watch this webinar from Fair Museum Jobs for some helpful tips and personal experiences of getting into museums: