Ask an Expert: Experienced Notes from the Museum Field

How to Address Employment Gaps

Martha Bradshaw

Martha Bradshaw is a generalist with forty years of experience with art museums, galleries, and the visual arts. Ten years ago she created the Blanton Museum of Art’s Visitor and Volunteer Services department, and has been coaching volunteers and interns investigating the variety of possibilities for careers in art museums ever since.

This month’s question concerns how to handle an employment gap in a productive way. It is easy to feel like your in-between job isn’t helping you toward your goals, but Martha Bradshaw has some thoughts on how to best handle what can be a stressful or discouraging time.
While waiting for a break at your dream museum or your dream city, choose work with related qualifications or in a smaller market. This gets you important experience and on-the-job training. Meanwhile, volunteer at a museum to get museum experience. This doubles your experience and by the time the job with the best fit becomes available, you’ll be familiar with a museum setting and your references will be museum managers!

Staying ready:

1. Attend lectures, fundraising events and openings in your field.

2. Practice talking to people and writing articles about your interests.

3. Network with professionals in the field via interest groups.

4. Print out job listings from museums around the country and dedicate yourself to learning those qualifications and gaining those skills and experiences. Experience can be acquired through volunteer jobs such as writing grants for a nearby pet shelter.

5. Get your story straight and learn to say it quickly in a few sentences.

6. Pick a relevant paid job that matches the skills and qualifications needed for your first museum job.

7. Stay busy. Always keep up the energy… no sitting at home watching re-runs!

If you have a question or dilemma that’s been troubling you, click on this link to be redirected to a short submission form to pose your question to the Communications Committee. Your question may be featured in the next e-newsletter and the National EMP Network Blog!

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