Category Archives: Blog

Emerging Op-Eds: Networking in a New City

Emerging Op-Eds is a community series that shares opinions and tips from our NEMPN members. Have an idea or a topic you’d like to share? Submit your idea here.


Networking in a New City
by Cassandra Cavness

Being an emerging professional often means moving for your first “real” job. Moving can be nerve-wracking and there are many factors to consider, including how to get connected to those in your field. Museum work, much like other fields, relies heavily on networking. Being able to establish yourself in your new city is crucial for becoming an integral part of the field.

Why is networking important?

Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Networking is all about how you make people feel. Do they feel comfortable with your personality? Do they feel comfortable with your skill set and knowledge? Do they feel that they can trust your integrity and follow through? These questions often cannot be answered in one meeting but will be answered through a process of relationship building. Networking is important because it shows your ability to handle yourself and adapt to new and unfamiliar situations as you build relationships that could prove fruitful down the line.

Where to network?

Networking in your new city can seem like a daunting task, however, that’s where this blog comes in handy. Below are some great suggestions to get you started in any new city that you move to.

  • Facebook: This is a great place to start because there are plenty of Facebook groups geared toward emerging professionals.
    • NEMPN: We’re a ready-made network of people to talk to about museum related issues and theories.
    • Think local: There are often local emerging professional groups on Facebook that you can join so that you can network with professionals within your state or nearby city. These groups are great for finding out about local events and getting advice on how to handle museum issues within local parameters.
  • Networking Events: There are often local networking events that are not specifically geared toward museum professionals, but they are great opportunities. Use these events to understand how your profession fits into the fabric of the community.
  • Local Affiliation Groups: Although your town might not have local events that are directly related to your field, they will often have events geared toward similar interests. For example, if you work in an art museum, look for arts-related events in the community. These events might be hosted by your local college or non-profits, but regardless, it is a good idea to get to know those in your community that have interests similar to the mission of your museum.  
  • Local Boards: If you have more than one museum or a local art/history guild, you might have local boards that you can join. Try to become familiar with the type of educational opportunities there are for children in your city, because often times those non-profits will have boards that you can join.
  • Alumni Groups: Not every college will have nationwide alumni groups, but for those that do, take advantage of the opportunities that your local chapter gives you.

How to network:

Okay, so now you have moved, you’re all settled in and you’ve begun to find some different networking avenues. But now you’re thinking, “How do I actually network?” Although people tend to think of networking in terms of what it will get them, this isn’t the right approach. Below are 6 simple steps to networking that will get you your desired results in the long run but will also foster relationships in the immediate.

  1. Start to Network Immediately: I cannot stress this enough, do not wait until you have a need to know people in your community. This will make your effort to connect less genuine. Instead, start connecting the minute your foot touches down in your new city.
  2. Forget Your Personal Reasons: Don’t think of networking as a means to further your personal goals. People can tell when others are only there to better themselves and it is off-putting to say the least. Make this a mutual or reciprocal relationship by thinking of what you can do for others.
  3. Have a Plan/Know What You Can Offer: Treat networking like an advertisement of your skills. Don’t boast and brag but go in with the confidence of knowing what you bring to the table. During an event, try to talk to as many people as possible and get a feel for their needs. See how your skills can be an asset and offer to help.
  4. Be Friendly and Open: One of the most important parts of a networking opportunity is interacting with people. Be friendly and open to others’ ideas and suggestions, but also be open by contributing to the conversation with your knowledge and/or advice. Don’t underestimate your worth to a conversation.
  5. Think Collaboratively: Just like you don’t want to underestimate yourself in a conversation, don’t underestimate those around you. Although these people might not have the same educational background as you, that doesn’t mean that their ideas or suggestions don’t have merit. Look for ways that you could integrate what they are saying to fit your needs (whether they are personal, institutional, or academic) and how they could help you in a team-oriented way.
  6. Collect Contact Information: The most important part of networking is collecting the contact information from the people that you meet. What good does it do you to have a great conversation with someone and walk away not remembering who they were or not knowing how to contact them? Also, it is just as important for you to be able to give out your contact information as well.
    • Don’t forget to follow up and follow through! If you say you’re going to follow up with someone with an email or phonecall, do it promptly so that you are still in their mind and to reaffirm that new connection.

 

Remember…

Although these are just a few tips and tricks to networking in a new city, there are a variety of ways to engage in this important task. It is also good to remember that networking can happen anywhere at anytime if you are willing to be friendly and introduce yourself wherever you are. Take every opportunity to create relationships, because you might not get another chance.  Always keep business cards on you to hand out to people because you never know they will come in handy – a new and important relationship could be just around the corner!


nempn cavnessCassandra Cavness serves as Assistant Professor and Humanities Digital Archivist for Alabama State University and currently serves as the co-chair of the Alabama chapter of the National Emerging Professional Network. Her primary research focus is the interpretation of history through a visual lens and she has 4 years of practical experience in the fields of museum studies, public history, and cultural outreach. Previously, she has served as the manager of the Syracuse University Sue & Leon Genet Gallery and an archive and museum consultant for various nonprofit organizations.
Contact Cassandra by email: cassandra.cavness@gmail.com.
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CANCELED: Ask an Expert LIVE! with John Luchin from Classic Interactions

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Join NEMPN for our next “Ask an Expert LIVE!” session on Tuesday August 22nd at 7pm EST.

This session we feature John
 Luchin, the Founder and Principal of Classic Interactions LLC, an interactive development studio based in Columbus, Ohio. Classic Interactions’ client work is focused on education applications for museums. In addition to his work with Classic Interactions, John was a federal employee for over a decade, serving as an exhibit designer and later the Chief of the Exhibits Division for the world’s oldest and largest military aviation museum.

Do you have questions about the intersection of museums, technology, and games? We want to answer them! Send your questions to nationalempnetwork@gmail.com!

Join us and watch the conversation on our National EMP Network YouTube channel.

Attention Potential Museum Studies Students, Current Students, and Recent (and not so recent) Grads!

NEMPN has partnered with Museum Masters Review in an effort to determine what Emerging Museum Professionals are truly seeking in their college/university experience. Your submissions are anonymous, so please be as candid as possible. This is the first step in what we hope will be a long overdue discussion on what Museum Studies programs provide and what students really need in their education to succeed. Any questions/concerns can be directed to NEMPN president Michelle Epps at president@nationalempnetwork.org.

Complete the survey here.

Lunch with a Leader: Tallahassee EMP

Get to know a new NEMPN Chapter Each Month with “Lunch with a Leader”

Watch it below

We ask you to join us on your lunch break for this half hour sessions getting YOU more connected with a different NEMPN group each month. In our first session we will be speaking with Tallahassee EMP leaders Gabrielle Graham and Mary Fernandez! Have questions? Join the conversation for the last 10 minutes of the session to pose your most burning inquires.

You can watch the live stream on our YouTube Channel here.

Ask an Expert LIVE! with Sarah Connors from The International Preservation Studies Center

Join NEMPN for our first ever “Ask an Expert LIVE!”

We will be speaking with Sarah Connors Assistant Director at the International Preservation Studies Center in Mount Carroll, Illinois. She holds an MA in Museum Studies from Western Illinois University and a BA in History from Wartburg College. Her career has provided her with experience in nearly every area in the museum field including, curatorial, exhibition, collections management, visitor services, marketing, and administration.

The International Preservation Studies Center has provided hands-on preservation training workshops to museum and library professionals, conservators, and historic preservationists since 1980. IPSC offers over 75 short courses taught by world-class instructors from around the world.

Special note: IPSC is dedicated to preparing the next generation of museum professionals which is why we offer 50% off all courses to undergraduate and graduate students!

Watch on our National EMP Network YouTube channel and send in your questions to nationalempnetwork@gmail.com https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpQwrySvN8yNBn9Tp5OgjkQ

Ask An Expert: Experienced Notes from the Museum Field – Professional Organizations

This month’s question from Erin Murphy asks,”It would be helpful for people to know other professional organizations (aside from NEMPN) for various kinds of staff in museums as well as regional associations.”

Suzanne Hale has over 15 years of experience as Registrar/Collections Manager at two university art museums, Colorado State University and Kansas State University. She has been an active member of the American Alliance of Museum (AAM) since 1999 and is the current Chair of the Registrars Committee of AAM.

Response from Suzanne:

The professional organization that has helped me the most with my career has been the American Alliance of Museum (AAM).  Many NEMPN members may already be familiar with AAM given NEMPN’s origins and past affiliation.  Regardless, I want to mention one of AAM’s major benefits:  serving all museum professionals. AAM provides educational programs and networking opportunities for curators, educators, exhibit designers, website designers, volunteers, preparators, directors, store managers, trustees, and more.  Its encompassing quality proves especially useful for smaller museums where staff members often have multiple job roles.  Staff members working within larger museum institutions where job roles may be more specialized can also benefit from participating in AAM, which encourages career advancement and provides members with an opportunity to investigate new and different roles in the museum field.  In short, AAM fosters professional growth to everyone connected to the museum community, wherever they are in their careers—emerging, mid-career, or senior level.

AAM has a membership of 35,000. Nearly 6,000 people attend the Annual Meeting each year.  But some people find the organization and its annual meeting too large to navigate; others find the cost of conference participation to be a barrier.  For those, I would recommend getting involved with one of AAM’s twenty-two Professional Networks (PN), which are volunteer-run affinity groups organized around job responsibilities and areas of common interest.  Within these groups, museum professionals can build relationships with other professionals with similar needs and concerns, while they grow their expertise, and give back to the field.

Particularly important for NEMPN members is that AAM partners with its Professional Networks to mentor new and emerging leaders and create an inclusive atmosphere that welcomes diversity in all areas of the museum profession.  At the AAM annual meeting, there are networking opportunities targeting EMPs, such as the First-Time Attendee Welcome and Networking Event where AAM staff help direct and guide new attendees through the conference.  Added in 2016, the Getting Started Series presents introductory information to help EMPs get a basic and practical understanding of selected topics. Another opportunity for EMPs at the annual meeting is the Emerging Innovators Forum. This program provides a venue for current graduate students or emerging professionals with less than five years working in the field to present topics related to an area of museum practice.  Another new program is the revamped Peer Mentoring Roundtables for colleagues to discuss career-related issues, a great place for EMPs to learn with and from each other.

For those who do not have the budget to attend the AAM annual meeting, I recommend getting involved in some of AAM’s local programming, or online professional development programs, many of which are offered in collaboration with one or more of the PNs.  And, you certainly do not need to attend the annual meeting to use the many resources found on AAM’s extensive website.  Sample documents are helpful in developing policy and understanding best-practices.  In addition, the website includes links to other sites about various museum related organizations and museum funding agencies.

I also encourage EMPs to get involved with one of the six regional museum groups: Association of Midwest Museums (AMM), Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums (MAAM), Mountain-Plains Museums Association (MPMA), New England Museum Association (NEMA), Southeastern Museums Conference (SEMC) and Western Museums Association (WMA).  The six regional groups were started by AAM for the purpose of holding regional conferences. They became independent non-profits in the 1970s.  In addition to the regional groups, many states have state museum associations that serve the needs of the museums and museum professionals in their area, especially those who work in very small institutions.  The six regional organizations and the state associations provide networking and conference attendance opportunities closer to home, which can reduce travel costs and time away from work.  Some museum professionals prefer working within these organizations because they want to build a local network of support.  It is nice to know resourceful museum professionals down the road to collaborate with on projects.  Building connections nearby can assist with various activities, such as coordinating themed community programs, lending and borrowing collection objects, recruiting expert consultants for multi-staff training sessions, and joining together for political advocacy and emergency planning.

In summary, I have found AAM, with its twenty-two Professional Networks, relationships with the regional and state associations, and a wide spectrum of museum colleagues, to be a great place to learn and grow as a museum professional.  AAM strives “to champion museums and nurture excellence in partnership with our members and allies” and I have enjoyed being a part of this mission.

Ask An Expert: Experienced Notes from the Museum Field – Contract Work in Museums

Charles Zange is an Independent Contractor working in Washington, DC
Charles Zange is an Independent Contractor working in Washington, DC

This month’s question asks, “In DC especially, there are a large number of contractors working within the museum system. What is it like working as a contractor? What are the advantages/disadvantages of contracting, and how do you find out about opportunities?”  
Response from Charles: Contracting is common in DC for many reasons, one of which is hiring efficiency. Contracting with an outside entity can help a federal organization pick up labor quickly without going through the entire HR hiring process. It also gives the flexibility of cutting back the labor force without having to reduce federal positions, as contracts are usually easier to terminate or to let expire than federal positions. A federal organization is also not required to cover things like health insurance for contracted employees, as the contractual relationship is entity-to-entity (company to company) and not organization-to-individual like with traditional hiring.

The complexity of contracting increases sharply when individuals contract independently. Individuals establish their own single entities as sole-proprietor companies using the SAM.gov service, and then take on entity-to-entity contracts with a federal organization. This type of contracting is particularly common in DC. In this way, the individual is a company of one staff member contracting with a larger federal organization. The individual is therefore responsible for paying quarterly taxes on their company’s revenue (their income), allocating funds for health insurance, etc.

The advantage of contracting, in my opinion, is really the speed at which a contract can be acquired. It is generally, but not always, easier to bid on a contract than it is to apply for a traditional federal position.This helps outsiders break into a field, exposing them to critical work without forcing them through the steep uphill climb of the federal hiring process.

Contract work can be very interesting and highly technical too, building considerable professional skill. The disadvantages, however, are very challenging: contractors do not have benefits and do not receive staff credentials. Contracting also tends to be feast or famine, where contracted hours bring in considerable revenue but dry periods without new contracts reduce income to zero. The instability is especially difficult for new entities.

As for finding contracts, this tends to be more art+network than science+Google. Many contracts tend to find their way to listservs through local universities or related interest groups, or even word-of-mouth. Organizations can either open contracts publicly for a bidding period (where entities submit competitive bids to budget a project) or they can go to a single entity and offer a direct contract without bidding. Long story short, some contracts will be widely disseminated, while others may only be discussed with a single entity. Bids are more common, especially for larger projects, as the competition encourages entities to shoot for lower prices in the hopes of winning the bid.

Meet our New Treasurer and Committee Members

closecrop_headshotName: Milan Jordan
Committee: Governance
Position: Treasurer
Milan has a background in architecture and American Studies, with a passion for museums and non-profits. She currently works at an architecture organization developing resources, engaging artists and industry partners, as well as managing new program development. Her career is the intersection of mission-driven work for the built and cultural environments.

stephanie-keating
Name: Stephanie Keating
Committee: Conference
Position: Committee Member
Stephanie works as the Adult Programs Coordinator at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. In her role as a museum educator, she seeks to facilitate opportunities for the public to access and understand contemporary art. She has a MA in Art History from Boston University with a specialization in mid-century Latin American and European art.

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Name: Matt Wagner
Committee: Conference
Position: Committee Member
Matt is an emerging access professional, dedicated to decreasing barriers in cultural institutions. He is a 2016 graduate of the Cooperstown Graduate Program. During his free time, he spends time nerding out to video games, astronomy, and nature.

kimpton_headshot_2017Name: Rachel Kimpton
Committee: Website
Position: Committee Member
Rachel is an educator currently living and practicing in Chicago. During the day, she convinces people that vegetables are amazing and that all things creepy and/or crawly are really cool; she moonlights as a “rogue” public program developer with her cohort at Museum Game Night, encouraging people to be playful at museums around town. She believes in the healing powers of breakfast tacos, loves escaping the city to commune with wilderness, and enjoys playing boardgames with her life partner.

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Name: Sena Dawes
Committee: Survey
Position: Chair
Sena is a recent graduate of the UW Museology (Seattle) master’s program and currently works as an evaluator at the Missouri History Museum. She spends her free time binge watching Netflix, playing the bass in various community orchestra, and volunteering at her local dog shelter. And always looking for interactive data visualizations to fill in the gaps in between.

Ask An Expert: Experienced Notes from the Museum Field – Engaging Youth

This month’s question, asked by Jessamyn Yenni , asks “How can museums incentivize volunteers in younger demographics (who are generally more guarded of their limited spare time) if that cannot afford to pay?”

Wendy says “engage youth while they are young, while there is still time to capture their attention”

This month's questions is being answered by Wendy R. Zucal, the Executive Director of the Dennison Railroad Depot Museum.
This month’s questions is being answered by Wendy R. Zucal, the Executive Director of the Dennison Railroad Depot Museum.
 We are blessed to have volunteers of all ages at our three museums: The Dennison Railroad Depot Museum, Historic Schoenbrunn Village and the Uhrichsville Museum of Clay Industry and Folk Art. Young volunteers are of particular interest to us as we know they are the next generation of caretakers of our historic sites.  We, in turn, can benefit greatly from their ideas and input as we strive to make our museums more relevant to today’s audiences.  We have three levels that we focus upon to attract younger engagement.

 

Level One:   Fourth Grade through High School

Top priority for us is to engage youth while they are young, while there is still time to capture their attention and then we actively work to keep them engaged as they grow older.  If you wait to engage kids in high school or college – it is too late.  We start at fourth grade.
We are very lucky that we have an event kids flock to: Polar Express.  Polar Express Train Rides present such a great opportunity to connect to youth because they bring approximately 300 kids to our museum doors every year.   We never have to seek them – they come to us from school districts all over our county.  These kids have to go through railroad safety training, create their own costumes and work a minimum of 5 hour shifts.  From day one, we put a great deal of responsibility on their role and share how important they are to the museum’s success.  They start in fourth grade with many continuing through college, and even after college as we invite them back. We focus on encouraging them to up their game at the museums by increasing their responsibility, and therefore, their own personal return on investment. For example, we encourage elves to climb up the Polar Ladder to become Storytellers or other leadership roles on the train rides.  In return for their volunteer service, we write many, many college and scholarship support letters. and provide numerous job recommendations which they greatly value.  We also present a Jr. Volunteer of the Year Award for each museum at our Volunteer Banquet each year.
That is our hook.  I think it is important for every historical site to consider what their “hook” is to attract youth, and then work this hook as hard as you can. Polar Express enables us to create a wonderful database of kids which we then cultivate in many ways.  We encourage youth to grow in their roles and responsibilities as Museum  Hoppers, providing awareness of multiple opportunities to volunteer and engage at our other sites and events.  Our T-County Patriot Rally is an event we have created specifically to bring this message home by creating awareness and enthusiasm in history in our area youth.  The Rally is like a Home and Garden Show at our Mall, but instead of filling the mall with gardens we fill it with museum tables and a a wide variety of historical activities with GOOD prizes (Kindles, Ipad, Ipods, etc.)   We thought it was important to take our history and message out to where the kids hang out.

 

Level Two: High School through College 

If we have not captured the attention of a student at a young age, our next plan is to engage young people at the next level, which is internships.  We have a very active internship program for high school and college kids.  We welcome all interests – not just history, but marketing, technology, business, graphic design and more. We have a very active ten week internship program that rewards interns with a small stipend – and the same letters mentioned above. We are also happy to share that we regularly hire our interns at our museums.

 

Level Three:  Young Adults

Many of our young volunteers have made it through all three stages and continue to stay with us.  For those we have not been able to attract in Level One or Two, we focus on our Third Level for engaging young demographics which involves inviting them to participate in fun, social event committees.  For example, our Museum’s Emerging Professionals Committee oversees our annual museum Gala each year.  This year’s theme is Bourbon and Bling!  Anyone interested in theater can join our Sleepy Hollow Cast and crew.  We have a large number of young folks involved in the planning of our Food Truck Fest. These three events are the type of programming that young people like to attend, and therefore, and being put in charge is even better!
Incentives:
In addition to the Letters of Recommendation, Job Referrals, the opportunity to build their resume or even be hired, these young folks are having fun, making new friends, networking, learning new skills and are excited about giving back to their communities.  The relationship is a Win-Win as our museums are not only getting great volunteers, these young folks are buying lifetime memberships at a younger age, contributing more sponsorship and donations than we have seen in the past, and bringing their families to our events.  They have become great Ambassadors for our museum, and in fact – are showing great signs of fulfilling our goal of becoming the next generations of stakeholders.

Ask An Expert: Experienced Notes from the Museum Field – Museum Unions

Jaclyn J. Kelly is the Educator at the Milwaukee Public Museum and President of her labor union, American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 526.
Jaclyn J. Kelly is the Educator at the Milwaukee Public Museum and President of her labor union, American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 526.

This month’s questions, asked by Jessamyn Yenni, asks “What are the benefits to workers of being unionized?  Why might the workers choose to have one or go without?” 

Response from Jaclyn:
Unions matter because as workers, we can leverage our power towards improving our working conditions. I’m a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and an activist with the UIC Graduate Employees Organization (GEO). We as UIC GEO negotiate a contract with the University that guarantees a minimum wage, benefits including affordable health care and paid personal time, protections against overwork, discrimination, sexual harassment, and more. Though most of our members are Teaching Assistants, every year several of our members work at theJane Addams Hull-House Museum and Gallery 400, making them part of a rare group of workers in our country — unionized museum workers.

As a unionized museum worker, I earned higher wages than my non-union counterparts (museum staff members who were undergraduates or not graduate workers at UIC) and had access to the above benefits and protections that they did not. And I had access to a formal grievance procedure for when the benefits and protections in my contract needed to be enforced. Union activities were a source of tension and fear for the museum’s administration. But I would always prefer to be part of a union. First, for the benefits, protections, and camaraderie. Additionally, for our part in strengthening working conditions across campus, and the workers’ movement writ large. And big picture: the higher wages and stability that union membership offers have the potential to make the field more accessible and sustainable for workers across lines of privilege.

This conversation was facilitated by Alyssa Greenberg from Museum Workers Speak