Category Archives: Ask an Expert

Getting Set Up for Your Museum Job Search

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.


Getting Set Up for Your Museum Job Search
by Caroline Klibanoff

Gearing up for a job search in the museum field can be a daunting process. Last summer, as I finished my M.A. in Public History, I spent several months “on the market”: networking, doing informational interviews, submitting applications and interviewing. To my surprise, I found myself sort of…enjoying the process! I had been through a couple career changes, and I knew I would be graduating, so I had some time to get prepared. These are some do-ahead steps I picked up that made the entire process easier, and I’m eager to share them with the emerging museum professional community in the hopes of lightening the job search burden — both to help you land a great role, and more importantly, take care of yourself.

Step 1: Write a pitch for yourself.

I borrowed the following tactic from Karamo Brown from Netflix’s “Queer Eye,” and it serves several purposes.

Write down (really — write it down!) two sentences, and stick this somewhere that you can see it every day. The first sentence should say what it is you want to do. This can be somewhat detailed depending on your career goals, any constraints you have, and where you see yourself working every day. The second sentence will explain why you deserve it – and you should feel free to brag!

During my job search, I wrote, “I want to be employed full-time by a large institution to create projects and systems that better facilitate public engagement with the humanities. I deserve it because I have developed a thorough understanding of digital tools, communications strategies and how to coordinate teams, and have a unique talent for helping people connect with history.”

While it may seem silly, this statement serves two purposes. First, you can look at it every day and remind yourself why you ARE good enough for the roles you’re pursuing, even when the search gets discouraging.

Second, it helps distill what you are actually after so that you can share that news with people whenever they ask. This gives you a quick way to identify what is most important to you (i.e., a small museum; something where I can handle objects; a place that embraces the digital) without resorting to a laundry list of roles that might appeal (“I’m hoping to work in a history museum…or a historic site…or an archive…or for the government…”).

Which brings me to step #2.

STEP 2: Make some lists.

Before or during your job search, people are going to ask you what you want to do, which presents a great opportunity to help them help you by making connections, passing on openings or suggesting places to work that you might not have heard of. You can speed up the process by making a few lists:

  • List 5 people who have jobs you that you think are cool. Reach out to these people, cold, and ask them if they have 15 minutes to speak with you via phone about their career path and what they know about the landscape for doing cool work like theirs around your city, or your subfield, or their museum. At the end of the call, ask them who else they’d recommend that you speak to.
  • List 10 institutions you’d want to work at. Make a list of places where you’d really like to focus on landing a job. Note whether you know anyone working there. If you do, make sure you talk to them early in the process to get a sense of the organization’s priorities and whether they’re hiring any positions soon. If you don’t know anyone there, start tackling that — search on LinkedIn, or email someone to see if they’ll talk to you.
  • List the people close to you who support you. This one is crucial. Being on the job market can be disheartening, and even when things are going well it can still be confusing and stressful. Speaking from personal experience (ahem), it’s good to make a decent-sized list if you can, so you can call in the second string and give your significant other an occasional break.

STEP 3: Get your system organized.

  • Schedule. I put a note on my calendar to repeat every Thursday at 12:00pm that said “Check job sites.” This is a low-pressure enough task that you can block off some time dedicated to it while on your lunch break and then have the satisfaction of crossing this one off your list.
  • Subscribe. Sign up for job digest emails so that you can read through the latest postings on your phone during your commute. Set up Google alerts or other keyword searches on job sites for “museum” and any job titles you think you’d like to have. Download the Indeed app and upload your resume so that you can get customized recommended jobs delivered to you via email (and you can scroll the app while you’re waiting in line for a coffee). Put all of the websites that list postings — everything from the AAM job board to the Careers page of the individual museum you want to work at — in a Bookmarks folder and go down the list once a week to check for new openings. Even if you’re not ready to apply, getting on the right listservs now will help you stay “in the know” about who’s hiring for what roles.
  • Standardize. It’s hard to find time to write cover letters, let alone fill out the long web forms where you have to repeat all of the information in your resume (thank you, USAJOBS!) One game-changer for me was to create a Master Resume and Master Cover Letter where I dumped in everything I’ve ever done, worded in different ways depending on what skills I wanted to highlight. For each job you’re ready to apply to, just copy and paste lines from your Master File — and you’re done.
  • Sticky. I had to type my references’ and past supervisors names, titles, addresses and phone numbers so many times that eventually I caught on and put a sticky note on my desktop with this information so I didn’t have to look it up every time. You can also create a “References” page in your Master File and select the most appropriate references for each job application. Just make sure you keep their contact information up to date, and give them a little courtesy heads up when you apply and include them as a reference.
  • Steal time. If you, like, me, are finishing graduate school while working several jobs, I know you have very little free time. But this might mean that you have some flexible hours in which you can do interviews and phone calls with people who work standard hours in offices. It becomes much harder to do any kind of phone or video calls once you’re at a full-time job, so take advantage of your student schedule and the quiet meeting rooms in your university’s library. Many have rooms specifically for phone/video interviews.

STEP 4: JUST DO IT!

I know what it’s like to have great job listings sitting open in a tab on your laptop for literal weeks. And juuust when you finally carve out time to polish your application, you discover that the posting has been removed.

My method now is to get the application out the door, as best I can, without making it my life’s work. The goal is to get a first interview, not to land the entire position in one cover letter. Imagine if you spent several days perfecting your application, only to learn there was an internal candidate all along! And don’t get in your own way by doubting whether you really want the job or whether you have every last qualification. It’s their job to sift through candidates and decide who’s qualified and pick a candidate who’s a fit — don’t do their job for them by taking yourself out of the running.

The museum field is competitive and looking for the right position can be overwhelming, even when things are going well. Having been through this myself, I am eager to share anything I’ve learned that might make it easier going forward for others. It is my hope that with enough advance planning and the use of “infrastructure” like lists, templates and schedules — can you tell I ultimately accepted a role as a project manager?—  that the job search becomes a smooth and even enjoyable process.


 

klibanoff-150x150Caroline Klibanoff is a public historian working at the intersection of digital outreach and storytelling. As exhibitions project manager at the MIT Museum, she coordinates exhibit development, video and interactive production, and logistics for a brand-new museum opening in 2021.

She graduated with her M.A. in Public History and Certificate in Digital Humanities from Northeastern University, and with a B.A. in American Studies and Film & Media Studies from Georgetown University. Klibanoff has conducted research for Northern Light Productions; planned a symposium on immigration for the Cambridge Historical Society; completed the National Register of Historic Places documentation for the Longfellow House; and coordinated the activities of the Northeastern University’s Digital Scholarship Group. Prior to joining the public history field, Klibanoff worked in communications and video production for several years at the Pew Research Center and the FrameWorks Institute. She also sits on the leadership team of the Bridge Alliance, a civic engagement organization. Contact Caroline on Twitter @cklibanoff.

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CANCELED: Ask an Expert LIVE! with John Luchin from Classic Interactions

NEMPN2017-Luchin_Ask

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.

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.

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 

Ask An Expert: Experienced Notes from the Museum Field – Relocating for your Career

Sarah Mathews is the Manager of Interpretation and Evaluation at the New England Aquarium. She recently moved to Boston after completing her Masters in Museum Studies from the George Washington University in Washington, DC.

This month’s question, asked by Adrienne Turnbull-Reilly , asks What is your experience trying to move not only jobs, but locations? Is it feasible or wise to take a temporary position in a new location in the hopes that a more permanent position opens up? Or is it better to remain in a stable job, while looking for a new gig elsewhere?” Sarah Mathews provides some insight into the challenges in moving for your career. 

Passion for your work is important but so is being able to pay the bills! Moving is expensive, and you want a change like this to be worthwhile. It comes down to your priorities and what you’re willing to compromise.

Is the cost of living is cheaper in the new location? Do you have friends or family you could stay with rent-free? Are you miserable in your current job? Are you diligent about applying? Would you consider non-museum jobs to get to your desired location?

My search parameters were a full time museum position in New England. After a decade in the District, I wanted to move back north. While I was willing to compromise on time and content area, I was not willing to give up a full time salary and benefits without having a museum job lined up first. It certainly took a lot of time, but now I wake up every morning in a city that I love excited to go to work. It wasn’t easy to get to this point, but it was well worth it because I made informed decisions about what was best for my career as well as my emotional and financial wellbeing.

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!

Ask An Expert: Experienced Notes from the Museum Field – Why Get a Ph.D.?

Andrew Westover is currently transitioning from his role as Associate Education Specialist at the J. Paul Getty Museum to a Ph.D. in Education at Harvard, focusing on ethics. He has held positions at the National Museum of Wildlife Art, the Smithsonian Institution’s Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, and the Phoenix Art Museum. Prior to working in cultural institutions, Andrew taught as a Fulbright lecturer at the University of the Free State in South Africa and as a middle school teacher with Teach For America. He holds a B.A. in History, M.Ed., and M.A. in Religion.
Andrew Westover is currently transitioning from his role as Associate Education Specialist at the J. Paul Getty Museum to a Ph.D. in Education at Harvard, focusing on ethics. He has held positions at the National Museum of Wildlife Art, the Smithsonian Institution’s Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, and the Phoenix Art Museum. Prior to working in cultural institutions, Andrew taught as a Fulbright lecturer at the University of the Free State in South Africa and as a middle school teacher with Teach For America. He holds a B.A. in History, M.Ed., and M.A. in Religion.

This month’s question, asked by Kelsey Picken, asks “Why, after working in museum education for the past several years, have you chosen to return to graduate school?” Andrew Westover, a Ph.D. student in Education at Harvard, tackles this question and offers some insight as to why he decided to go back to graduate school.

Recently, as groups like #MuseumWorkersSpeak have highlighted concerns across our profession, I’ve begun to wonder: What can museum educators do to ensure their work is not merely for tax breaks? How can museums be both “relevant” and “responsive” to our immediate realities (e.g.#MuseumsRespondToFerguson)?  I decided to return to graduate school to ask these questions and spend substantive time considering them.

Talia Gibas notes that museum educators need to address the inherent challenges of respecting teachers’ pedagogies while also seeking to change how they teach. As a teacher programs specialist, I worry that teacher-training programs neglect critical discourse and qualitative metrics, instead relying on participation as a primary signifier of success. What can museums do to ensure that our work with teachers is effective, facilitating both educator development and student success?

While museum educators have long articulated goals of excellence and equity, a lack of foundational understanding (as Elliot Kai-Kee describes) explains why many of the difficulties identified decades ago remain widely present. Ultimately, it’s the promise of museums that keeps me invested in this work: the possibility that cultural institutions can serve as a catalyst for critical discourse, inquiry, empathy, and meaning making.

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!

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!