“Getting the job of your dreams in a museum is really easy” said nobody ever. To work for some of the world’s most iconic and treasured establishments is a privilege, and as such, there is an army of people wanting to get their foot in the door! However, do not despair, with a lot of passion, research and drive the dream can become a reality. But if you’re not willing to put the extra work in now then this may not be the industry for you.
Figuring out what area you want to specialise in is easier said than done. However, if you can break it down between conservation and communications, then that’s a good start! Just remember, it’s unlikely you will get the job you want in the environment you want right away, so be willing to build up your skills in a similar role. Any experience you can get in your field, even if not with a historical trust/museum, will be vital to opening the doors later on.
Alternatively, you could do the complete opposite and get your foot in the door from the very start. Even if you’re making the tea or working in the gift shop, the insight you will get will be priceless. We know many people with great heritagejobs started out working behind the tills! This is a great option if you are unsure on what area you want to work in as you will get to see how the museum/trust works behind closed doors and be the first to know when jobs come up. You will also be able to have the advice and experience of your co-workers at your disposal, which again is priceless.
Get the basics. Good English and Maths at GCSE are a must. Further education and scores of qualifications may not be as necessary as you think. Figure out what you want to do, do your research and find out what you need to do to get there. An MA isn’t always as necessary as you think.
This old chestnut. Now, if you aren’t lucky enough to have the means to work for free, there are other ways to get that valuable experience. Many University courses now off a year in your chosen industry, which you should snap up! Imagine all the graduates coming out of Uni with a similar degree to yourself? You will to stand out if you have already worked in the industry for a year, not to mention all the contacts (and references!) you will have made.
If you can’t, or don’t like the idea, of adding a year onto University, many courses offer a ‘Professional Placement’ module. Your tutor will arrange work experience for you at a local museum, trust etc, which is great experience to add to your CV.
Another thing to remember is the majority of heritage organisations, such as HRP, now offer internship’s so make sure you apply for these early.
The bottom line is, volunteer and get as much experience as much as you can. Yes, it means you will be broke for a while, but look at it as an investment in your future. Trust me, when you are swanning around in the job of your dreams you will never regret a few months of hard graft.
Finally, if you are still at school then contact your local museum – I bet you they wouldn’t say no to a helping hand at the weekends.
This may seem like an obvious one. But do it constantly and whenever the opportunity arises. Even if you go for an interview and are unsuccessful, always follow up and build your relationship with the interviewers. It’s good to get on their radar and express just how much you want to work for them.
The saying goes, ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know’, and annoyingly it’s very true. If you are not on LinkedIn get it now. In fact don’t even go any further with this until you have signed up. LinkedIn is an invaluable networking tool and good for staying top of mind whenever you are able to add to your experience.
Joining societies is also a great way to network and there will most certainly be one where you live.
Also never burn bridges; you never know who or when someone may help you, and trust us when we say people are more willing to help that you realise. Do you admire someone in the industry? Then drop them an email. Ask them for advice. Yes, it’s scary at first but it works and before you know it you will have a nice little historical black book, and you never know when and where an opportunity may arise. Twitter is great for this; the whole historical community is at your fingertips. Which brings us to…
Not on Twitter? What are you doing? Sign up now. Twitter is a powerful networking tool, and provides fantastic insights. Even if you don’t tweet anything, follow everyone in the industry. There are thousands and thousands of us. It’s great for networking, striking conversations and sourcing the latest news, including job vacancies. Oh and it’s fun too.
You can’t just sit in your room and expect someone to turn up and offer you the job of your dreams. If the door won’t open, open it for yourself. A good way to demonstrate your enthusiasm and passion for the industry is starting your own personal blog. The majority of roles require a level of communication skills, which is why a blog is a great way to showcase your talents alongside editing, content production and community management.
If you don’t have the time to manage a blog full time or create enough engaging content then contribute to blogs/websites with an established audience. It’s a great place to showcase your work. Some of our contributors at Historical Honey are referred by major trusts as a great way to gain experience, and we actively encourage more people to get in touch and contribute an article to us.