Five tips (and a bonus!) to landing that first museum job

As promised in my last post about my experience landing my own first ‘real’ museum position. Of course having an well-written cover letter and connections is a big help… but for all of the emerging museum professionals who are wondering if they’ll ever break into the field, or if getting a degree is really worth it (I think it is), these are for you.

Five tips (and a big bonus) to landing a position in museums:

1. Be Confident – not cocky, there is a difference. Be aware of your capabilities and make others know you can and will learn anything beyond that which is necessary.

2. BeRelocate Willing to Relocate – searching in the same little area can often result in nothing because either a) there just aren’t that many museum positions there  or b) you are swimming in a very big pond.

3. Volunteer – Yes, I said it. I had my fair share of unpaid, barely paid, and paid positions and they all count. You HAVE to put your time in. Each position provided learning, experience, and mentorship. You have a full time job to pay the bills? Good, volunteer on the weekends. Leaving no gap in your resume (and showing your dedication) is the. only. way. you will get a job.

4. Make Yourself Invaluable – You must be willing to do what others are not. There are many tasks in museums which are not glamorous, but your willingness to complete them with the same passion you do your favorite duty will show your dedication.

5. Know that this is often a thankless career – feeling unappreciated? Pat yourself on the back. Chances are you’re doing a great job. It’s not that people don’t notice, it’s just that others often have NO IDEA how much work you do in a day, or even what it means to design an exhibition. You know how people thank you? By coming to your programs and exhibitions, by becoming a member, and by putting even a dollar in your donation can. We do this job because WE love it, not because we need to impress anybody else.

6. *BONUS* – Find a Mentor – I am extremely blessed to have found several mentors throughout my time in (and out of) museums. These are people who helped to mold me as a museum leader, who took an interest in my education and my career, and were there any time I needed to call and ask advice about anything. Mentorship cannot be a forced relationship. Find somebody whose personality meshes with yours, they have to be willing to be a mentor and take interest in you, and have something to offer. I’ve called upon my mentors for everything from salary questions, to asking for advice about terrible collections and loans mix-ups, to just having an ear to air my frustrations in the workplace. Mentors are an invaluable resource. I am thankful for each and every one I have.

Have other tips? Please share them in the comments section so that others may see them.

And again, any emerging, or current, or past, museum professionals that have a question or just want to chat museums, feel free to contact me directly. It’s my favorite thing to talk about. I’m a good ear, a strong opinion, and a smiling face.

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4 responses to “Five tips (and a bonus!) to landing that first museum job

  • Steve Miller

    You have more than on mentor?!?

  • Connie

    You are so talented. Wish all my interns were Pams.

    My best to you!

    Connie

  • Steve Miller

    As I recuperate from my post-operation fog I can’t recall if I have told you of this group or not but you would like them. I heard them last year in Beacon at the Town Crier Café when they opened for John Pizarelli and his group. I also heard the guy who plays the trombone in a private performance at my club.

    xo

  • Steve Miller

    Hope you are honoring your father and give him my regards for helping cause such a great daughter.

    The outdoor plaque I sent a photo of earlier is on Constitution Island. We were at a seafood gala there last night. It is owned by West Point and we took a boat over from the dock at WP. You would have loved the seafood…(there was chicken for the likes of you).

    The attached photos are of interpretive plaques and installations in a woods next to where my apartment is. In the mid-nineteenth century there was a huge casting factory that made cannons during the Civil War as well as machine parts and architectural elements. With the exception of the office building shown (built 1865) you would never know the extent of the industrial presence. There are a zillion feet of ruin foundations so the photo sheets and all-weather labels tell the story. The partial water wheel explains where one of the water powered machine shops was.

    In Trenton tomorrow interviewing candidates.

    So far so good.

    xxxooo

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