4 tips for a career in museums

 21 September 2015

For a career in museums you need to have the right approach to professional development, says Charlotte Holmes from the Museums Association. She offers 4 key career tips for surviving and thriving in museums.

"Fundraise for that project. Start writing that blog. Work with fellow volunteers to organise that pop-up event."

There are many paths into a career in museums, as well as postgraduate courses. Those thinking of working in museums may want to explore other ways to combine study with ‘on the job’ skills development. 

Try not to fixate on a job role. Instead, identify your career values.

Think apprenticeships, traineeships, paid internships or combining volunteer work with paid work outside the sector and independent study.

Cuts in funding mean that museums are having to radically change their ways of working. In this context, those considering a career in museums need to have the right approach to development if they are to survive and thrive.

Below are some key career tips which reflect the Museums Association's approach to continuing professional development. 

1. Develop your career touchstone

Before embarking on the next step in your career journey, spend some time identifying your career values and a long-term vision for your career.

Try not to fixate on a job role. Instead, try and identify your career values and what you will not compromise on when you look at a future vision of yourself.   

Come back to this vision when making plans or facing difficult professional decisions and ask yourself: "What step will better enable me to fulfil my career aspirations and values?"

Hopefully this will allow you to be flexible and to choose from the broadest range of fulfilling opportunities.

2. If you can’t beat them, innovate

In a crowded job market, it can be hard to stand out from the highly skilled and experienced competition. So invest in identifying and developing the skills that will set you apart.

Getting your first role in a museum can be difficult, so try not to get disheartened if it takes a while.

This could be anything from developing an entrepreneurial approach, to honing your digital skills and online profile.

If you can’t find a course or ready-made opportunity to develop in the right direction, then create one. Fundraise for that project. Start writing that blog. Work with fellow volunteers to organise that pop-up event.

3. You don’t have to do it on your own

Forming a learning relationship is a great way of developing your skills.

This could be finding a mentor or a coach, participating in a learning set with peers, joining and contributing to the work of a regional or subject specialist network, or offering to support someone else as a buddy or peer mentor.

4. Stay motivated for a career in museums

Throughout your career you may face limiting assumptions imposed by yourself or others. Be inspired to think laterally about your situation and find ways ‘you can’. 

Invest in developing the skills that will set you apart.

Getting your first role in a museum can be difficult, so try not to get disheartened if it takes a while. Focus on the small steps you can take to move your skills and experience forward and you’ll be surprised at what you can achieve.

Whatever path you take, remember to enjoy the journey. 

Find out more by visiting the Museums Association website.


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