How do you maneuver a career field that recruits employees with “just in time” hiring? As Gail Gilmore explained at OCS’s “How to Find Jobs and Internships in Museums” event this past Thursday, there are several steps you can take to distinguish yourself as a competitive candidate in this unique field.
In the world of museum careers, it’s important to know where to look for postings and for information about individual museums. Gail directed her audience to look at the list of dedicated websites on OCS’s website under the “Explore Careers” tab. These sites post museum jobs and internships, as well as information that helps you learn what’s out there, what sounds interesting, and what those jobs require so that you can make sound choices regarding internships and skill-building. She also recommended The Official Museum Directory (available in the OCS Reading Room) as a great resource for researching museums.
While research is useful, Gail emphasized the importance of networking as a tool for finding a position in this field. “In all honesty, networking and relationship building is really the key thing these days,” she explained. “And once you get in touch with one person, you can ask that contact to refer you to someone else, and then it sort of spirals from there.” Since roughly 80% of jobs never actually get posted, the way to find these jobs is truly through the networking process. Though not every conversation you have with a reference or contact will eventually lead to a job or internship, Gail suggested that you might actually become interested through these conversations in a sector of the museum field about which you might not have previously been aware. To aid in your networking search, she recommended the Crimson Compass Alumni database and LinkedIn as helpful resources to get in contact with alumni in the museum world.
The entry-level positions in museums are almost exclusively assistant positions, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. “The assistant level positions are going to require you to do some of the kind of administrative work that you probably think isn’t that interesting,” Gail explained. “But in smaller museums in particular, these assistant positions might be broader in scope and more interesting than you’d expect.” Entry-level jobs require at least a BA degree, preferably in art history (for art museums). Knowledge of a foreign language is important, as are good communication skills and a strong GPA.
So what should you be doing now? “It’s not too early to be searching for possible good fits,” said Gail. Although museums do not normally recruit in the fall, it’s never too early to start thinking about possibilities, and many internships—especially those that are paid—have late fall deadlines. Go look through the museum directory and take down contact information. Start doing some informational interviews. Think about attending a conference. Talk to people, and get to know the field.
Julia Eger, ’14