The Horniman Museum

Networking as a career builder

Siobhan Brown, 13.12.2017
Siobhan Brown shares her experiences using networking to develop her career
I joined the Horniman Museum and Gardens in London as a learning assistant in January 2017, after six years working in museum and heritage education.

Previous roles have included volunteer coordination, oral history project management and archives interpretation. I had not had a straightforward career path, working at different levels and in very different organisations.

I had explored Master’s degrees and associate programmes – but was never grabbed by any of them. I wanted to continue working full time and have space to develop my personal creative projects.

In October 2017, I began to look for a mentor who could support me to explore my next steps.

I worked with my line manager, Kate Oliver, to identify what I wanted in my career: to work in a small- to medium-sized organisation, in a role where I worked with a broad range of audiences.

I decided to explore networking as a way of getting the support I wanted. I hoped this would allow me to meet colleagues who had had a similar route in to the sector as me. I wanted to talk in greater depth than at a networking event, but without a longer-term commitment for either party.

Kate approached three contacts at Bethlem Museum of Mind, the Garden Museum and the Museum of Childhood. Their responses have been wholly positive, with meetings being set-up between myself and colleagues from these organisations.

We have also offered these colleagues the opportunity to visit us here at the Horniman and observe our schools programme.

The meetings so far have given me ideas about how smaller organisations operate, the chance to reflect on my path and suggestions for good training.

Being initially supported to explore new connections – and the positive response from colleagues across the sector - has given me the confidence to approach others independently. These are also becoming valuable relationships to build.

Siobhan Brown is a learning assistant at the Horniman Museum and Gardens, and a freelance museum educator