General career advice

Museum development officer Charlotte Holmes shares her advice
Choose your path

There are many paths into a career in museums.

Although a postgraduate course can add value to your CV and provide a much-needed opportunity to think and reflect on practice, it is not the only route into the sector, nor does it guarantee a job 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 such as apprenticeships, traineeships, paid internships, and combining volunteering with independent study and paid work outside the sector.

Cuts in funding mean that there are fewer paid positions in the sector, and over the coming years museums will have to change ways of working radically. In this context those considering a career in museums need the right approach to development if they are to survive and thrive.

At the Museums Association (MA) we run a series of professional development awards. Below are some key career tips, which reflect our approach to continuing professional development and will hopefully help you whatever direction your career journey takes.

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, rather 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 be to fulfill my careers aspirations and values?"

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

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.

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, or work with fellow volunteers to organise that pop up event.

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.

You can do it!

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

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.


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