What no one tells you about trying to get a Museum job…

Being a newly employed historian working at a Museum in London, my life seems pretty amazing to those who want to follow in my footsteps or want to continue working in historically- themed jobs. I get to go into work with a smile on my face knowing that I am helping educate the public, assisting with the running of the Museum and being able to assist with all the events that happen (as well as getting into basically all the new exhibitions in London for free). Who in our field doesn’t want that?

I’m not going to lie, I absolutely love my job, every aspect is interesting to me and getting to work with people that share your passion for history is an absolute blessing. BUT getting to where I am now has not been an easy road. To get your foot in the door of this industry is a slow process and one that can really make you question whether you want to try to pursue this kind of career. So, I thought I would make my triumphant return to blogging and give some advice to those wishing to pursue a career in museums.

DISCLAIMER: I have only just got my first job, I am in no way an expert and I am sorry if any advice that I give does not work. It is a really slow process and I might have just gotten lucky.

  1. GET A MASTERS DEGREE! – Now, this might not be a prerequisite for every single museum job in the world (I really hope it isn’t anyway) but through months of networking with people in the industry at different levels and with different jobs, they said that museums, especially for curatorial roles, tend to look for those who have at least an MA. Apparently it shows that you have in-depth research capabilities as well as an academic mind.
  2. VOLUNTEER EVERYWHERE- This is my main point!! I cannot stress enough how much museums and heritage sites love seeing that you have volunteered at similar places so you know what is expected and how things run. Unfortunately with volunteering this can mean that those who do not have the means to work for free can often feel that they can’t enter into the museum field. I couldn’t afford to live in London whilst volunteering as soon as I left university and I was lucky enough to be able to live with my supportive parents whilst doing some work experience.
  3. KEEP UP TO DATE WITH EXHIBITIONS/ BOOK LAUNCHES/ EVERYTHING!- Interviewers love it when you can show them that you are involved in the industry through knowing what exhibitions are about to come out, what books and research has just hit the shelves and generally what is going on within the industry. A casual name-drop never hurt anybody and it shows that you are passionate about working in the industry! It won’t be a boring 9-5 for you.
  4. NETWORK NETWORK NETWORK- Ask to shadow someone for a day, ask someone how they got into the job. With a lot of jobs its more about who you know than what you know. Keep looking for those new opportunities to talk to people in the field you want to go into. Because so many people in this industry are passionate about what they do, they can be found exploring new exhibitions and attending book launches and workshops. In my experience they are all happy to help and are a very welcoming bunch!
  5. NEVER STOP SEARCHING JOB WEBSITES– Jobs and internships are posted nearly every day, especially in big cities like London. Here are some websites that I have found useful:

National Museum Directors Council: https://www.nationalmuseums.org.uk/jobs/

Museum Jobs: http://www.museumjobs.com/

University of Leicester Museum Studies Job Desk: https://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/museumstudies/JobsDesk

I am not saying that any of this will apply to you, and that it will magically land you as head curator of the V&A. But I wanted to share things that I have learned and advice that I have been given so that even of this helps just one person then I have done a service to this industry that I love.