As I listened to her I thought to myself, “that was me five years ago.”
I was a student graduating from the University of Cincinnati with a BA in History. My parents thought I had shot myself in the foot professionally with a liberal arts degree. Don’t worry – they were never that direct. My parents were concerned with the job market (did museums have a job market?) and questioned the “skills” studying history truly offered (you write papers, right?). Seriously, what kind of job was I going to get with a history degree?
As I’ve said before in previous posts – I have loved museums since I was a kid. When I found out people actually worked in museums I was ready to sign on the dotted line.
I wanted in.
I didn’t realize was how competitive the field was.
I’m lucky; I had a great internship advisor at the University of Cincinnati who put me in front of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center‘s interpretation department my junior year of college. It was an unpaid internship but I was excited. I was on my way to becoming a real museum professional. How glamorous!
Three months later, when my internship ended, it was back to reality: a full-time class load, senior thesis and part-time job. Graduation was on the horizon. I began to look at jobs.
Imagine my chagrin when nearly every job I stumbled upon required a Masters degree. I barely had my BA – what was I going to do?
I began applying for Guest Services positions. Yes, ticket taking, phone answering, front desk staff guest services positions. It felt as if the “museum field” thought that’s all I was qualified for. It was like a punch in the gut. Maybe that’s because I’m from Gen Y: I’m awesome, really I am. You’ll think I’m awesome, too. I do great work. Give me a chance.
Thankfully, my spring internship, the year before, helped me land a part-time Guest Services position at the NURFC after graduation.
At the time, it was a large piece of humble pie but it “officially” got my foot in the door. I was a staff member, a part-time staff member – at a museum. I was halfway there.
I worked for the Guest Services department for 10 months. I knew the NURFC in and out. I knew the exhibitions and tours, where to park, local eateries and the organizational history. It was a long 10 months and I applied for several positions internally before my big break came in July of 2008. My internship, guest services experience and persistence helped me get my foot in the door and land the coveted full-time museum job.
Share your museum entry experience! How did you get your foot in the door?
What advice do you have for those wanting to get into the museum field?