BY: EMMA TENNIER-STUART
The Group of Ontario Emerging Museum Professionals has some pretty impressive members who are doing all sorts of interesting things at museums across the province. But what about those of us who have the background, who have the education, but aren’t actually working in a museum right now? That’s the position I’m in, and from experience, I know that sometimes it can be difficult to remember that yes, those of us in this stage of our museum careers are, in fact, still emerging museum professionals.
Personally, I’ve volunteered and worked in museums for years, and after taking a break from this to get a Master’s degree, I’m back in the civilian world. Now, though, I’m waiting for my partner to finish her Master’s before making any big decisions about relocating for work. So I’m biding my time, in a town where the local museum just isn’t hiring.
I’m sure there are a lot of us in similar situations. I’m choosing not to move for personal reasons, though there are many other reasons to choose not to move or to be unable to move. Plus, it seems like there just aren’t quite enough museum jobs to go around these days. Some of us are lucky enough to land the coveted full-time jobs, while others make things work with a mix of a part-time museum job, and other part-time work elsewhere. Some of us are between museum contracts. And some of us are still waiting to break into (or break back into) the museum world.
So what’s a determined EMP to do when not actually working in a museum? There are so many good options. With every part-time or temporary job you apply for, think about whether or not the skills you will gain could be applied to museum work. Working in customer service? Approach this as if you’re there to develop your engagement and presentation skills. Can you find a job in a similar field, such as a library or a gallery? Go for it; this could be a valuable step in the right direction. Are there volunteer opportunities in local museums or other institutions with public programming? If you have the time, this is obviously a great way to get experience and make connections.
At the moment, I’m doing a mix of all of the above. Will this lead to the fantastical world of permanent, full-time employment? I don’t know. But I’m making the most of the work opportunities I have. One of the key principles I’m operating under is that everything can be made relevant to the field you want to work in. So if you’re stuck toiling away in a job which seems to be leading nowhere, think about these questions:
How might the tasks/duties I have right now help me when I finally land a museum job?
What additional responsibilities can I take on right now that could give me useful, relevant experience?
How can I present my current experience to a future employer, and demonstrate its relevance?