A few months ago, When You Work at a Museum asked its readers for career advice for future museum employees. On Tuesday, this master post of career tips went online. This is probably one of the most accurate descriptions of museum life I've come across in a long while. It's a tad US-centric, of course, but much of its advice is pertinent to anyone looking at a museum - or any kind of GLAM, really - career.
Unlike the blogger over at WYWAAM, I didn't spend years slogging through postgraduate study in the hope it would lead to a museum career. I was extremely fortune. The sheer number of people with museum-relevant Honours or Masters degrees who host galleries or man front desks is astonishing. Off the top of my head I can only think of two people I've ever worked with who specifically studied any kind of postgrad Museum Studies - both were Visitor Hosts. While I would love to do an Honours year in Museums and Cultural Heritage at Auckland Uni, I'd only ever do it for a love of museums rather than a pure need for career advancement. Study is rarely the way to get into a museum job, but it's certainly a good way to come across new ways of thinking. That's one of the things I love about the England's Hidden Treasures course at BGU, now I think of it - EHT is a sharp burst of fresh thinking, with plenty of time set aside for interning and hands-on experience.
In saying that, it did definitely help I was a History major when I applied for my first museum job. But, since I was applying to be a Customer Service Rep, it was just as crucial that I had a fair bit of experience in retail. I think one of the big things people forget about GLAM careers is that they're cross-disciplined - being interested in history or art or whatever you niche is alone doesn't get you across the line. Having plenty of skills from the 'real world' and the nous to apply them in a GLAM context sometimes does.
From there, advancing through to Proper Museum Person was more a case of 'don't be smug.' Museum peeps look out for each other. We're whanau.
I think the most important thing I've learnt about GLAM careers is that it's not about the pay check. Ultimately my passion for archive research lead me to a place where the money didn't necessarily follow, and it's one of the better choices I've ever made. You do it for the love, and everything else - eventually - falls into place around you.