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  • 1.  Breaking into the industry

    Posted 08-02-2018 01:00 PM
    Dear Museum Colleagues,
    What advice can you share to help someone break into our wonderful industry? I have been applying to a number of jobs, and unfortunately I am not receiving any responses. Any advice or thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

    Here is a little information about myself. I received a BA in History at the University of Hartford, an MBA from the University of New Haven, and a Certificate in Museum Studies from Harvard University. I interned at a major museum's front desk, in archives, and other capacities for several Connecticut museums. I feel I can provide significant value for the business, technological, and social media side for a museum. What next steps would you recommend I take to break into the museum industry? 

    Thank you for your time and responses.

    Arieh Fried

    [Arieh] [Fried]
    [Job Searcher/Candidate]
    [] [860-888-8052] [West Hartford, Connecticut]
    AAM Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo, Baltimore, May 16-19, 2024, click to learn more

  • 2.  RE: Breaking into the industry

    Posted 08-03-2018 07:42 AM
    Hi, Arieh.

    I just started working in a planetarium which is museum-like and even though it's part-time and it's at the front desk, it is a foot in a door type of job. We have some similarities as well. I just graduated with a B.A. in History and volunteered at my college local town museum working with archives for 3 years. Right now I'm pursuing in a Museum Studies online certificate and I'm considering about getting a Master's in library Science since I wish to become an archivist. 

    Since now I'm a "rookie" in this type of field, all I could say is try to get more experiences in interning or volunteering in another museum. If you wish to work in the social media side, I would research and email other folks who work in museums for their social media and asked what they had to do.  

    Good luck!

    Daniel-Josef Williams
    Guest and Services Representative
    Adler Planetarium
    Chicago, IL

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  • 3.  RE: Breaking into the industry

    Posted 08-03-2018 10:25 AM


    It is difficult to gain full-time employment in the museum field. I recommend taking a part-time position or volunteering in a place that you want to work. You may need to take a non-museum job to pay the bills but volunteering is very valuable work experience. When a job opens up, they are more likely to hire people they know. It also gives you experience and an insight into their workplace environment. I had an MA and interned every summer at different institutions throughout college. It still took me two years before I landed a full-time job in a museum. That was over 15 years ago and I don't think it has gotten any better.


    Good luck!


    Gwen McCausland


    South Dakota Agricultural Heritage Museum

    977 11th Street

    Brookings, SD 57007



    AAM Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo, Baltimore, May 16-19, 2024, click to learn more

  • 4.  RE: Breaking into the industry

    Posted 08-03-2018 11:46 AM

    If this makes you feel any better you are certainly not in the minority. I know countless, often well deserving and qualified museum folks that only broke into the industry after years of part-time, temp, contract or volunteer work. I've even heard people compare the museum world with the Hollywood casting process.

    Sounds like you have pretty good credentials and by the looks of it you are actively engaging current museum professionals for advice and guidance. Noting that, it should only be a matter of time before the right opportunity arrives. In the meantime hang in there. Cast a wider net perhaps and see if you can find a spot at a local framer or conservator, art gallery, artists assistant, art packing/handling/transport company, art storage ect. It may not be your final goal but often times there is a cross-pollination between museum/gallery service based industries and career track museum work. 

    Best of luck!

    Edward Bopp
    Lead Exhibitions Technician
    Bullock Texas State History Museum
    Austin TX

    AAM Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo, Baltimore, May 16-19, 2024, click to learn more

  • 5.  RE: Breaking into the industry

    Posted 08-06-2018 03:18 PM

    I understand your dilemma. It took me a year after graduating with a BA to find a museum curator job and I was applying to everything I could find. If you really want to be in this profession then be prepared to move around, take a job(s) that does not pay well or have the best working conditions. Some local history museums are staffed with locals and sometimes they are untrained. It can be frustrating but its just part of this profession. I wish it could say it gets easier but in 20 years I had to do two internships as well as volunteer for a museum after the 2012 sequestration took out my contract until I convinced them to hire me on a few months later. 

    In southern CT the Bruce Museum and the Stamford Museum advertise for positions. You may wish to pay them a visit and introduce yourself.

    Benjamen Salata
    Project Manager
    Luxam Inc.
    Coral Springs FL

    AAM Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo, Baltimore, May 16-19, 2024, click to learn more

  • 6.  RE: Breaking into the industry

    Posted 08-07-2018 09:09 AM
    I am replying from a perspective that covers a certain amount of time. Your situation is not unique and never has been, to my knowledge. I found a low-paying museum position in the early 1990s, 4 years after graduating from college and more than half a year after grad school. What made a difference was that 1) I was willing to move; 2) continued some volunteer work in the interim; 3) saw it as an opportunity to get my foot in the door; and 4) attended occasional professional conferences. I learned more on that job than I could ever have imagined.

    What has become a rather sad situation these days is that potential employers don't seem to bother replying that applications have even been received and, just as inconsiderate, that the application doesn't fit their needs. That seems to have grown substantially in the last decade or so although, again, it's not terribly new. It does make me make an effort in corresponding even with potential student interns simply reaching out with inquiries.

    What stands out to me, writing as someone who hires on rare occasions, is whether or not the applicant has remained active in the field in any way, paid FTE or PTE or volunteer. Does the applicant attend professional workshops or is she/he a member of regional, state or national professional organizations? Annual dues may be adjusted for members who are volunteers. It shows a commitment to the profession and exemplifies work ethic. If the applicant gets to the interview and has the same credentials as another applicant, the next important step is to consider how that person will be an asset to that team. That's not easily quantifiable.

    Somewhere there is an institution or team that will be right for you.

    Ellen Endslow
    Director of Collections/Curator
    Chester County Historical Society
    West Chester PA

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  • 7.  RE: Breaking into the industry

    Posted 08-08-2018 08:03 AM
    Hi Arieh,

    I agree with what the others have said. It is hard to get that first job, and often volunteering is the best way to get your foot in the door. The other thing to do is network as much as you can. You live in a great region for that; NEMA has all sorts of opportunities, from informal gatherings to workshops and its annual conference coming up in November. If you haven't already done so, check into their Young and Emerging Professionals Professional Affinity Group. Also, try reaching out to alums of the Harvard program just for informational interviews. I've found that most people are happy to help someone trying to enter the field because we have all been in your shoes at some point. Good luck!

    Gail Nessell-Colglazier
    Executive Search Consultant for Museums
    Londonderry, NH

    AAM Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo, Baltimore, May 16-19, 2024, click to learn more

  • 8.  RE: Breaking into the industry

    Posted 08-08-2018 12:01 PM
    Hi Arieh,

    I know exactly how you feel. After I graduated, I had an internship for four months in Colorado and then nothing for a whole year. I was applying for positions everywhere but was either getting nothing back or that they went with someone else. It was very discouraging. I was fortunate enough to land an internship for six months with State Parks. A couple people there were able to help me with my resume and cover letter for the job I now currently have.  

    I would suggest volunteering somewhere and looking into paid internships. If you are not already getting emails from them I would subscribe to the University of Delaware MuseWeekly because they list not only jobs in different sectors but paid and unpaid internships. One thing I did also was emailed people at museums I wanted to intern at and ask if they needed or wanted someone to help. Make sure if you do you explain to them what you want to do, learn, and/or accomplish so they can see if you would be a right fit. Sometimes, especially small museums, they do not advertise that they want interns. It never hurts to ask if they have something you can do. 

    Other things I learned was that having a good cover letter can also be key. I did a workshop through CAM (California Association of Museums) about cover letters. What I learned was that a lot of times candidates can get looked over because their cover letter was not very good. Since this is a summary that is read, you want it to stand out. Two co-workers from an internship helped me by saying, when you write a cover letter have the job description out next to you, figure out what would be the main essential duties for the job, and show in your cover letter what you have done that makes you qualified. One thing from my job description was working with NAGPRA. I had never done that and so in my cover letter I made sure to point out I had no worked on or with NAGPRA, but I was excited to learn something new. This shows employers that you read the job description, you know how you can help, and you know where you can improve and learn something new. 

    Also sometimes when you apply for a job and they email back that they went with someone else, you can always try emailing them back and asking what could have made you a stronger candidate. Most museum people will be happy to help out. 

    Attending any conferences might be useful as they get you interacting with people in your field. Here is a link to a website that lists museum associations (National, Regional and State Museum Associations). You can see if there are any near you and if they have any conferences or workshops.

    I hope this helps. If you need someone to help proof read anything I would be more than happy to help out. And do not get discouraged, something will come along. You just have to keep trying.

    Jacquelyn George
    Collections Assistant
    Haggin Museum
    Stockton CA

    AAM Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo, Baltimore, May 16-19, 2024, click to learn more