By: Anna Walcutt, MA in Art History, GWU, 2014
As I read through job descriptions and wondered why museum employers seldom contacted me, it occurred to me that I did not know what successful applicants were doing to gain the attention of potential employers. I realized there must be something different that other people are doing that I was not, and if I could figure out that key to success then I too could succeed. In addition, I thought about my previous acceptances for academic programs and internships, and I realized that many of my successes had been made possible (at least in part) through networking with professionals. So my solution? Meet art history professionals working in the museum field! My reasoning was that these professionals would know what museums desired from an applicant for an entry-level position.
Next, I considered how I was going to find professionals to meet. Attending networking events seemed helpful for my goal, but a little impersonal for my taste. Then I remembered that a friend from undergrad knew a senior person at a well-known local museum. My friend supplied me with an e-mail address, and after revising my resume, I sent a polite message email inquiry based on a template from the GW Center for Career Services. A few days later, I heard from the museum contact, who agreed to meet me. He also stated that he would like to introduce me to other people in the department.
The meeting was beneficial. I spent about 30 minutes talking with the man with whom I had e-mail corresponded, as well as one of his co-workers. They asked me about my education, interest in the museum, mutual acquaintances, and prior professional experiences. They gave me advice on how to improve my resume and suggested other professionals who might like to meet me. Overall, the meeting was a wonderful experience; I met professionals who wanted to stay in contact and who would let me know about open positions.
My advice is to not be afraid to reach out to professionals in your field. Get to know the names and interests of professionals with whom you share interests. Also, do things that will put you in contact with professionals. For example, from the first year of my MA program, I would actively go to museums to read curatorial files that were relevant to my research papers. By being present in the museum, I was able to meet a few staff members and learn the names of senior professionals in academia and the museum world.