UCL Careers Themed Weeks 2019: Museums, Arts & Cultural Heritage Top Tips from Gina Koutsika
By Joe O'Brien, on 19 November 2019
Written by guest writer, Gina Koutsika, Creative & Skills Director at V&A Museum of Childhood.
Panellist on Careers in Museums Panel, 11th November, 2019.
It was a great pleasure to be on the ‘Careers in Museums’ panel at UCL and to see so many students wanting to work in museums. For those that could not make it, here are my top 4 tips to succeed in the museum sector:
- Learn about yourself, your needs and your preferences. Working in museums is fulfilling and rewarding. You are surrounded by passionate and interesting colleagues, significant – and sometimes astoundingly beautiful – artefacts that can reveal so many different stories and you create memorable, life-changing, enjoyable experiences for and with the public. However, working in museums requires – not only at the start but throughout your professional journey – a lot of personal sacrifices. It requires to invest a lot of your personal time; a lot of your energy and the pay is for some roles less than the national average. It is important to be confident that working in a museum is really what you want to do and that it worth the personal cost. Alternatives include being a museum supporter, museum consumer and a museum volunteer, while having a different career.
- Develop your competencies and skills. Volunteer in different roles and in a variety of museums. Get to know the sector and gain hands-on experience, which is often more valuable, than academic knowledge. When I started and while working full-time, I was volunteering in both my own organisation (at another department) and in another museum. It was exhausting but also exciting and it enabled me to build on my skills and experiences, which led to a promotion.
- Grasp any opportunity that comes your way and seek to create your own opportunities. Be open, available, and willing to support others. It’s important to make connections, take up training and networking opportunities. You may even want to source a mentor. There are a number of networks you can join for free, and museum membership organisations, like ICOM, MA, GEM, VSG as well as subject -specialist network, that usually have a discounted student membership. There are also bursaries to attend conferences and training days, and it is worth saving up and investing in your professional development.
- Regularly, visit museums and exhibitions and observe how visitors engage and interact. Note what worked and what did not. Think about what you may have done differently and your reasoning for it. Talk to the front-of-house staff and learn from their experiences in the galleries. Keep a log of your visits and who you meet. Keep up with the latest developments in the sector through newsletters, research papers, books. Read widely and outside the museological literature.