Community and Digital Engagement Graduate at The Highlanders' Museum
BA Modern Languages and History of Art, 2020
What does your current role involve and how did you get there?
I currently work as a Community and Digital Engagement Graduate for a regimental museum in Inverness. This involves managing the museum's social media platforms, producing online learning resources, managing community engagement events, and developing the organisation's website. I started looking for a job in the museum sector in October 2020. I spent the next 7 months writing 46 job applications (many of which required over 1000 words of tailored text), and doing 5 interviews (one of which had three stages). It was a tiring and difficult process that made me doubt my ability and competency. Nonetheless, I knew the sector was competitive at the best of times (let alone during a pandemic) so I persisted and eventually landed a graduate role in the sector I was looking for.
Did you know what you wanted to do before you started University?
I always knew that I wanted to work with art, but I wasn't sure in what capacity. During my year abroad, I interned in a national museum in Italy, and fell in love with the idea of working with museum collections. This is still something that I'm pursing, and I hope that my next role will be more collections or exhibitions focussed.
Did you have any work experience before your graduated?
I gained work experience during my year abroad - I am really pleased that I decided to use the opportunity to work, as I gained hands-on experience that not only helped shape my career path, but gave me the experience to land a part time job in my final year. In my final year, I worked two days a week at the Hive in Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter, where I gained experience with community engagement and exhibition administration. This was so valuable when I was applying for jobs, as the experience was so relevant.
Although it was difficult to work whilst studying, I am glad I persisted as I honestly don't know how I would have got a job in museums otherwise! In my second year, I started an art blog on a WordPress website, which gave me the digital skills that ultimately made me stand out from the crowd when landing my current role. This was so important as I was up against people with Master's Degrees, who I couldn't rival in terms of education - this goes to show how crucial it is to have extra, applicable skills.
What do you love most about your role?
I love that my role allows me to share the museum's collection. Accessibility to museums is something that I'm really passionate about, and engaging audience with the museum's collection is a huge part of my role. I also have the opportunity to be hands-on with the collection, handling and photographing objects. I also love that it's in a great place - I had never been to Inverness before I moved up for work, and I absolutely love it!
What is most challenging about your role?
I find the structure of the museum quite challenging - as it's a military museum, it is very traditional and there are a lot of outdated opinions and processes that I regularly have to battle through. Digital progress here is very slow, but managing this is in a tactful and productive way is a good skill to have.
Have you faced any key challenges during your career journey?
The biggest challenge I faced was believing in myself - I found that I had no response or acknowledgment from 15% of all of my job applications, which made me feel like I wasn't good enough to even warrant a 'no'. I overcame this by focussing on the feedback (which is only given at interview stage!) and always trying to look forward, not back.
How did your time at Birmingham help you prepare for this role?
There was a lot of support available whilst at uni, but I needed it more after graduating when I was actually applying for jobs. I signed up for a few mailing lists of jobs, and applied to one or two of them. I felt that sector specific support was lacking, although I know my sector is quite niche. I probably didn't make the most of the support available.
What are your career plans for the future?
My current role is a one year contract - I would like my next role to be more collections focussed and less digital. I'd also love to stay in Scotland!
What advice would you give to students who are interested in getting into your industry or role, or if they’re unsure what they want to do?
The best resource I found was the Leicester Museum Studies Job Desk - it has every role you'll ever need to see! Consider becoming a member of an association like the Museums Association - a lot of applications ask if you have any memberships, and it just shows that you are passionate about your field. Work experience is key! Even if you do have a Master's, experience goes a very long way, and you need relevant skills for your CV.
What would be your key piece of career advice for a student just entering the employment market?
Sometimes you're going to spend days on an application for a role that you think is made for you - try your best not to be too disappointed if you don't get it. The job market is extremely tough at the moment, with a lot of over qualified people applying for entry level roles typically given to graduates. Something will come up, even if it takes, 3 months, 6 months, or a year - don't lose hope!