Nina Simon uses the 4th anniversary of her blog to tell a story: "How I Got Here," and shares some advice:
I don't pretend that anyone else can or should follow my path into the field; everyone approaches learning and careers differently. But here are a few things I think worked for me and might work for you:
- Be aggressive and clear about your intentions. Tell prospective employers or supervisors what exactly you want to do, what you expect to accomplish, and what you want to receive. Bosses are like boyfriends; they're not mind readers. You have to tell them what you want. Lay out your goals so they understand where you're heading and hopefully can help you get there.
- Articulate what you can do for your organization, not what you can do generally. Many people focus job application cover letters and interview content on what they've done so far. That's fine, but for a prospective employer, it's much more powerful if you can explain specifically how your skills will improve their organization. It's not overreaching to tell an interviewer your ideas for programs or exhibit fixes or even to mock up an example. It's a good way to demonstrate thoughtful intent, and at the same time, to see if your ideas are welcome.
- Take opportunities to do things you love, even if it means more work. If I had spent all my time at the Spy Museum on the admin part of my job, Anna would have seen me as a great administrative assistant. Instead, I got all the admin work done quickly and well and spent extra time differentiating myself as a creative producer. That made her see me as a creative asset beyond my initial job description.
- Seek out mentors. I'd rather work for someone brilliant somewhere lousy than vice versa. Even at conferences, I tend to pick sessions 75% based on people, 25% based on content. This may be a personal defect, but I learn more from people who inspire me.
- Find a starting point for conversation. At those conferences five years ago, I literally didn't even know what I might say to someone like Kathleen McLean. It took blogging and developing a specific interest for me to gain the confidence and voice to know what I wanted to ask. (I'm fundamentally terrible in cocktail party/conference situations, so if you're more naturally shmoozey, you probably don't share this problem of finding something to say.)
- Share your ideas. I used to say that the Museum 2.0 blog's popularity was a case of "right place, right time." I expected the museum blogosphere to explode in 2007 or 2008. But here we are in 2010 and I can count on my hands the number of frequently-updated blogs by people sharing ideas and experiences in the museum field. There is lots of room for new voices online. If writing isn't the way you like to share your ideas, there's room for video series and podcasts and drawings and photo sets too.