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Top Takeaways from the #AASLH2017 Navigating Career Pathways Session

by Brian Failing, Executive Director, Aurora Regional Fire Museum, Aurora, IL on

Thank you to everyone who joined us at the Annual Meeting in Austin for our session “Next Steps: Navigating Career Pathways with People Who’ve Been There.” As we reflect on our experiences, we would like to thank the group of professionals who served as advisers by offering their words of wisdom and advice to all emerging professionals navigating their careers.

  1. Always Look. Museum positions pop up in the places you least expect them. Organizations, not just museums, are hiring individuals to work in collections, archives, and marketing. This is evident in the expansion of business archivists.
  2. Coffee. Never underestimate the power of a cup of coffee. Whether you are looking for a position or want to learn more about an organization, reach out and ask someone. Professionals enjoying talking about their organizations and their jobs.
  3. Find Your Niche. Carve out your niche and study what you are interested in. Especially true while in school – if someone is not doing what you want to do, go and do it (I never thought I would be so interested in postcards, for example).
  4. Short and Sweet. Make sure your cover letter is short, sweet, and to the point. Ensure your letter mentions what you can do well and discusses what you can add to an organization.
  5. Objective. Your resume does not need an objective statement. Hiring managers all know you want a job. Focus on your skills.
  6. Interview. In an interview, be prepared to discuss what skills you bring to the table, especially how the organization can help you hone your skills and how can it challenge you to develop others.
  7. Presentation. Develop a portfolio and bring it with you to interviews. Make sure you have pictures of projects – before, during, and after. This allows you to showcase what you have done and back up what appears on your resume.
  8. Invest in Yourself. Do what you can to develop your knowledge. Find books and blogs, enroll in free webinars, and go to conferences to invest in yourself and your future.
  9. Know the Pieces. Even if you do not work in a small organization, know how each department works. Museum professionals should know what an educator does, how to make mounts, design an exhibit, etc. No matter your size, you are part of a team.
  10.  Be Humble. Whether working, interning, or volunteering, learn how to fit into the culture of your organization. We are all growing and there is always more to learn.

As an Affinity Community, our goals include providing support and professional development opportunities for emerging history professionals and creating and maintaining physical and digital spaces where EHPs can meet, discuss ideas, and network. We hope these tips will help you navigate your way as an emerging history professional. Did we miss anything? Comment below with more tips. See you next year at the 2018 AASLH Annual Meeting in Kansas City!

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