Building your Museum Career – Networking

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Hello and welcome to Part 2 of 4 blog posts on ‘kick starting’ your museum career. In my last blog post I talked about creating a ‘portfolio’ for your career you can read about it here.

Today’s blog post shall concentrate on networking – How to Network, Why you should network, Whom you should network with etc. In each section, I shall try to give hints and tips to help you. Without further ado lets get started!

Look at those fabulous Flappers enjoying themselves possibly ‘networking’ whilst at the beach. They seem to be having lots of fun, albeit a bit cold in their swimming costumes. Remember to be like those Flappers and relax and have fun whilst networking! If you take it too seriously you can become more nervous and uptight. And we don’t want that! So….

RELAX!

And now back to our regularly scheduled blog post….

How to Network:

Networking can be scary biscuits! I must admit that I am very shy and find it hard to network. However, what I have wrote here is from my own experience and the experience of others.

Oooh dear those biscuits do look scary!

If  you attend a conference, museum event or meeting – introduce yourself to people at the event. This can be daunting, but remember a few tips:

  • Be yourself.
  • Relax.
  • Smile and make eye contact.
  • Keep conversation to the professional/academic spheres.

To cement conversations made at events hand out your business card and send an e-mail to the person about the conversation you have had with them. If they have twitter, follow them and tweet them. A great way to continue the conversation – and who knows where it could lead to!

Boosting Confidence!

rokcet Think of boosting your confidence like a rocket taking off. Whoosh!

A few tips on boosting confidence whilst networking:

  • Remember there are other people out there as nervous as you!
  • If it helps; practice introducing yourself to friends and family. Ask them what you can improve on.
  • Practice in front of the mirror; notice any bad body language and lack of eye contact.

This list of tips to boost your confidence is endless and the above examples are just a few. You may find other tips to boost your confidence that help you network.

Whom to Network with:

There are no right or wrong people with who you should network with. You could network with someone purely because you are interested in their work or interested in one museum.

However, it is useful to network with people with similar research interests as you, who work in the same field as you and people you could collaborate with or who could advance your career. The list below is an example of whom you could network with to improve your career prospects:

  • National or local museum professionals i.e. the archivist in your local museum or a curator in a field you are interested in. If you’re thinking of moving to the UK mainland to find work consider networking with people already working in the UK. Ask them how they got their job, what experience they have and where they work.
  • International museum professionals. This could be anyone from a curator in a museum in New York to a freelance museum professional in New Zealand. If you want to establish links to work internationally you have to network internationally!
  • Museums, Heritage Sites, Museum Membership bodies. It’s important to network with museums and heritage sites as they can offer volunteering or employment opportunities. Networking with museum membership bodies e.g. The MA or ICOM. can offer opportunities to present papers at conferences and symposiums.

Now you may be thinking, ‘How am I meant to network and/or meet these people?’ As mentioned, a lot of networking and meeting people happens at conferences and events. BUT a lot of networking is now taking place on social media e.g. Twitter and LinkedIn etc. I don’t use LinkedIn (I know I should!) so I will be talking about Twitter in this next section.

The use of Twitter in ‘Networking’:

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Vintage ‘Twitter’ Birdie. 

I am an avid Twitter user. Some may say a ‘Twitter Addict,’ but I’m really not that bad! Twitter is a fantastic medium to network with and keep in contact with people you have already met. It is instantaneous, quick and fun to use.  It can be very beneficial to your career and career advancement prospects.

I have used Twitter since 2012 in a professional capability.  I have been fortunate to meet and converse with some wonderful people over Twitter. Using Twitter has also lead to two volunteer posts I have. So not only is Twitter useful for networking but for volunteer and job opportunities to. In fact, I saw my current job advertised on Twitter!

There are a few things that you should keep in mind if using Twitter:

  • You only have 140 characters to get across what you want to say. Try to keep it short and to the point.
  • Try not to post to much personal information if you are using Twitter solely for professional reasons.
  • If you are working for a museum or heritage site, it is worth while to have in your Twitter profile ‘All opinions my own not that of my employer.’ This hopefully covers you if anything bad should happen.
  • It may be useful to do a twitter search for people who are working in your field or a field you want to be in. I want to pursue a career in textiles so I try to follow textile curators, textile historians and textile conservators.

Don’t forget that you can also use Facebook, LinkedIn, E-mail lists and good ‘old fashioned’ word of mouth to network and meet people. I think it is incredibly important to network in the current economic climate. More and more people are relying on word of mouth for their next job or freelance opportunity. So what are you waiting for start networking!

My next blog post shall be on ‘Specialist Skills vs General Skills – To specialize or Generalize your museum skills!’ Au revoir for now!

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