Here is a how-to guide for how to get into the career sector of heritage from someone whose main job is exactly that. I found it tough to land my first job within the sector. Here is what you can learn from my experiences.
The key to getting into the heritage sector is to gain relevant experience. This is usually through volunteering. Volunteering provides you with an opportunity to try roles to find which one you feel would suit you most. It is also a way to show your commitment to possible future employers. It’s tough to get your first job within heritage and volunteering at one establishment for a long time, or helping at a variety over time, will impress whoever is interviewing you.
Heritage also often requires specific skills before you can be considered for a paid role, and you can gain these skills through voluntary posts. As soon as you know heritage might be the sector for you, look into volunteering. Starting earlier will help you stand out.
Learn what roles you are good at and which ones you need to work on. Being versatile will help you secure a role within the sector. The work you can expect to be doing is varied. So make sure you draw on previous experience as much as possible. Trying out multiple roles before committing to one may help you. Demonstrating you have a wide range of previous skills, particularly that you are adaptable and flexible, will dramatically increase your chances.
Develop your professional network
Establishing and creating a network of contacts is critical for your career within the heritage sector. As they say, it’s sometimes not what you know but who you know, which is exactly how I managed to get my CV looked at for a placement despite the fact the museum was not taking placements. You will also hear about opportunities when they first come up via your network if people know you are interested.
Social media can also help keep your profile relevant. Use Twitter or write your own blog and keep your LinkedIn profile up to date. Prospective employers will look at your profile to see what skills you’ve obtained and where you gained them. Attend conferences in person and introduce yourself to important people or, if you prefer online, use LinkedIn.
Be willing to travel
Heritage establishments have fixed locations and, unfortunately for you, cannot be moved. Expanding your search radius will increase your possible job opportunities. Work out exactly how far you are willing to travel and keep an eye on those establishments for jobs. I personally travel out of my city for work for exactly this reason.
Know the right places to check for jobs
Make sure that, alongside using generic job posting sites such as indeed, you are also checking job sites specific for heritage. Leicester Museums jobs desk is a great site to keep an eye on and it is updated every Thursday evening with new opportunities from that week. The opportunities posted on the site cover all of the UK (and sometimes even abroad). Also keep an eye on the companies themselves such as English Heritage, National Trust or trusts or sites that are within reasonable distance to yourself such as Birmingham Museums trust. Be sure to also check council job sites such as WM jobs, as many sites are now owned by local councils.
The last thing you will need to know in terms of getting a career within heritage is to be persistent. Heritage is a hard industry to get into and you probably won’t manage it first time. However, if it is something you seriously want, keep trying and don’t give up. I didn’t get a job from my first application either.
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