Job hunting in an economic downturn is the same as any other time, except there are fewer opportunities and much more competition.
But the tried and true ďrulesĒ for getting your first museum job still apply.
Here are some tips:
1. Volunteer! I cannot overstate this. I know it is hard to find time to volunteer when you have a mountain of student loan debt and are already working at least one job outside the museum field. But if you want a museum job, you absolutely must make time to volunteer.
Most museums have a variety of time slots available for volunteering. For example, if you work evenings waitressing, you can volunteer during the day to help with the museumís day-to-day activities, like giving tours, collections work, or research. If you have a daily 9 to 5 job, find out what special events are happening on the weekends or in the evening. Keep your foot in the door by working for free.
If you absolutely cannot make your schedule work with your local museums, volunteer to write some articles for their journal or newsletter. You can do that on your own time from home.
2. Get the right educational background. If you only have a Bachelorís degree, chances are you are going to be overlooked for many positions, simply because there are lots of freshly-minted Masterís degree graduates out there vying for the same jobs as you are. Like all industries, there have been many positions eliminated at museums across the country. That means there are more people than ever applying for even fewer jobs. You have to be competitive. So get that MA.
3. Accept something temporary. There are lots of opportunities for grant-funded positions and internships that may only be for one year, pending grant renewal. It isnít ideal, for sure, but at least you could be working in a museum! It might lead to another permanent position, and it will strengthen your resume for the future.
4. Network whenever you can. Attend alumni functions from college or graduate school. Join all the professional organizations, like AAM and AASLH. Donít forget regional and statewide groups too. Scholarships are sometimes available to attend conferences. You never know where you will find an open door waiting for you!
5. Stay positive! Even when the economy was great, the museum field was tough to break into. But slow and steady wins the race, so keep sending out those resumes!
Check out this book for a great overview of the museum field: