Saturday, December 30, 2006

Job Hunting Cross-Country (...or in your own backyard)

First of all, a big thanks to Nathan for doing all that job links compiling! Meanwhile, I've been dithering away at trying to finish this posting (...for a while now...) in between holiday craziness, and all that stuff you see on the right-hand side may actually be more helpful than what I say here, but I'll still give it a shot.

It can be challenging enough to snag a museum job right in the city where you live, with all the knowledge about and connections in that market you may have. What about when you're trying to find a position on the other side of the country? Or what about when you're open to applying for any relevant job, nationwide? I'm currently in the former situation, and it's forced me to start consolidating and reviewing everything I think I know about getting a museum job. But most of the ideas here are ones that apply to any job search, whatever its geographical boundaries, so I'm hoping this post will stir response from both potential relocaters and local job hunters.

First, a little background: I've been living in New York City for over 9 years, working in and learning about the museum and school worlds here for the last 4 while completing a masters in museum education, and finally thought I was getting somewhere in my understanding of how the whole thing works. I now find myself -- after job-hopping for the past several years, and having just this July started what I would consider my first permanent, full-time, "professional" job in a museum -- faced with the proposition of moving to Seattle, hopefully within the next six months or so, to join my significant other. Though I know next to nothing about the Seattle museum job market, I at least feel that my past experiences in the hiring process, from both sides of the desk, give me some idea of what I'll need to do, and what to expect, when my hunting starts in earnest this coming spring. Among other things, it'll involve:

Inevitably, networking
I guess this goes without saying for just about any job, in any field, when you're trying to make a career out of it. But it seems to be especially true when it comes to museums. So much of the time people go through their friends and colleagues to find good candidates before they even post a job opening, and having someone -- particularly one of those individuals who seems to be sort of the hub in the wheel, the folks who know everybody (doesn't everyone know one of those?) -- looking out for you is perhaps the best way to find the right position. And museums are such a small world that you might even have local contacts who can help when you're looking for employment hundreds or thousands of miles away.

In addition to individuals, I've also been looking into any local museum organizations in the Seattle area that might be helpful. Mary Rizzo commented on Erin's 11/30 networking blog that when attending conferences for networking purposes, she thought the smaller, local ones were more useful than the big, national ones, and I think this is true for the organizations you choose to join as well. For instance: I'd been a member of AAM for several years; I did not renew my membership this year, and instead got a membership in NYCMER, the New York City Museum Educators Roundtable. AAM was great: the nationwide free entry to museums was very handy, and I enjoyed the annual conference this past year, and plan on attending next year's. But NYCMER is filled with lots of people I know, lots of other people whose names I've heard or who've heard mine; they send out regular job postings by email; they hold regular, local events that are great networking opportunities and relevant to my work; and best of all they're less expensive to join than AAM, and most of their events and services are included in that nominal membership price. I have to imagine that in other large cities across the country there are, hopefully, comparable entities. To check, for museum ed-ers like me, you can go the Museum Educator's Roundtable, which lists and links to local orgs.

And knowing where to look
There are a couple good national sites for nonprofit job listings in general, and museum listings in particular. If you still haven't checked out, it just might be the best job site ever for us do-gooder types, and will even send you free daily updates based on your search parameters. Local Craig's List sites can also be helpful, particularly as its whole being free thing makes it more accessible to small organizations. For museum jobs specifically, I've so far found AAM's careers site (which you can access, although not apply through, even if you're not a member) and Global Museum (a little hard to navigate, not having a search function, but it lists international jobs as well); there are also a bunch of other sites listed over there in the job links column. Local organizations are also, again, often a good source for job listings (NYCMER's regular emails are great for New York jobs), and these days a lot of individual museums, especially the big guys, have detailed, up-to-date employment listings on their own sites.

Those are the two big job search points I'm already far too familiar with in my only 27 years thus far on this planet. But I am now encountering some questions that are pretty specific to more geographically sweeping searches, and some that are specific to us young museum professionals, and while I hope the above might be helpful to other job searchers, I'm also hoping to solicit some opinions -- some help for me -- on the below:

How much does that return address mean?
Will Seattle museums see New York at the top of my resume and just dismiss me out of hand? I know that we've been interviewing for several positions at my current museum, and are admittedly somewhat skeptical of non-New Yorkers, keeping in mind they will have to work with a wide spectrum of local students, teachers, and other visitors. And I recognize that museum programs have a genuine need for professionals who know their communities, know how their schools and cities work, and how to work with them. Or, alternately, some folks may just not look at you because they assume, if you're applying from so far away, that you're just haphazardly blitzing museums with your resume, and don't have a specific interest in their institution. Is there any way to get around issues like this, or do we all just have to move to the places we want to work before they'll take us seriously?

How about missing the face-to-face?
In my Seattle job search, I've had one phone interview thus far, and frankly I'm pretty sure it sucked. I'm just not a person who does very well reading people over the phone; I find it much harder to get a real sense of, or develop a good rapport with, the person I'm speaking to, and I think I'm not alone. I think it's probably true of a lot of the people who will be interviewing me, in fact. But, being a museum professional, I can't afford to constantly travel for interviews (though I'm prepared to do so for second-rounds with places where there's a high mutual interest), and, being a museum, they won't often pay for me to do so, either. Not to mention the time constraints my current job would impose on such travel, even were it financially viable. Does anyone have any tips here?

Remember when I said "job-hopping"?
This is the one that I'm hoping will be relevant for some other young museum professionals, local and long-range hunters alike: the somewhat checkerboarded resume. It's not that I haven't been dedicated to the places I've worked, it's just that for the past several years I've been trying to finish graduate school, doing the required fieldwork for that degree, and taking a couple positions as sort of test-drives (where those hiring me also recognized them as such) to see what direction I wanted to take that degree in. Now I'd really, really, really like a job that I can stay in for a while, an organization and program I can grow with, but I fear that prospective employers may -- noticing that the longest I've held any job ever is two years, and in the museum/teaching fields my average is more like six months -- be initially skeptical. Reassurances and/or commiseration from fellow job-hunters, or viewpoints of those doing the hiring, much appreciated here, and regarding all the points and questions above.


Jason said...

Just found this museum job listing, as well. Didn't see it on Nathan's exhaustive list (too much time on your hands, Nathan?)


Jason said...

RE: Job Hopping

I too had this problem after spending about 5 years in Washington, DC where the average tenure of any twenty-something is somewhere around 11 months. It's the nature of the city (much like NYC, I assume).

I went to a job fair after returning to the midwest (I was unemployed for about 7 months) where I asked specifically how to address this "stain" on my resume. I was told to address it in my cover letter, to be up-front and explain that the jobs I took offered increasingly better salaries, greater responsibilities, etc. The moves were not a "flight of fancy" but were calculated decisions to improve myself (or yourself, as the case may be).

Good luck!

Suzanne said...

I've been worried about the job-hopping thing too, and I've received the same advice as Jason, but I've stayed at jobs longer than I would have liked because I feared giving future employers an impression of flightiness.

I've compiled a list of job links for my own public history job search (click on my name) and hope it might be useful to others as well.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Jason & Suzanne--
Especially for the additional job sites. Hopefully these will be useful for other folks as well.

Kelly said...

If there is anything in your resume that you think will hurt your chances, you can always address this in your cover letter. Saying that you’re planning on relocating to Seattle will dispel any fears that you’re blitzing the country with resumes and don’t have an interest in a particular institution. If you are, in fact, blitzing the country with resumes, try to put something in each cover letter that says why you’d like to move to that area. I’m sure that there are areas you’d be more interested in than others, and that will show through in your application. Last year I had to begin a nation-wide job search six months after I finished graduate school in DC and settled into what I thought would be my first long-term museum job, so I explained in my cover letters that my current job did not have the budget to keep me on. I also tried to add something about why I wanted to move to the region of each job, although I was primarily applying to jobs in the Midwest, and I had the advantage of having my undergraduate education and many internships being in Illinois, so it was fairly obvious that I was simply returning home rather than relocating to an area I had no experience with.

As for the “job hopping,” I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a lot of short term jobs on your resume if they occurred during or right before your graduate school experience. I think it’s expected that you’ll have internships and short term jobs to get you through school. However, if you’re really nervous about this, again, explain it in your cover letter.

In my nationwide job hunt, I had three museums bring me in for an in-person interview. All were preceded by phone interviews. Two of them paid for my trip; the other did not. All of them were small to mid-sized institutions. The two in smaller cities were the ones that paid. I think this is in part due to the fact that they realized they needed specialized skills that could not necessarily be found locally.

Good luck...I know from experience that this isn't easy, but don't give up hope.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this! I don't have any useful advice, just wanted to let you know that I am right there with you! I received my museum science masters in August and am still job hunting. It's been tough, but hopefully I am getting closer to a permanent position!

Anonymous said...

This is a fantastic post and topic -- particularly for young (and often mobile folks). I love my job at the moment, but there is a possibility that my significant other may relocate to a major city over the next year. I'd love to be able to follow him, but don't want to give up something that I love, and that is stable without finding something at least comparable in a potential new location. I think this is a common experience!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that exhaustive list of job search sites, Nathan. I wanted to add to the mix. I find that it's a great source of NYC jobs, if anyone is interested.

Question: I was wondering if anyone can advise me about whether or not it is wise to send resumes and coverletters to the same institution for different jobs. I do not have a specific focus in museum work right now, and I am basically interested in everything it completely unprofessional and would it turn of prospective employers to send my info for different kinds of jobs?

Thanks a lot.

Anonymous said...

I just went through a very similar expereience. I went to school in D.C at GW for my masters program, during my last semester I was looking for a job in the field or at least related to it. I found out I was applying for the same position as one of my professors. That was a bit disheartening, so I knew I wasn't likely to find something with so many more qualified canidates in the pool. When my husband finished his law degree a year after, I saw the move to Chicago as a great opportunity to give the job hunt another stab. I had had similar short term jobs, but in my resume I noted the ones that were internships as internships, that helps. I used the first two sentences to explain which position I was interested in and why and when I was moving to Chicago. I will admit I didn't have much luck until we actually moved here, but the best thing I did was in the last month before we moved, I cold called every museum in Chicago I could find a phone number for. I got lucky and made a connection with a Registrar, who while she didn't have an opening took the time to meet with me and connected me with other Registrars in the area, one of which was actually hireing. The best advice I can give in the interview process whether in person or over the phone is you're selling a product (your skills/motivation/etc.), tell them why you are what they are looking for. I have gotten my last three jobs by being able to "sell the product". I convinced a musuem director that she needed a collections manager, when I was still in my first year of grad school and the musuem had never had one before. I also convinced a health insurance company that museum studies was a great background for underwritting (I had student loans to pay and it turned out I was pretty good at the job) and now I have my first full time position-which is after my first week is shaping up to be a great opportunity.
You can do it. Don't be shy. :)

Courtney White said...

You are more likely to get a position in Seattle if you have an address there and can be immediately available. You can list two addresses on your coverletter and resume and explain.

Look at the various positions you've held and draw a thread around them that link your personal passion. Connect this passion to that position you really want. Once you identify and articulate this, you don't even need to be convincing. You will shine and mutually opportunities for both you and the potential employer will arise.

Best to you Courtney!

W2E said...

Hello bloggers, here’s an excerpt from an article I published a while ago on locating jobs in the US:

Nowadays, one of the job seekers' biggest help is the immense Internet database. Many companies are hiring people over the Internet, some of them testing the candidates in advance and others by just looking at the resumes and performing online interviews. Also, there are plenty of online recruitment agencies, which are very helpful to both categories: employers and candidates.

Some of these agencies offer even consulting and professional reorientation courses. Competing on the work market is a beneficial experience for most of the job seekers as they are always in touch with the employers' requests and demanding and they also learn to evaluate themselves.

Consulting courses are very helpful for a job seeker as they gain precious information about how to create a strong resumes, cover letters, and how to present themselves at a job interview or how to negotiate your salary. If you think you are prepared for a certain position, but there are no vacancies at the time, you can simply go directly to the certain institution, leave your CV and maybe if you are lucky, you will have a spontaneous interview, which will automatically get you hired.

While looking for a job in the US you have to start by having a positive way of thinking. The US work market is very dynamic and changes occur every second. You have to be prepared to adapt to changes really fast and to keep following your aim. While looking for a job, try to take advantage of your spare time (if any) and prepare yourself for the job that waits for you. Read more about the company, which has selected you for a job interview next week. This way not only you gain more information, but you will also be able to decide if this is the job you are looking for, if it really suits you.

Anyhow, it is best not to cancel a job interview even if you have the feeling that it won't suit you. Just give it a try, this can be a good experience and you never know, maybe it is the job you were looking for.


Michael S.

For more resources on finding a job in Louisiana and New Jersey employment please see my blog.

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