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:
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 Idealist.org, 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.