Friday, November 09, 2007

The Dust has Settled

Please excuse my absence from the blogging scene, life got busy (not like yours doesn't as well). Following the Association of Midwest Museum's conference I prepared to get married (which I did) and I went on a honeymoon (Ireland). Now that I've been back in the office for almost a week and the dust for the most has settled from my desk, I thought I'd check in with the virtual community I belong to.

This year's Association of Midwest Museum Conference was held at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan. Enriching, as always I'd like to take a moment to recap a session I co-presented called "Speaking of Leadership." The session was designed as an informal discussion between young museum professionals and established leaders in the museum field. We had just over 20 participants (which I thought was very successful considering we presented after the last keynote on Friday morning). From all the discussion I found a few things to be most interesting.

When young professionals asked what museums were looking for in staff; the answer was simple and clear – passion and interpersonal skills – I have to admit I was a little surprised by the answer. I was ready for "a masters degree." As the discussion continued many of the leaders established the point – without passion and interpersonal skills and degree means nothing. I agree but a part of me didn't, haven't we been taught to continue our educations until we are overqualified for every entry position available? –Yes...Then why is it that every job posting seems to require a masters? The point was made that practical experience is far more valuable than academic (not to say that is not important because naturally it is).

The session also covered "Passing the Torch," who is actively engaged in succession planning? I made the point, the three other colleagues from my institution with me have over 90 years worth of experience and I have around five. Of those three all of them will be retiring in the next 10-15 years (who knows, maybe we'll all need to work forever). I find that situation to be daunting, imagine this history our older colleagues have with the institutions they've been with where does that leave us. The leaders responded saying they too felt the same way at one time and they too made mistakes. They want young professional that want to learn and not be "young bucks," who only want to abuse the power dynamics to their advantage.

The discussion also brought to light some of the frustrations felt by young professionals, wages, benefits, and respect. Overwhelmingly the point was, “we’ll work hard, to earn your respect, please compensate us accordingly.” This could be more of the exception rather than the rule. But some made the point that they were not making enough to live, even if they were a great asset to their institutions.

All round I found the discussion to be lively and dynamic, would any of you care to share your own perspectives or reflections on this discussion, present or not?

With thanks,



Clay said...

Hi -

Sorry to hijack this thread, but I couldn't seem to find any other way to start a new one.

Jason and Courtney, I was reading your profile and noticed you both had classroom teaching experience before getting into the museum field. I am a 4th grade teacher right now and thinking about making a transition into this field (still doing a lot of reading and researching at this point!).

I was wondering if either of you two (or anyone else out there who has similar experiences) would be willing to email me and answer some questions I have. If you could find the time to do that, it would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks so much!

Clay said...

Sorry - I completely forgot to leave my email:

Thanks again!