In five words, describe your place in the sector.
The Leslie Knope of GLAM
What first drew you to the sector i.e. Do you have a particular memory of a moment that got you hooked?
My entry into the sector was very serendipitous. At the end of my BA at Vic I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do with my life once I graduated, but was also about to go overseas for a few months to Greece, on the Vic Classics Field Trip, meaning I didn’t really have much time to figure it out. I was sitting in a classics lecture when Conal McCarthy came into the class with a bunch of prospectus brochures for the Museum and Heritage Studies programmes, I picked one up and had a light bulb moment where I realised “Oh my god, this is me! I want to do this!”
I’ve always been interested in the arts and an avid museums and gallery visitor, but I hadn’t really clicked that there were jobs in the sector that would fit my interests and (very extroverted) personality. I really have no idea where my life would be had Conal not walked into that lecture… thanks Conal!
What challenges have you faced in your career so far?
Hands down it would be first-hand experience of the dreaded “R” word – Restructure / Realignment / Revisioning – whatever the HR people want to call it.
I was part of a council restructure while working at Rotorua Museum, having moved there to get that “job in the provinces” as a first step up. After being there for around two years I effectively lost my job, only to have it re-instated about six weeks later, but with changes. It ended up being the catalyst for my leaving the position a lot sooner than I had planned, as it put me on a path of job applications and momentum to leave the city as soon as possible. It was incredibly difficult on a personal level as I had moved there with no friends or family, just for the job, something many emerging professionals can identify with I am sure. Grappling with feeling like a total failure and sheer panic at the prospect of having to find a job, then move to wherever that job was, in six weeks, was a massive challenge professionally and personally. As a Type A control freak I was not ok with someone else making decisions that impacted my life!
I definitely gained a level of cynicism during the whole process which I’m sure anyone who has been “re-aligned” will identify with – it’s incredibly frustrating to have people make decisions about your job when they have absolutely no sector experience of knowledge. Also being expected to do your job for six weeks while not knowing whether it will even be your job anymore is really shit. To be frank, it’s very hard to care when someone has point blank told you your job is unnecessary!
I try to look back on it as positively as I can, and have since ended up in a job that I love in a city I love. I’m also a lot more resilient now and probably don’t take things as personally as I did before, which is a strength in a sector that is often at the mercy of ever changing funding allocations.
Lesson learned - exit interviews can be very cathartic...
Has anything or anyone in particular provided you with support?
Clichéd as it might sound I would say it’s the many incredible women I have met or worked alongside in the sector, who have given their time, sage advice, shoulders to cry on, and many, many, many glasses of pinot noir. Some have been colleagues, some have been friends, but all have been there in a snap to offer advice or support, proof read cover letters, or answer banal questions about where to get good deals on museum wax.
I am also real advocate for what I call “Sneaky Mentoring”, a concept I will pretend I have just now invented. It’s the non-structured informal mentoring you get when you work with or meet someone and they just sort of rub off on you over time and then one day BAM you’ve realised that you’ve basically levelled up in your career without even noticing it. Of course I have also learned a lot from many amazing men I have worked with too, but on the whole I have found women in the GLAM sector to be incredibly generous with their time and support, and I’ve encountered this time and time again both in my jobs and in wider dealings with people.
While I’m on the feminist soap box, a shout out to the badass all-female staff at Objectspace, especially Director Kim Paton our fearless leader. Ovaries before Brovaries. #squadgoals
What do you think people at your own level bring to the sector?
I no longer really consider myself as an emerging professional, but I do think people at my level– on the cusp of being ‘emerged” maybe – have a real resourcefulness that is unique to this stage of our careers. We’ve been floating around in the sector for long enough to have experience and a network of people around us, but we’re still fresh enough not to get caught up in doing things the same way because “that’s just how it is”. We’ve also often done whatever job has been available at the time, so tend to have a lot of skills to draw on. I think we’ve also suffered through many funding cuts and restructures, so we’re good at making do with what we have, or gaining access to resources in more creative ways.
Perhaps it’s because we’re not at the top and don’t have to get bogged down by bureaucracy or institutional hold ups – we just figure out a way to get shit done.
What is a positive change you would like to see in the sector?
I’d like to see more recognition and professional development opportunities for people who are in administrative or organisational leadership roles. Courtney Johnston led a session on this at the 2016 MA conference and it was the first time I’ve ever sat in a session that was directly relevant to me and my interests, an amazing light bulb moment! I think strong administration makes everyone’s lives easier at the end of the day, and more opportunities for development in those areas would be a positive step.
What is your karaoke song?
It depends on the mood - “Here I go Again” by Whitesnake for raw emotion and guitar solos, and then “Ice Ice baby” by Vanilla Ice when I want to get my rap on – incidentally my Dad used to sing it to me as a baby to get me to sleep, so maybe it’s lodged in my subconscious.