Tips for getting ahead in the heritage sector


Written by Cal Brindley

Last month I attended the Museums and Galleries Industry panel at Goldsmiths. Amongst the speakers were:

Tim Corum, Director, Curatorial and Public Engagement, Horniman

Desmond Shawe-Taylor, Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures, Royal Collection Trust

Katherine Moulds, Assistant Collections and Loans Registrar at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich

Students attending heard each of the speakers discuss their current roles and the path they took to get there; they were then able to chat with them informally over refreshments afterwards.

Some of the key themes that kept coming up over and over again were:

  • Be flexible: being able to move around different organisations as well as to different parts of the country will enable you to try out a variety of roles to find out what area suits you
  • Have an understanding of the role and organisation: do your research!
  • Importance of varied work experience: never underestimate the value of temping jobs which enable you to develop a wide variety of skills
  • Network: keeping in contact with people is a great way to stay up-to-date with the business and the industry as a whole. If they can’t offer you anything at the moment, is there anyone else they could recommend you speak to?

Skills and traits that are especially valuable are:

  • resilience
  • organisational skills
  • determination
  • a desire for public service/community focus
  • multi-tasking; and
  • having a “can do” attitude – you may be asked to step in to another role – don’t worry about your lack of experience, if you show enthusiasm, you never know where this will lead.

Our speakers said it can be hard to get into the public sector without an MA although it’s certainly not impossible.

There were a couple of interesting points that cropped up in the Q&A afterwards:

Does a focus on contemporary and Modern art make a difference to employment opportunities in the sector?

A: While it is important to have a good grounding in more traditional areas, it is not necessarily a disadvantage. There is a deep interest in practice, as well as theory, and contemporary knowledge is valued. It is beneficial to have specialist knowledge, however it is also important to be willing to get to know more about a range of fields.

How should you approach getting a job at the end of your internship?

A: Be direct, it is important to let the place that you have been working know that you are interested in staying. Maintain contact and stay on good terms with your employers. Even if they don’t have a job available at that point they may later. If you are on good terms with the employer you could also ask for a recommendation, which could help you find another role.

Search for roles in this sector here:

Useful links:

Museums Associations website

Search CareersTagged for further careers resources for the heritage sector

Wannabe Creatives – Have You Considered the ‘Passion’ vs ‘Security’ Trade-off?

Careers in the creative sectors carry their own set of challenges. As many a struggling creative will tell you, there can be a trade-off between pursuing what you are passionate about, and securing a reliable income stream that will grow incrementally. This post is a brief case study of somebody who definitely prioritized ‘passion’ over ‘security’, and how they have made it work for them (so far!).

My friend Irma didn’t know what kind of a career she would have, but she loved theatre and performance, and went to a London drama school because that was the option that she found most exciting. After graduating, regular acting work was few and far between. Irma loved travelling, and soon took off to travel around Europe in a camper van with her boyfriend. After a couple of itinerant years, she heard of volunteering opportunities with Theatre for a Change, a non-profit dedicated to empowering marginalized communities in Africa, and then spent six months in Ghana, facilitating drama workshops and legislative theatre with sex workers in an Accra slum. This experience, and the contacts Irma has accumulated over the years, led to invitations to get involved in projects which often are ad hoc in nature. Currently based in Berlin, Irma is working on a short project in a rural German town. The project involves facilitating refugees and locals to interview and film each other talking about their experiences as either refugees or ‘hosts’. This is to be followed by a workshop in a Dutch university teaching public speaking skills to postdocs.

Irma loves her work. She belongs to that tribe of people who surrender their career decisions almost completely to their interests and values, for which there is often a significant trade-off. From her story I’d like to highlight the following points, which those of you considering a career in the creative sectors may want to consider:

  1. How much unpredictability are you prepared to accept, in exchange for the thrill of exciting and varied projects?
  2. Passion wins the day. It is what will sustain you through difficult periods, and what will make others see value in collaborating with you. Do you have it?
  3. Your network may be the best source of information about new opportunities and collaboration. Put yourself out there, meet people, and find out what they are working on.

If you want to get some volunteering experience in the creative sectors, here are some places you could look:

Theatre for a Change volunteering opportunities

Princes School for Traditional Arts volunteering opportunities

Volunteering opportunities on CharityJob website list many volunteering opportunities

Creative Skillset – a guide to the creative industries

Opportunities for bachelors grads to get a start in the creative industries

Disclaimer: the idea of there being a ‘passion’ vs ‘security’ trade-off is certainly a gross simplification in the face of the different types of ‘creative career’ that exist, and the subjectivity of what ‘passion’, ‘security’, and ‘creative career’ actually mean. I am merely using these terms as a reference point that I hope will help readers to start thinking about their own needs, expectations and attributes.

When in Rome…Cultural Career Considerations


With the growth of the global mindset, an increasing number of us will be looking for job opportunities outside of our home countries. But it’s important to do some research before plunging into a completely different culture. To help you with this, the International Futures blogging team have put together a series of posts on what it’s like to work in three different European countries. So check out their blog to learn whether Spanish workers still take a daily siesta (they don’t), when it’s appropriate to hold your thumbs in Poland, and what kind of workplace ‘banter’ you can expect to find in Russia.

Insights into the World of Publishing

Richard Seonaid

Earlier this week two students from King’s College had the opportunity to interview creative professionals who work in publishing.

The students talked to Richard Mollet (above left), Chief Executive, and Seonaid MacLeod (above right), Publisher Relations Executive, from The Publisher’s Association, as well as Claire Bord from Bookouture.

Please find below some of the insights and tips from Richard, Seonaid and Claire.

What skills are needed in publishing?

A willingness to get stuck in is really important, as well as enthusiasm and passion for what you do. Having digital and IT skills is also important and it’s a bonus if you are good at interpreting consumer data. Being able to demonstrate that you are a creative, flexible and enthusiastic individual will help you to get noticed.

Do you think doing an MA in publishing is worth it or would you rather have a candidate who jumps right in and gets experience?

There is no right answer to this. Having a postgraduate qualification certainly demonstrates that you are committed to the industry and shows you are able to learn independently at postgraduate level. However, if you have the right skills and attitude a master’s qualification isn’t always necessary. Good work experience can also be something that helps you land a position in publishing.

What would you be looking for in a cover letter for an editorial assistant?

Firstly the obvious, your letter needs to be written well and properly punctuated as well as having no spelling mistakes! It needs to give good examples of the skills you have and the work experience you have gained. Get it checked by your careers service if you are at university or by colleagues, friends or family.

What are some of the differences between working for a large publishing organisation and a smaller one, and even working as a freelancer?

A large organisation will look great on your CV and allow you to make lots of connections. You will also gain valuable experience of working with a range of different people. Working as a freelancer may give you more flexibility around your working hours and the projects you work on but is more precarious. You may find it easier to get into freelancing if you have experience with larger companies first. It’s worth trying out both large and small organisations to see which suit you more!

Any other advice?

Do send speculative applications to organisations. Make sure they are well written and that they stand out for all the right reasons.

Blogging looks great on your CV so get writing!

Networking is really important; attend as many networking events as you can. For example The Publisher’s Association have an events page which features events run by organisations such as Book  Industry Communication the Society of Young Publishers , Bookmachine and Byte the Book.

Also look out for the workshops from the Publisher’s Association and many more at The London Book Fair from 14th-16th April at Olympia, London.


Image courtesy of Joe Shlabotnik


Four Tips on Building Experience in the Competitive Not For Profit Sector

Katie Bisaro, Careers Consultant at UCL

Are you experienced enough for a role in the not for profit sector?

You’ve heard it all before – the not for profit sector can be notoriously difficult to break into, especially as a recent student or graduate with limited experience.  As a Careers Consultant and a former employee of the NGO sector, I have heard the same question raised hundreds of times: “how am I meant to build experience, if I need experience before I can get through the door?”

This blog tries to address this question, primarily by expanding your thinking around what constitutes relevant experience and giving you some tips on how to build this.


This does not mean giving up six months of your life without pay.  You can build meaningful experience to help you progress in the charity sector through regular - but part-time volunteering.  Giving up one afternoon a month or helping out with an event that takes place every three months could do wonders for your CV and also help you build meaningful contacts at the same time.

Not sure how to start volunteering in the first place? If you’re a student or recent graduate, check out your university Careers or Volunteering Services, as many institutions will have networks of charity employers to help you set up a volunteer opportunity.  Directly approaching organisations you are interested in, perhaps by writing a brief email introducing yourself and asking if you could contribute as a volunteer is also a well-used strategy.

Positions of responsibility

If you’re a current student, these can be extremely easy to take on.  Becoming part of a student society – and most importantly, taking on a position of responsibility within this society, is an excellent way of demonstrating experience that is valued by the charity sector. Positions of responsibility could be anything from taking a place on the society’s committee, to taking charge of marketing or putting on events.

If your student days are over, think about taking on some responsibility within your own community.  Supporting local initiatives run through community centres, local churches or schools is also very meaningful experience in the charity world.

Travelling counts!

If you take any trips with friends or family, try to do some research before you go and see if there are ways you might be able to build in a day’s volunteering with a local charity while you are there.  If you are lucky enough to be planning a longer-term trip, try to take on some independent travel throughout this time. Demonstrating that you can hold your own, especially in an area that may be off the beaten track and involve having to use very different means of communication to be understood can be evidence to an employer that you have resilience, a sense of initiative, and can manage yourself in pressurised situations.

Use your studies

A key way to build experience whilst studying is to try to take modules or undertake research projects which push you to make links with individuals and organisations working in the charity/NGO field. This is particularly important for Masters students; when planning your dissertation, try to think of how you can build practical field research into your project, which may involve you having to connect with organisations within the field you are interested in. Demonstrating that you have conducted in depth research with leading officials or NGO staff will not only count as relevant experience, but will also widen your network.

These are a few tips to help you re-think what relevant experience is.  If you combine these with part-time paid work you are also demonstrating that you have work ethic, are valued by your employer, and can be trusted with various responsibilities.  So don’t undervalue any other work experience that may not seem directly relevant – employers like to hire people who’ve proven they can hold down a job!

Incredible Internships

Intern at work copyright The Careers Group


While you’re relaxing over the extended weekend, munching on chocolate eggs, why not apply for some of the internships and permanent roles currently on offer via Graduate Gateway?

There are dozens of opportunities available right now in a variety of roles for a wide range of employers. From media to pharmaceuticals, technology to business development there’s bound to be a job that’s right for you.

Here’s a selection:


All our internships are paid and suitable for students or recent graduates. You can find loads more vacancies on the Graduate Gateway website.

Interested in Theatre Design, Theatre Production and Art Directing?


Rhiannon Newman Brown talks about life as a freelance Theatre Designer, Producer and Art Director.

How did you get your job?

I’m a freelance Theatre Designer, Producer and Art Director. I have built up 10 years of experience and contacts enabling me now to thrive as a freelancer. I have always tried to take jobs which really interest me, be it the story, the company or the type of production, each project has to build on the last and develop my CV. It is hard work so if you are not really interested in a project or know why you are doing it, it is very hard to achieve it.

How did you decide what you wanted to do?

From way back when I took my A-levels I knew I wanted to do something arty for a living but was not sure what. I chose a history of art degree because I thought it would give me a solid, broad base from which I could specialise once I had figured out what I was going to do. Then while at university I did work experience with an interior design company to see if that was for me and I also got involved in the stage musical company at university. It turned out that theatre was the thing for me, and when I left university I got a job as an assistant stage manager for an opera company so that I could learn more about how a theatre worked and all the roles. I then applied for and did a 1-year postgraduate course (using my mostly unspent student loan to fund it) in theatre design. Following that year I worked on as many projects as I could, often small scale and not very well paid, but I built up quickly a good network of contacts and a number of directors with whom I worked repeatedly.

How relevant is your degree to your job and how do you use your degree within your job?

My degree is still very relevant to my work. Part of my degree was about the theory of aesthetics and how people interact with an art work. This theory is something I apply to every visual output I create, and it also applies to any audience experience of a production of many different kinds. I also have a great collection of books that I built up during my degree which I use regularly.

What are your main work activities?

When designing a show I spend slot of time researching ideas and the context of the piece. I spend time drawing and model making as well as consulting on how the sets are built and costumes made. When production managing and producing there is a lot of emphasis on budgets and schedules and lots of meetings with the various different parties involved in the production.

What are the most challenging parts of your job?

Juggling many projects at the same time and diary management to fit it all in, giving me enough space to be creative.

Career highlights and best moments?

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London 2012 ceremonies as a props Production Manager. Opening ceremony being on the field of play as part of such a massive show. The opening of Secret Cinema presents Back to the Future, a huge outdoor production that I produced.

Where do you want to be in 5 years time ?

Have my own successful creative consultancy and production company.

Rhiannon is Founder and Creative Production Director of Ninth House Creative

James and the giant peach show pics 015Road Rage (24)

Contributed by Careers in the Creative Industries

Want to leave the world of medicine?

Whether you’re a medical student or a foundation trainee, the prospect of divorcing yourself from a world you’ve (heavily) invested in is a huge one.

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at

In order to be sure of making the right decision in the first place, Year 11 and 12 students spend time finding and completing work experience to test their assumptions about becoming a doctor. Once at medical school, the question of which specialty they see themselves in begins to loom. Then in Foundation training, the pressure is really on to decide which of the 60+ specialties is the right one.

So, after all this intense decision-making in the direction of Doctor, Doctor, Doctor, what should you do if you begin to think, as a student or as a trainee, that it might not be for you?

Know yourself, know your reasons for leaving

Be clear on the specific reasons for leaving, is it stress, working hours, the pull of
another profession? If you’re finding it hard to specify what your reasons are, perhaps try writing a reflective journal including the highs and lows of each day. Write down questions that occur to you about your uncertainties. Try the reflective exercises in this resource on Career Change Toolkit (this will be more helpful to trainees).

Talk to someone

  • in the profession – a supportive tutor, a friendly peer in the year above (at medical school or in Foundation training) or a more senior doctor. Their insights might help you establish what it is you’re unsure about, and what you need to do to confirm or allay your fears. This is all about selecting the right person, if you feel someone might frown upon your thinking then they may not be the best counsellor.
  • in your family – this is a difficult one. Often the biggest investors in our futures are our families, especially parents or guardians. This may put you under extra pressure if they’re following your studies/career excitedly. However if you have really thought about your options and are certain about leaving medicine then try to be brave and talk with them; show them you’ve researched your options and explain your reasons for moving on.
  • neutral – speaking with a careers consultant will bring you an impartial, neutral space to house your discussions. Careers professionals are trained in helping people establish what’s important to them and making decisions that are right for them as an individual. Check your university’s careers service if you’re studying or check the services from your Local Education and Training Board (LETB) if you’re an F1/2.

Test your reasons for leaving

If you are interested in another profession, then could you arrange to do some work shadowing? If you’re concerned with the idea of taking exams until you’re 30+ then (as above) talk to people further down the line than you in different specialties;
find out how onerous it is and how they cope with it.

Research your options

If you’re an F1/F2, firstly remember to explore specialties that might minimise or even avoid the areas of medicine you aren’t enjoying (for example consider public health if the clinical work isn’t for you). If you’re not already familiar with them, visit the NHS Medical Careers specialty pages.
Beyond that, being trained medically is a huge asset to a number of jobs. The skills and knowledge lend themselves to a wide variety of roles: medical journalism, publishing, medical law, NHS management to name a few. Additionally, think beyond the medical sphere; management consultancy, civil service etc.

Resources, career ideas and case studies

NHS Medical Careers – Alternative career options for doctors. Great list of options with descriptions.

BMJ Careers – Moving on from Clinical Practice. Article about why people leave medicine and a diverse set of case studies of doctors who have left practice.

Medical Success – Alternative medical careers. Information on medical careers beyond the hospital and GP settings.

Medical Success – When can I leave medicine? An interesting case study about an F1 trainee who embarked on a new career path.

Careers Tagged – Options and Career Choice. Resources on choosing careers, employers, and options with your degree.

Vicki Tipton, Careers Consultant, Careers & Enterprise Centre, Queen Mary University of London 

Rock Physics and Scilly Birds: Exotic vacancies this week

Firecrest 091014 Regulus ignicapillus by Flickr user davethebird used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

We’ve a bit of an exotic, international flavour to our jobs this week. Whether you’re interested in changing the world, studying the world or just working in a beautiful part of the world there’s something for you amongst our 3,027 vacancies on JobOnline.

Here are our picks for this week:

Thousands more jobs can be found on JobOnline.

Firecrest photo by Flickr user davethebird used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Career tips from an Editorial Assistant at the Royal Opera House


Royal Opera House by Flickr user photographyburns used under CC BY-NC 2.0

Paul Kilbey, Editorial Assistant at the Royal Opera House, shares his experiences in Arts publishing.

How did you get into your role?

I’ve wanted to work in publishing for a long time.  I studied music at university but was always more interested in writing about it than performing or composing, so I gravitated towards jobs where I used language.  After a while teaching English as a Foreign Language abroad, I moved to London and was lucky to be able to do a couple of internships, building up my professional experience.  There were then a few years working in and around classical music for startups, and I got my current job in the Royal Opera House’s Publishing and Interpretation team a couple of months ago.  I am also a freelance writer specializing in classical music; I write for a few magazines.

Over the last few years I have written a lot of articles for a number of predominantly online publications.  This has been really important for developing my writing skills, although it hasn’t always been the same as a conventional grounding in journalism or publishing – it has all been fairly off the cuff, and online is totally different from print, both in terms of how it works and also the standard expected.  All the writing made me well qualified for my current role – I’m an Editorial Assistant – but I still have plenty to learn.

What do you do day to day?

It’s very varied, and the workload changes depending on what projects are coming up.  There is always work to do preparing for future productions, although of course it gets busier in the immediate run-up to a show.  I have work to do in a number of areas including writing, proofreading, liaising with advertising clients and also working with publishing software.

What are the best things about working in your role?

My colleagues are very nice, and it’s an exciting place to work, with the rehearsals and performances happening all around us backstage.  And after a few years with very small companies, I am still hugely enjoying the perks of working for a major employer – cafeteria, IT support, payroll department, etc. Most of all, the job is an ideal mixture of my interests – classical music and publishing.  I’m lucky to be able to work in both at the same time.

What top tips would you pass on to a student interested in this type of work?

Firstly, it’s worth remembering that any sort of office experience is good.  Employers want to know that you can be trusted to correspond with people in a professional manner.  I had done very little office work on graduation, and this probably set me back a bit.

As for writing online – there can be huge benefits to doing this, but only if you’re serious and sensible about it, and aware of its limitations.  Blogging can lead to all sorts of interesting things, and so can writing for the many websites out there that will take your content, publish it, and not pay you.  But, unsurprisingly, doing this can also be very unrewarding, both financially and professionally.  You shouldn’t confuse success in these media with professional experience in journalism or publishing per se.  My advice is that if you’re considering writing for a blog or another website, it’s crucial to remember the value of what you’re doing.  This means two things: firstly, that you know what you stand to gain from your writing, even if you’re not being paid (are you gaining useful experience? Exposure? Nothing at all?); and secondly, that you only write things that you’re confident are good enough to merit publication.

Contributed by Careers in the Creative Industries

Royal Opera House by Flickr user photographyburns used under CC BY-NC 2.0.