An Often Forgotten Practice in Career Development

ProfessionalismWhat does it take to have your application stand out from all others when applying for a job, grant, or scholarship? I focused on that question with my graduate student advisees this past spring as they planned for their May graduations and the job application process.  I have posted before on this subject.  I  always recommend two references for building a career in the cultural heritage sector – A Life in Museums: Managing Your Museum Career and The Anthropology Graduate’s Guide: From Student to a Career.  Both books are packed with information that students need to begin acting on early in their academic career.

I offer students suggestions as someone who has hired museum staff, sat on numerous admission, scholarship and similar recruitment committees, and written hundreds of letters of recommendations over the years.  An applicants goal in these processes is for their application to stand out and make the first cut from the other hundred (or hundreds) submitted and then receive more detailed scrutiny from the review committee.  The added attention allows the reviewers to determine the candidates fit for a position leading to the possibility of making it to the short list or interview stage where the applicant can truly shine and detail their fit for the position.  The two references listed above detail many other practices to enhance an applicants possibilities to have their application package rise to the top.

My colleague Bob Beatty at the AASLH reminded me today of another important practice that seems to be falling out of favor these days – the thank you note – not the perfunctory single word of emailed “thanks” which really is nothing more than an acknowledgement of a task completed – but something that requires a bit more effort and expression.  Bob provided the link How To Write a Heartfelt Thank-You Note, Quickly & Easily by Raphael Magana.  From my perspective, a thank you note or update to an advisor or recommendation letter writer is not to have one’s ego appeased.  Rather a thank you note or progress update addresses the following points:

  • Thank you notes and updates set a tone for future discussions.  Everyone typically receives and dislikes the emails or voice messages from folks who only call in time of need.  The same is true for the former professor or employer who only hears from someone when they need another letter of reference, or six.
  • Thank you notes and updates are just a civil part of social relations, showing an appreciation for the effort expended.  In a survey I conducted a few years ago, not giving thanks was third on the list of “rules of professionalism” routinely violated by recent college graduates.  Similarly, a lack of communication is the reason given by over 50% of donors as to why they stopped their financial support to a nonprofit.
  • A thank you note also serves as a mnemonic device to keep the individual’s name and face in front of the faculty member or potential employer.
  • Generally, I find that the students who write thank you notes or send updates are the students who function in a professional manner in other respects and with whom I have the most meaningful conversations on their professional development.
  • And the point I consider most important, a thank you note or progress update simply let’s the advisor know that the conversations, advising sessions, etc. are considered of value by the recipient.  And I repeat, thank you notes must not be viewed as an ego inflation for the person being thanked.  Rather, the amount of time expended in advising, writing letters of recommendation and introduction can consume a considerable amount of faculty member or employer’s time.  Was it worthwhile?  Then let them know. They will be more likely to assist both you and others in the future.

For all the above reasons, like having a digital portfolio, a well-crafted cover letter, and a professional appearance, the thank you note or update, though seemingly a small detail, can make a big difference for those launching their careers, and beyond.  And I thank Bob Beatty for reminding me of this important practice.


Meet Museum Social Media and EMP extraordinnaire – Jamie Glavic

JGlavicA few years ago I came across and immediately began to follow Jamie Glavic’s Museum Minute blog.  Over the years I have come to value her posts as a primary resource on the application of social media in cultural heritage contexts.  The Museum Minute blog also features a weekly round-up of museum related happenings and interviews with a variety of museum bloggers.  I routinely encourage my student’s to emulate Jamie as a role model for their career development as emerging museum professionals.  Below, I am very pleased to present an interview with Jamie with a focus on a very compelling argument for the use of social media in cultural heritage contexts coupled with a discussion of her career path.


Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your responsibilities at the Ohio Historical Society?

I’m from small town Ohio – actually, several small towns – I moved a lot growing up. Most of those small towns are in NE Ohio, with a few stints in Alabama and Germany (my dad was in the military when I was young). That being said, I call Northern Kentucky/Greater Cincinnati home. My husband (who was my boyfriend at the time) and I moved to Northern Kentucky after college (about 10 minutes from the University of Cincinnati – our alma mater) and stayed until July 2012 when I accepted a position at the Ohio Historical Society. That was the longest I had ever lived in one town in my entire life.

A little more about me: I’ve been married for three years. I’ve been a Chihuahua mom for seven years. I enjoy campy scifi movies. I’m a binge reader. And I’m a social media enthusiast/advocate and blog about museums at Museum Minute.

It’s an exciting time to ask about my responsibilities at the Ohio Historical Society. In February of this year I was moved to the Marketing/Communications Division from the Museum and Library Services Division. Why, you ask? The Ohio Historical Society will become the Ohio History Connection on May 24, read more about that here, and I’ve been charged with updating our digital assets – everything from our website inventory (we have several websites) to our social media channels – to reflect the new name and brand. This will be an ongoing process, like anything else on the web, but it’s an exciting task. I’m also drafting a digital strategy document for the organization.


You are a strong advocate for museums to engage in social media. Why? 

Museums have the opportunity to touch more people online than they do onsite. While I would love for every single person in the world to walk through the Ohio Historical Society (not all at one time of course!), I also know that isn’t going to happen – that’s why digital strategy is so important.

A website, and the supplemental digital platforms that a museum can use to share their mission, work, and worth, should:

  • Provide a complementary space for those who have connected with the physical museum space in the past (whether it was 10 years ago or yesterday) to share their experiences, memories, feedback, and contact the museum
  • Entice those on the verge of the decision to physically visit or not visit,
  • Serve those actively searching for resources from collections/archives/reference
  • Engage the outliers – those who stumble upon us accidentally

Where do people spend their time online? Social media. According to this recent Business Insider article, Americans spend an average of 37 minutes daily on social media, a higher time-spend than any other major Internet activity, including email.

Interested in more stats? The Pew Research Internet Project Social Networking Fact Sheet says 73% of online adults use social networking sites:

  • 71% of online adults use Facebook
  • 18% of online adults use Twitter
  • 17% use Instagram
  • 21% use Pinterest
  • 22% use LinkedIn

If museums want to connect with audiences online, meet them where they are at (chances are, they’re at least on Facebook).


What advice would you give to the museum with limited or even without a social media presence today?

For those without a social media presence: Download the Digital Engagement Framework (DEF). The DEF is a great resource to get a handle on why you should use social media while strategizing how you will use it according to the mission, needs, goals and target audiences of your specific institution.

For those with a limited social media presence: Evaluate what you’re currently doing. Is it working? Do you have a strategy? How much time are you able to commit to social media? Do adjustments need to be made? Once you’ve answered these questions, download the DEF. I refer to it on a regular basis.

Additionally, don’t be intimidated. Social media will continue to evolve – some of the platforms we use today may not exist in a year or two. Strategy is key and flexibility is necessary (especially since there always a new update on some platform).


Do you have any go to sources for professionals to keep up to speed on developments in social media applications in museums?

What do you consider to be the biggest obstacle in developing effective social media in museums?

 The biggest obstacle: deciding who owns social media.

The Marketing/Communications Department does not OWN social media. Time and time again I’ve heard museum professionals discuss social media turf wars regarding access, collaboration, representation and messaging. Yes, social media can be a great marketing tool, but it can and should be so much more.

Social media, and digital strategy, is a team sport. No one department owns the medium.


Can you point to a cultural heritage institution today that you believe serves as an effective model in the use of social media? 

Institutions that I think serve as effective models in the use of social media are:


What was the motivation behind the recent #MuseumBlogs day you coordinated on Twitter. Was the activity successful?

I partnered with Museum Blogger Jenni Fuchs (@jennifuchs) at Museum 140 for Museum Blog/gers Day for Museum140’s 3rd birthday on Wednesday, March 19, 2014. Jenni reached out to me after receiving feedback regarding interest in highlighting museum blogs/the bloggers behind them on Twitter.

#MuseumBlogs day was, in my humble opinion, very successful. It was my first Twitter “event” and I was thrilled when I received the first #MuseumBlogs tweet from Australia a few hours before I went to bed the night before. Jenni was wonderful to work with and the tweets flowed throughout the day connecting museum blogs and bloggers from around the world. It’s amazing what tools like Twitter can do to connect us.


Any predictions on the next great thing in social media for museums?

Wearable tech developments, like Google Glass, will be integrated into the museum experience, from interpretation to evaluation. Wearable tech will take sharing/commenting in real time to the next level.

Augmented and virtual reality capabilities will be widely available to museums across various budget levels – and expected by audiences.


In your museum career you have held several positions around evolving social media and outreach components. What advice can you offer the emerging museum professional for employment in an evolving industry like museums? 

 The job market is competitive – but I’m sure you already know that. Don’t give up. Update your resume, and LinkedIn profile, on a regular basis.

Volunteering allows the flexibility to “test” out different aspects of museum work. Try something outside of your comfort zone.

Entry level positions often mean working the ticketing/front desk. That’s where I got my start. These positions provide a greater understanding of the guest experience and museum operations that you may not be exposed to otherwise.

Network. Network. Network. Discover what makes you unique – what you have to offer the field -and capitalize on it. Whether it’s starting a blog, creating a community group, or interning – learn to shine, take criticism, and pivot when needed. This will get you noticed. Don’t be a wallflower. In my experience, so much of museum employment lies in who you know. And connect with your state museum association!

Find museum blogs that speak to you and if you are on Twitter follow museum centric hashtags (#itweetmuseums, #musesocial, #museumed, etc.).


You are the president of the Columbus, Ohio Chapter of the Emerging Museum Professionals. What is the most important advice you could give someone as they transition from being a college student to a museum professional?

A career in museums is a career of passion. Once you land your first fulltime position, you will work more than 40 hours a week – and that’s okay (and expected) – but don’t lose sight of your work/life balance. Read more than museum books – design thinking, strategic planning, budgeting and leadership development are valuable subject matter and worthwhile reading. Budgeting is especially important as you get started – chances are you aren’t making a lot of money. Make time to attend and participate in events and programming at your museum – they’re often refreshing reminders of why what we do it so important. If you have a mentor, stay connected. If you don’t have one, find one. My mentor was invaluable in the first few years of my museum career. And finally, find your co-conspirators. Maybe they’re your current classmates; maybe they’re your future co-workers – whoever they are, find those who champion you, challenge you, think with you and grow with you.


Final words?

I feel incredibly lucky to do what I do. Robert, thank you for the opportunity to answer these questions.


Jamie, thanks so much for sharing – incredible resources and insights!  Jamie can be contacted through her Museum Minute blog or on Twitter @MuseumMinute