SGSAH Heritage Careers Day

On the 27th of November, SGSAH held a Heritage Careers Day at the National Galleries Scotland for researchers looking to explore their prospects in the Scottish heritage sector. Registration for the event filled up extremely fast, so for those who were not able to attend the day in person, I’ve made note of a few of the key highlights from the day!

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It was a full house at the Heritage Careers Day, filled with PhD and Masters researchers from across Scotland. The event began with a wee intro by SGSAH’s very own Gillian Daly discussing some of the opportunities SGSAH offers to help researchers make connections and break into the heritage sector. From internships and artist and residency programmes, to collaborative studentships, to the newly formed post-doctoral opportunities(!!!), there is so much SGSAH offers for those interested in building their CV and giving themselves a leg-up in the industry. In addition, there was some mention of a new Heritage Knowledge Exchange Hub which I for one am super keen to learn more about! This Hub will be launching in the next year, so keep an eye out for more on that shortly.

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Next we had a panel of representatives from the Scottish Cultural Heritage Consortium including the National Museums Scotland, National Galleries of Scotland and Historic Environment Scotland discussing their pathways into the heritage sector. From there, the floor opened up for questions for the panel; which there were a lot of! Some of the stand-out conclusions were:

  • Heritage organisations are in constant need of new information about the sites in their care, as well as innovative ways of distributing that information.
  • Applied practical research skills, such as interviews and focus groups, are appealing to the heritage sector as public engagement is a huge part of what they do.
  • ‘Soft skills’ are in high demand which teaching roles can show you have experience with.
  • There has been an increased focus in the heritage sector on consortium activities.
  • Many jobs on offer are more interested in generalist versus specialist skills, your approach to handling an audience, your digital skills, and your financial skills. To add to that last point, all the panellists highly recommended learning to manage a budget!
  • If you can bring in skills with Google analytics and Facebook adverts it will be very beneficial to you.
  • Sometimes working with grants teams can be an ‘in’ with an organisation you’re interested in working with.
  • When looking to work with a site or organisation in a fellowship/post-doctoral sense, be sure you approach them already able to answer the question, ‘If we have this info that you present/find, the what are we going to do with it? How are you going to engage the public with your research?’

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Following a wee break, we came back into the room for an activity, led by Devon McHugh of Museums Galleries Scotland, on everyone’s mind…jobs. Before the activity looking at actual job adverts available now took place, we had a quick intro on some of the key points to consider when looking at jobs, and making job applications:

  • Your CV should change with every job application.
  • Your CV should be two pages maximum, with your education at the beginning or end keeping the description of your PhD short and sweet: it was the thing that gave you the tools you needed for this job.
  • Include a short (two sentences) personal description in your CV, being sure to fulfil the personal spec.
  • Jobs can be searched on:
  • Many jobs you’d first be looking to apply for have the keywords ‘learning officer’, ‘curator officer’, etc. for entry-level positions.
  • Your starting pay and role night be quite low, but the trajectory can be quite fast.
  • Arts administration is a career- you will often be seen as overqualified for administrative work and it’s not necessarily a foot-in as it is a career path of its own, but not necessarily the one you’d be looking for.

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Our final panel was on transitioning from a Doctorate degree to a heritage career, where we heard from experts who had gone through the process themselves. There were many questions, concerns, and even some potential connections made during the panel, which led to the final key bit of advice which was network….to a purpose. Figure out what you want, and if you like it, so you can network smart. Figure out your transferable skills and how to get a job, not just how to do a job.

Finally, we heard from SGSAH internship participant, Alasdair Grant on his internship at the Summerlee Museum of Scottish Industrial Life. Alasdair spoke with us some on his specific work at the Museum (and even let us listen to a brilliant bit of organ music he’s been working on!) but more so on the impact doing an internship has had on his PhD experience. He’s been able to make some wonderful connections through the internship, and diversify his skill set during what could be a rather structured and rigid PhD experience. He discussed the importance of figuring out what you sought to get out of an internship when initially looking at them and if you like the idea of being able to have a public engagement aspect or to place yourself in a solitary position- both have their benefits!

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We are always seeking new guest bloggers! If you have an idea for a blog post or would like to informally discuss writing for the SGSAH blog please get in touch with Brittnee via email atb.leysen.1@research.gla.ac.uk or connect with the blog on Twitter

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