I don’t work for a museum and that’s okay. I sat on this piece for months as I don’t want to give the impression that I don’t want to work for museums. In fact, after two years of graduate school (preceded by 6 years of volunteer work) and years of working for museums, I miss museums. I miss interacting with the public, the opportunities to be creative, and the ways in which museums impact the lives of its visitors.
There’s a few reasons why I’m not currently working for a museums. I’m limited by my partner’s career as he can only practice law in a few states at the moment. The bigger reason is that I have been unable to find a position that will pay a living wage. Looking back at my first museum job, I didn’t know how poorly I was paid until my next job scooped me up at a higher salary. I would definitely go back to working for museums, if I could. Now I’m waiting for the right opportunity.
Pursue Your Passion
Growing up, I was told, you can be anything! I had a list of things I wanted to be – architect, president, and museum educator. I thought that if I got my masters, I would be set. I could work in DC or NYC and live the fabulous life. Then 2008 hit, and while I was able to delay the inevitable need to find a job, after graduating with my Masters, I didn’t have my choice of jobs. Around the same time, I met and fell in love with my now husband, which brought career complications because of his geographic limitations.
I’ve always been flexible in my dreams. When I realized I hated geometry, I knew architecture wasn’t for me and moved on. Right after graduate school, I worked a few part-time jobs until I landed a full-time job out of state. The title and position weren’t perfect, but they aligned with my interests so I packed up everything and left my family, significant other, and the town I had begun to call home. For a combination of reasons, I realized the job wasn’t the right fit. I pursued my passion, but it came with a reality check.
Pursue Your Values
In the last two years or so, I’ve switched my thinking from pursuing my passion to pursuing my values. I took a good, hard look at my situation and realized that while I love museums, I would have greater opportunity in tech. I value working from home and the ability to spend time with my dog. I value the opportunity to travel and having the funds and time-off to travel. I value life-long learning, which is essential to a great career in tech.
The great thing is that while I’m pursuing a career that matches my values, I can still work for museums. While I’m learning, I can offer my skills pro bono to smaller institutions which will build my resume. Once I’ve completed my studies, I can seek paying clients at museums as a freelancer. It’s also possible I could also find a museum position that uses my tech and museum education skills to provide programming to the public.
Be Open to Change
The best little affirmation I’ve heard is that your career is a jungle gym. That means instead of the linear career path that you’ve been told about is a bit more messy. You’ll end up in different jobs, careers, states and cities throughout your professional life. And that’s ok! While I am currently following the tech path, I could work for another museum or non-profit again. Or I could do something completely different. Many of my jobs in and out of museums have complemented each other. And I have combined these skills in my current position and in my volunteer work.
I think it’s entirely possible for some people pursue both their passion and values. However, I’m not sure that it is an option for everyone. You can derive as much meaning from a job that suits your values as you can from one that matches your passion. And volunteering is always an option!