How to get a job in the arts and cultural sector

We speak to people in industries that seem impossible to get into to find out how they did it. Next up: the arts and cultural heritage sector

Dhikshana Turakhia Pering, works at the London Transport Museum as a Learning Officer: Young Peoples’ Skill Programme (18–25). This role involves running various programmes to try and diversify the culture and heritage sector and help young people to kickstart their careers. She runs an Apprenticeship programme, a Young Freelancers programme and a range of volunteer projects for young people. She also advocates and shares with the wider sector on best practice related to workforce.

Dhikshana studied Art History and History at the University of Aberdeen, and has a Masters in Museum and Gallery Education from Institute of Education, at University College London.

Here she shares insights into her career in museums, and offers advice to people considering working in the arts and cultural sector.

You don’t need an arts degree or a Masters

In the past, the arts and cultural sector was quite traditional about what qualifications you need to enter, but Dhikshana says this is now changing.

“People often assume that to get into the sector you need to have studied an arts based subject and need a Master’s degree or a PGCE,” Dhikshana said. “But that’s not the case.”

“My advice would be to study whatever you want — pick a subject that interests you and that you’re passionate about. The most important thing is work experience, so once you’ve graduated try to get an internship or voluntary experience. By all means, do a Masters if it interests you, but not because you feel it will get you a job.”

Get as much work experience as you can

Dhikshana’s first role in the sector was an internship at the Wallace Collection while at university, and she also volunteered at the British Museum.

“It can be difficult to get work experience, especially as interning and volunteering can mean working for free . However, most internships and some volunteering programmes now offer payment, whether this is paying for your travel and expenses or for training courses.”

“Alongside my volunteering and interning, I also worked in retail. This helped me to build transferable skills like customer service which are always useful.”

Use placements to prove yourself

Work experience isn’t just about having something to put on your CV. They’re a great opportunity to meet people in the industry and to prove your abilities.

“During your placement, work hard to prove yourself and always listen out for opportunities. Try to meet as many people as you can. Having contacts in the industry is invaluable; they can offer advice and even recommend you for roles.”

There are also a number of entry level conferences such as the Museums Association Moving On Up Conference and network groups aimed at giving individuals a support group, this is a great way to find out about jobs and opportunities.

Keep an open mind

Dhikshana initially thought she wanted to work as a curator. “I applied for the internship in the curatorial team at the Wallace Collection because I thought if I wanted to work in a museum, curation was what you did.”

When she started there, the Head Curator sent her to work in a variety of different departments. “She said no one should have to decide what they want to do at the age of 21. When I started working with their Education team, I realised that I wanted to talk about art and make it more accessible for all audiences especially those that felt it was not for them.

Science Museum, London.

“A bit later, my Mum saw an advert in the Metro for an Explainer at the Science Museum . I was originally against applying, because I thought I wanted to work in an art gallery. It turned out to be the best thing I ever did and I spent more than seven years working at the Science Museum. I was promoted multiple times, gained so many skills, experiences and opportunities and I even met my husband there.”

The sector is hard to get into, so Dhikshana recommends take any opportunities you’re given. Once you’ve starting working for an organisation, you’ll have access to more opportunities as an internal candidate.

Seek out careers advice

Photo credit: Creative Commons: WOC in Tech Chat

City has a great careers service where you can sit down with advisors and talk through what you want to do. It also helps to speak to people working in the industry.

“Is there a museum you want to work in? Do you love the events a gallery puts on? Social media is brilliant, use it find the people that work there, meet them, ask their advice then see if you can volunteer or get involved somehow. But be proactive, and lead the meeting don’t wait for them to offer you opportunities.”

Research is important

“People often think apprenticeships are just for people who haven’t gone to University but that’s not the case — there are apprenticeship schemes available all the way up to Masters level in the arts and cultural sector. The BBC have amazing ones.

“Look at the sector bodies. I became a member of the Museum’s Association when I was at university. It meant I got the sector knowledge and found out what was going on and this really helped when I was in interviews. It also meant I knew what kind of jobs were out there and where they were advertised.”

Dhikshana’s favourite job sites

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The City Scoop

A collection of articles and stories for City, University of London Students

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