In January, after 7 and a half years, I left the Ohio Historical Society and started a new position with the Historic Ford Estates(Edsel and Eleanor Ford House & Henry Ford Estate). In my new position I have the opportunity to shape and define the family, school, public, and interpretive programs related to the two estates as well as work with the exhibit team. It was bittersweet saying goodbye to OHS, but I am lucky to leave someplace I love for a new opportunity that I am excited about.
Moving and adjusting to a new work environment can be stressful, but I am finding the change invigorating. The amount of opportunity and energy is exciting and overwhelming. There is so much that I want to tackle and it can be difficult to know where to start.
I likened my first day of work to first day of school: Where do I put my stuff? Where do I eat lunch? Where are the restrooms?
As I enter my second month of work I look back and think, “What would I recommend for others in their first month of a learning/education/visitor experience job?”
- Read the old files left behind. It can be tedious, but you may find data, proposals, or other information that is difficult to glean from your co-workers so quickly.
- Ask about visitor data, learning goals, and overall goals for experience.
- Don’t feel like you have to change everything right away. Take some time to see how it works.
- Listen- a lot. To visitors, staff, volunteers, anyone who wants to talk. Just listen.
- Go back to the things you talked about in your interview. What did you want to do when you got started and are you on track?
- Go back to some of the “good old” literature. I have been looking back at Falk and Dierking’s The Museum Experience and Lord & Lord’s Manual of Museum Planning.
So now that I’m in month two, here are some things I hope to do:
- Watch visitors interacting with tours and programs. What learning can I see happening? What is the overall experience like for visitors?
- Receive training of the frontline staff and spend some time working out front.
- Try to implement one real idea that has my stamp on it. Even if it is really small.
I am trying to be mindful that I only get to be new at this job once and being new provides perspective that will change as I get more imbedded in the organization and feel more ownership over our products. If you were new at you job, what would you see differently? What advice would you have for an educator “new on the job?”