Welcome to the Field: Thoughts for New Professionals

Lord Chesterfield (Philip Stanhope), wrote one of the first published advice guides. Starting in the 1730s, he wrote his “Letters to his Son on the Art of Becoming a Man of the World and a Gentleman” as private communications to his son. They were published after his death.

Recently, one of my co-workers came across a “Letter to a Young Librarian” of advice for new professionals. She started a discussion about what she might include in a “Letter to a Young Archivist.” Of course, that got me started on the idea of what a similar piece for young museum educators might include.

Here’s what comes to mind.

Letter to a Young Museum Educator
(1) Balance academic training with practical experience. Both are important–try not to neglect either one!

(2) Cultivate your ability to adapt. During programs and special events, always be prepared for things not to follow the plan

(3) Look for mentors. You can learn a huge amount from more seasoned professionals. Find people whose work you admire and watch what they do. Think about how they act. Have conversations with them about their work.

(4) Become part of a community. Join a professional organization (or several) and get involved.

(5) Connect everything you do to the mission. Avoid creating activities, exhibitions, programs that are just for fun and don’t have a content connection to your site. Mission-connected activities can be fun, too!

(6) Practice self-reflection. Ask yourself what you would do differently next time and what you would do the same (at the next meeting, program, grant-writing session. . .)

What advice for people entering the field? What do you wish someone had told you when you were just starting?

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The American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) is a national association that provides leadership and support for its members who preserve and interpret state and local history in order to make the past more meaningful to all people.

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