What’s it like to work in heritage education?

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From guest writer Natalie Webster (2nd Year English Literature student and Careers & Employability Information Point Assistant)

Last week, I attended a question and answer session delivered by Elizabeth Dollimore, Outreach and Primary Learning Manager at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, for students interested in a career in the heritage sector, particularly heritage education.

Elizabeth was an incredibly engaging speaker who really encouraged the audience to be involved in what she was expressing. The questioning of individuals as to why they haven’t visited the museums in Chester was at first a little daunting but soon got everyone understanding the problems that museums face in encouraging new people to visit. I felt that Elizabeth’s interactive way of communicating how the heritage sector works illustrated her skills as an educator.

We, as the audience, were being constantly encouraged to question all of our previous ideas of what museums are for. Are we being educated by simply attending? Are museums for children or for adults? Are adults inhibited from partaking in seemingly ‘childish’ activities?

In terms of how she gained the position at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Elizabeth explained how she firstly wanted to work in academia. After gaining a Master’s degree and PhD, she eventually applied for the role as a lecturer in Shakespeare at the Birthplace Trust?  She attributed her success in the interview process to her teaching skills and her willingness to entertain and educate large groups of teenagers which at times, Elizabeth said, she found difficult and intimidating.

Students asking questions were interested in how various problems within museums are addressed; how to get adults engaged and funding from the government were hot topics of conversation. Students were worried about the decline in heritage jobs since the economic downturn?, and Elizabeth explained that museums are all affected differently in this respect, dependent on their reliance on government funding.

The students also got an insight of how heritage education specifically can work. Trips out to schools are not always commercially viable, so most of the education takes place within the museum. However, this is not confined to a classroom hidden away but often expands to experiential learning. Giving children and adults the chance to dress up, handle objects and be immersed in the culture and experiences of a particular time period are some of the ways that the education teams get people involved.

The Q&A was certainly an interesting insight into a sector that many don’t get the chance to explore.

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A day in the life of a Personal/Executive Assistant also known as PA or EA

Choosing a career after you’ve graduated can be difficult as there is so much choice, but if you’re organised, get a great deal of satisfaction from helping others and like a varied role, then this may be something to seriously consider.

It’s an exciting role that you can really make your own and detailed below is an example of what a typical day for a PA can involve:

Morning

8am. It’s useful to arrive into work early before the office opens. This is sometimes known as the ‘golden hour’ as it is a great opportunity to catch up and review your priorities for the day ahead and before the phones begin to ring, e-mails appear and the door to the office opens.

Top Tip. Try to organise a daily catch-up with your manager in the morning to discuss high priorities and any matters which are on-going and may need to be dealt with during the course of the day. This meeting provides a great opportunity to ask questions regarding any tasks which have been delegated to you so you can handle them correctly as you may not get another chance to meet, so use your time wisely!

9am – 5pm. (1 hour lunch break, if you’re lucky). The role of PA can vary hugely depending on the type and size of the business and the level of responsibility given to you by your manager. An example of your responsibilities could include the following;

· Handling telephone enquiries on behalf of your manager

· Responding to correspondence via e-mail or post

· Greeting visitors

· Organising hospitality for meetings, such as catering and equipment.

· Drafting meeting agendas

· Attending meetings to take minutes

· Typing minutes and actions for circulation to committee members

· Booking travel and accommodation

· Booking and organise meetings

· Handling confidential information

· The list goes on……

5pm. It is good practice to meet with your manager before you leave the office to update him/her on the outcome of the day and any matters which need to be handled tomorrow. Make sure all filing is completed and all calls and e-mails have been responded to. It is also useful to update your To-Do-List so you are aware of your priorities for the next day.

6pm. Leave the office.

If this sounds like something you might want to try, why not look at applying for a work shadowing opportunity. Visit http://www.chester.ac.uk/careers/current-students-and-graduates/work-shadowing for further information or visit us at the Careers and Employability Centre (opposite Binks) if you wish to discuss your career options in more detail.

What do you do if you’re not sure what to do after your degree?

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Each year we see final year students who are starting to panic as they realise their degree is coming to an end and that they don’t have a post-uni plan. This sense of panic is often compounded by questions from others such as ‘What career are you going into?’ ‘What will you do after uni’. Students feel that they ‘should’ have a career aim in mind and be working towards concrete goals.

With less structured career paths and fewer graduate schemes than in previous generations, it’s no wonder that students are unsure about what their next step might be.

Often, we find that in reality, graduates ‘create their own career’– trying out various jobs and refining plans as they go, rather than staying with one employer for several years and being offered promotions as a way of moving forwards . Even graduate schemes are no longer the secure paths to management and professional careers which they once were. So what can you do if you’re one of those students who is unsure where to start with their career? Here are some suggestions:

1. See if you can identify your core values Understanding what’s really important to you can provide you with a starting point. For example, you may already know that you’d prefer to work in a role where you can ‘make a difference’ or that you thrive on meeting sales targets. One way to start is to think about anything you’d really hate in a job and note it down.

2. Start with ideas about two or three roles or sectors which might interest you Even if you are really unsure about where to start, just choosing a couple of roles or sectors as starting points can help you move forwards – (even if you subsequently decide these areas aren’t for you, you’ll have developed awareness of your preferences and the labour market). For example you might decide to explore work with young people, working in education or roles within finance.

3. Actually ‘try out’ areas of work: ‘Trying out’ different areas of work and working environments can help you explore what does and doesn’t motivate you as well as boosting your CV:

Part-time work: If you’ve already had a part-time job you’ll have gained an understanding of what it’s like to work in a specific environment and sector. You may also have some idea of your strengths and weaknesses when at work and also of what does or doesn’t motivate you in a job – you could use this to help you think about areas to explore further: For example: – You may realise you really enjoy assisting people but not in a retail environment – Perhaps you’d like to work in retail in a graduate scheme/management role – Maybe you like the customer service but don’t enjoy selling products

Other ways to ‘try out’ areas of work: –

Volunteering

Work shadowing

Santander Internships

EYE Training Q&A sessions

Information interviews

Meeting with a Career Consultant might also be a useful starting point to explore ideas and agree further action.