Over the summer, I moved across the country as my husband began his PhD. The prospect of starting over in a new place was exciting, but came with the normal anxieties. I spent weeks searching for museum jobs in my new town and unfortunately the prospects felt pretty bleak. There were museums, yes, but most of them were small or associated with the university. Very few of these museums even had a “Job Opportunities” section of their webpage, and checking the usual job boards produced nothing. I knew I couldn’t sit idly and wait for something, and so, for the first time ever, I decided to send out unsolicited e-mails to inquire about opportunities.
The first decision I had to make was how early to send these out. I was arriving in August, and at the time it was still May. Three months felt like it was too soon, but ultimately I took the advice people were giving me and sent out my information as soon as I could. It was definitely the right decision, because it gave me more time to plan if it turned out there weren’t any positions available at the places I contacted. It could have been disastrous if I’d arrived in August only to find out then that I would need to start my search over again.
The second part was finding out who I should send my materials to. None of these places had an HR department, but their webpages were specific in who you should send internship inquiries to. I collected those names and e-mails, and decided to write my letters to them.
Which brings me to the third part: the actual writing, and deciding how best to construct my questions. How direct should I be about what I was trying to accomplish? Would they consider my inquiry to be too aggressive and disregard it? And, how honest should I be about my move and upcoming transition? Museums in Illinois receiving inquiries from someone in California might be confusing, and might look like I was just casting a wide net.
Instead of explaining what I decided to do, I thought I would share with you the full inquiry I made. I sent the letter by e-mail, and attached my resume. In this case, the museum’s website indicated that inquiries should be made to the director, and so that’s who I contacted.
Dear Ms. —-,
Hello, my name is Caitlin Lill, and I would like to introduce myself as a possible intern at the (museum). I have several years experience as a museum professional in a variety of settings, and I will graduate from (university) with a master’s degree in Museum Studies in January 2012. My husband is beginning his doctorate in the fall, and we will be relocating to (city) this August; as such, I am hoping to intern with local museums to continue my professional development.
I am currently seeking an advanced internship in museum administration. My administrative interests lie primarily with board development and education, as well as policy writing. I would also be open to an internship in museum education, and would gladly accept an opportunity to advance my skills in community outreach, exhibit design, or family programming. Generally, I am more than happy to lend my free time and skills to the (museum), while I determine the next best step in my career.
I have attached my resume for your review, and would love to discuss potential opportunities by e-mail or by phone. Thank you for your consideration, and I hope to hear from you soon.
(linkedin profile link)
As you can see, I took a slightly different direction with my e-mail. I did not ask directly about job opportunities, but had decided that making internship inquiries would suit my needs better. My hope was that if any jobs were available, the museum staff would be able to see from my resume if my skills and experience matched their needs. In this case, I got lucky – that particular institution was hiring a temporary Interpretive Planning intern. You may notice that I also made (at least one) mistake, that I warned against in my cover letters post last week. I didn’t say how I would follow-up, only that I hoped they would. If I could go back, I would probably change my final line to say that I would send another e-mail in two weeks to see if they had any questions or required any further materials.
For our blogshop component today, I encourage you to find a museum that you’re interested in working for, or have always been curious about. See if you can find who you would send an unsolicited inquiry to. Or, if you already work for a museum, find out if your webpage has this information already; if it doesn’t, do you know who these inquiries should be made to? Is that something your museum can change, if they are open to receiving inquiries?
Have you ever sent an unsolicited inquiry? If you have, we would love to hear about it!
This post was contributed by Caitlin Lill, EMP blog administrator.