I have been working for The Churches Conservation Trust since January 2005, undertaking community development work. This basically involves working regionally (in Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire) with local and regional residents, voluntary groups and arts, tourism, local authority and voluntary organizations, bodies and institutions to increase awareness, appreciation, use, engagement and involvement with redundant Anglican church buildings. This involves initiating and managing projects, organizing events (including fundraising events, training days, education workshops and more), developing resources (volunteer induction material, school education packs and more), managing volunteers and administrative support work (producing minutes, editing newsletters, managing membership databases and conference bookings and publicity databases and more).
I was a History of Art undergraduate at Warwick from 2001-4. I enjoyed my time there, especially our time in Venice, and I was particularly interested in 19th and early 20th century art and architecture. I was taught by, among others, Dr Louise Campbell, Dr Vicky Avery, Dr Francesca Berry and Dr Jenny Tenant-Jackson and the options I studied and particularly enjoyed were the modules on British Art and Architecture 1840-1920, 19th century French art and the Interior.
Securing the job
I was extremely lucky in securing the job – I happened to mention to one of my neighbours that I was keen to work in heritage and he put me in contact with his sister-in-law, who is now my boss! So, the lesson learnt there is that networking is vital and contacts are there to be cultivated, maintained and used!
My job is extremely varied, which means I don’t ever get bored although it can sometimes be quite stressful balancing such a varied and sometimes heavy load! I enjoy working with people and some beautiful buildings, especially when I see people genuinely enjoying visiting them and using them. I have really liked developing educational materials and organizing school workshops – recently I set up a William Morris themed workshop in Cambridge in partnership with the Fitzwilliam Museum and it was lovely to see the pupils really enjoying themselves whilst learning a lot, too! I also organized a fundraising festival in Cambridge which was very hard work but really rewarding when all went more or less according to plan!
The Not So Good
I balance five roles, so have to spread myself a little thinly sometimes! Heritage is also not an exceptionally well paid area to work in and pay progression can be slow – but I think that is pretty much the price you pay for doing a desirable and, for the most part, enjoyable and rewarding job!
Words of Wisdom
My words of wisdom (!) would be that you should try and get us much work experience as possible whilst still at university, voluntary if necessary. You will find on leaving university that there are many excellent graduates competing for the same jobs and heritage is a very desirable and competitive sector to work in.
In terms of job hunting strategy, I would recommend contacting organizations you would like to work with to enquire about volunteering and, if this is not possible, whether you can spend an hour or even a day with a member of their staff whose job you are interested in – this makes you known and helps you to find out more about the day-to-day reality of the role. The Guardian website and Saturday ‘Work’ supplement and Museumjobs.com are good places to look and you can also sign up for an electronic job mailing service from the Arts Council. It is also worth regularly checking the websites of the organizations you are interested in – vacancies don’t always go on the Guardian etc. Also, your ideal job is unlikely to be your first (or even your second or your third!) – so don’t be too choosy and take opportunities that present themselves, recognizing chances to gain experience and transferable skills and career stepping stones when you see them!
If you would like to talk to me more about my job, you can send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org