I started with an undergraduate degree in Applied Mathematics and Archaeology and then completed a masters in Professional Archaeology. After I graduated in 2008 the job market was in a terrible state due to a collapsing economy. I was lucky enough to secure employment as a graduate trainee accountant in London. After 6 months I began to feel disillusioned with the profession, I felt that it missed interaction with the public. I had always been passionate about promoting cultural heritage in the hope that it would encourage people to engage with their history, and want to preserve it. I decided to undertake a second masters in Museum and Gallery Studies at St Andrews University. This was a really practical and hands on course that gave me a great insight into the myriad of jobs in the heritage industry. I gained experience in exhibition design, fundraising, producing publications and marketing material and also managing a budget. From here I undertook a somewhat interesting internship at a historic house in England that entailed everything from arranging filming to managing their social media account to chasing escaped pigs back into their pen. This gave me a great breadth of experience that allowed me to secure the position of Online Content Officer at Historic Scotland. For this position you must have an undergraduate degree, an interest in the historic environment and familiarity with a range of software packages. You must also know how to manage several social media accounts, develop a plan to grow your audience and keep them interested. Experience with Web Content Management Systems such as Drupal and Umbraco is also necessary.
You must be a very organized person, who is able to juggle tasks. The nature of Historic Scotland means that many departments demand many different things from you. You may be asked to promote events or ticket sales, and at the same time to heighten awareness of a new parliamentary act through social media. You have to know your audience and tailor all content towards them. You must also be very good at working with computers and be able to pick up new programs quickly. I have to use a range of tools including Hootsuite, LiveLink, Umbraco and WordPress. It is also good to have a willingness to learn new skills, and to be proactive about developing yourself professionally. In the digital sector things move so quickly, you have to keep up. Because of the high workload you must also be able to manage expectations of people from other departments that you may work with. This requires a degree of compromise and a tactful approach. And be prepared to work within a small team, I am lucky to work with some of the nicest people I know.
I have always been passionate about the promotion of cultural heritage. I believe that the only way we can inspire people to protect and preserve their history is by getting them to interact with it and developing their interest. Before my current job I worked as a Children’s bookseller for 6 years during university, I also worked various jobs in the service industry and later as an accountant. Although I did not stay in any of these jobs they all taught me how to work with the public on some level which is a huge advantage. I also interned and volunteered in various places: on the Antonine Wall (Roman wall in Scotland) UNESCO world heritage site bid, undertaking visitors studies at Glasgow’s Riverside Museum, creating a children’s trail at the British Golf Museum and more. These activities are invaluable on your CV especially in this field.
My day consists of working at the computer and going to meetings. The first things I do is check all of our social media accounts to answer any questions or issues that may have arisen overnight or on the weekend. I then go through emails, answering those it is appropriate to and adding new tasks to my task list. I then organise the tasks that have to be completed for the day according to their deadlines. I might also research new social media sites to see if it is something we should be involved in. I attend various project meetings with different departments to remain up to date with what is going on in the company – if it should be featured on our website or on social media. If I have time I will proactively look for new tasks and projects I think would be valuable. I may also advise others in the company on our social media guidelines and presence. On the odd occasion I may get to make a site visit to a castle or tomb.
The hardest part is managing many many different tasks. It requires a lot of organisation and the ability to prioritize. But at some point, inevitably you will have to say no to someone, and that can be quite difficult.
Hearing good feedback via social media is always enjoyable. People who post pictures of themselves enjoying days out at our sites are always lovely to see. And of course having lovely co-workers.
I work in the headquarters of a government agency that employ 300+ people. My office is one of many in this building. It is open plan. Much of the day involves working in front of a computer at my desk, and going on the occasional tea run!
The heritage sector is a very difficult one to get into. Experience is the key factor here – volunteer and intern where you can. Museums or historic houses are always looking for people to help out. Even if you are just welcoming people or handing out leaflets you gain excellent insights into what the public are looking for and how an organisation works that will assist you in making applications and doing well in interviews.
There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique.
Martha Graham, choreographer
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