Something to grow on

As a way of assessing our progress this year, the internship team has asked us to each complete a GROW model, as we did at our first meeting in October. GROW stands for Goal, Reality, Options and Way Forward, and relies upon authenticity, realism, and the formation of concrete action points.

To show my progress, here they are: GROW models, Then and Now. 

Goal: Focus on what you are planning to do after graduating with your Masters. To help you make this ‘real’ it is useful to use the ‘four Ps’ – Present tense; Positive; Personal; Possible. 

October 2011 (yes, this is actually what I wrote in my notebook): It is October 2013. Having graduated from MA CCI last year I am now working with the contemporary arts, in some capacity. ?!?

August 2012: It is October 2013. Having graduated from MA CCI, I am now working at a museum in the education and learning department, having realised during my Towards Tomorrow’s Museum class that this was where my interest really lay. Although my salary could be improved upon, my work is varied and exciting, collaborating with the curatorial team to create exhibitions and integrated learning programming that engages visitors of all ages and experiences.

Reality: Focus on what you have done already to make your goal come about, affirming the steps you’ve already made. Take a critical stance as to where you could have done more, and about what other challenges to do you expect to meet.

October 2011: Although I don’t have any significant professional experience in the Arts, I have a BA Hons. from Cambridge in History of Art (a 2:1). My academic work has provided me with experience of undertaking self-directed research of the highest standards and performing under pressure and to tight deadlines. I have a background in photography and experience with Photoshop that could be useful. I frequently visit galleries, museums and cultural events, and I could draw upon these personal experiences in my work.

August 2012: In addition to the skills and experience that I had at the beginning of this process, I have now added real experience of working at a cultural institution: my internship with the Development department at the Whitechapel Gallery. Finally, I also now have an incredible network of peers from the MA who are or will be working in the CCIs – contacts for future collaborations, inspiration and opportunities.

Options: What could you do to help yourself achieve your goals, and what else? 

October 2011: I am currently lacking relevant work experience, so I know that securing an internship in a contemporary art institution would be an important first step to achieving my goals.

August 2012: Although I now have one internship to list on my CV, I think it would be helpful to gather more experience, paid or unpaid in a variety of institutions so that I can get a feel for how different galleries utilise formal and informal learning practices. If, after gaining more voluntary experience, I am still not hired, I could consider taking the Museum and Galleries in Education MA offered by the Institution of Education that would considerably augment my understanding of arts education theory; while the course description is very appealing, I would leave this option as a last choice because I am hesitant to commit to another degree that may not necessarily significantly increase my employability. I could also consider seeking out non-learning opportunities in the arts, such as positions with commercial galleries or auction houses, or learning positions within non-visual arts organisations such as heritage sites and National Trust properties, theatres and performance spaces, or natural history and science museums. Finally, I could better exploit my network of colleagues and acquaintances for references and opportunities.

Way Forward: Commit to a strategy; this should include clear and practical steps, starting today. 

October 2011: I will begin this week to apply for internships, as these will be key to building up CV (addressing my lack of relevant work experience), aiming to secure a placement before the end of 2011.

August 2012: After submitting my dissertation on September 3, I will begin my hunt for a full-time job in earnest. I am currently applying for internships for September through December so that I can have time to find opportunities beginning in the New Year while building up experience.  If by early 2013 I have not found the right full-time, paid opportunity, I will re-evaluate my situation and decide if further training, education, or opportunities in other sectors would best suit me and my goals.

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Although I was enthusiastic, even calling those early goals and plans ‘vague’ would have been generous. For a long time I had told myself and others asking that the museum sector was so competitive and oversubscribed that I would never be hired – but I realised that the only thing stopping me was my own fear. I wasn’t getting any opportunities because I wasn’t looking or applying for them. Submitting that first internship application to the Whitechapel Gallery was a hugely significant milestone for my career development. I realised that while the current job climate is daunting, I was putting up mental barriers to my success too. I am better informed and more realistic now, but more optimistic too – there are hundreds of opportunities on offer in the Arts everyday – it’s just a matter of seeking out opportunities to better myself and my CV, and applying. Rejection can be intimidating, but really, at the end of the day, the worst a potential employer might say is ‘Sorry, not this time.’ And when it does work out, the experience can be fantastic.

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