Meet the Young Cultural Heritage Professionals – Interview with Jasna Popović

Meet the Young Cultural Heritage Professionals – Interview with Jasna Popović

Young cultural heritage professionals
CHARTER has partnered with the European Heritage Hub to present a new series of interviews featuring young cultural heritage professionals. On this occasion, we will engage in dialogue with members of various organisations-members of the consortium who are, in various capacities and positions participating in this EU-funded project, to explore their perspectives on navigating the complexities of entering the sector, how their education has equipped them with the necessary skills and competencies, and their visions for the future of heritage!

New profile on the Young Cultural Heritage Professionals series:

Young cultural heritage professionals

 

What was your motivation to enter the cultural heritage field? Was it your first option?

Yes, to some extent I say it was my first choice when I was choosing my career path, but not so clearly when I was choosing my studies. 

When I was entering Law School I knew I would like to dedicate myself to international affairs and human rights and both of my masters were focusing on those subjects. It was while studying my masters degrees that I realised I wanted to dedicate more specifically to International Cultural Heritage Law.

Studying international conventions and declarations on the cultural heritage particularly caught my attention and it was backed up by my hobbies such as history and art history, which I studied in my free time.

Finally, having the opportunity to expand my horizons by traveling only confirmed my idea of the importance of protection and promotion of heritage so we can all appreciate it, experience it, enjoy it and learn from it.

 

How was/is your transition from studying to working?

Very slow and implied a lot of voluntary work. For the first 3 years of my working experience I was volunteering and working other jobs on the side. Some might say it’s not for the faint hearted and I am extremely thankful for the people around me who supported me in that journey. I have learnt a lot not only about the work environment, but also about myself during that process. Additionally, while now I have a remunerated position, I can say my volunteering days are not over as I dedicate a significant part of my free time to ESACH network.

An additional obstacle that I see now, looking back, might be my degree in Law. This is not particularly common in the heritage field and, rightly so, excluded me from applying for positions that required formal knowledge in disciplines like History, Art History, or Archaeology.

Finally, the fact that my job hunt was taking place in a country that is not my country of origin added a bit of administrative and technical obstacles, all too well known to those who hold a non-EU passport.

 

How are you looking/looked for a job in heritage?  And how do you experience/experienced the phase of search and application?

My transitioning from volunteer to employment was within the same NGO and more or less implied formalisation of the tasks I had already been performing. 

My more recent experience, working as a freelancer, is proving that it is not always easy to find paid positions. I am in a constant search of projects and posts I can apply for. I must admit it has both encouraging and discouraging moments but I believe that the sector has been opening up.

My hope is that we, as a society, decide to allocate more resources to culture, placing it more prominently in our agendas. This would lead to more opportunities and a greater need for all young professionals. My experience in ESACH has shown me an increased interest in cultural heritage among younger generations, as well as a high level of education and skills among young professionals. This leaves me convinced that the cultural heritage sector will grow and become more visible and relevant in our society.

 

What skills and competences do you notice are demanded the most in job offers?

Communication skills mainly. Most of the entry level jobs imply tasks of community manager and include working on digital presence of the NGOs or projects/initiatives. Additionally, I believe different languages and general culture are of great importance as they allow young professionals to better integrate in the team.

Finally, soft skills (paradoxically, usually only acquirable when working) such as team spirit, tasks organisation and ability to efficiently and respectfully communicate within the team are highly valuable.

 

Based on the profiles of job positions, do you notice skills or competences that your education didn’t provide you with?

Having studied Law and particularly in a “closed curricula” programme which gave us very little options of choosing our preferences, I can definitely say I have lacked many of the team organisational and communication skills, particularly in an international setting, when it is expected that one quickly shifts both topics and languages.

However, so that not everything is on the dark side, I think lawyers bring methodical and procedural thinking to the sector. Our skills in analysis, procedure and interpretation of legislation present the skeleton of efficient and smooth office functioning, they are the silent partner in the back that makes sure papers are in order, deadlines are met and procedures are followed.

 

How do you think young people can be attracted to work in heritage? Do you have proposals?

I am confident there is a growing percentage of young professionals who wish to work in heritage. In this sense, I would focus my efforts on promoting the importance and relevance of cultural heritage to the general public and to children via school curricula, not necessarily to spark interest in everyone to work in the sector but rather to elevate the awareness in the society and to reach a tacit “social contract” that protecting is important.

 

How do you see the future of the cultural heritage field?

I am optimistic with a pinch of realism on this question. I see younger professionals struggle to find stable jobs and a bit of secure ground we all need in our lives.There is no point in hiding, there are moments when I doubt my choice of professional path. However, I fell in love with the sector over and over again every time I see the passion people who work in the field of cultural heritage have and their willingness to go an extra mile. I see young professionals´ readiness to help each other and to volunteer their time, energy and skills for cultural heritage and I strongly believe it will positively affect the evolution of the cultural heritage field.

We are living in very challenging times in so many aspects: climate change, outgoing conflicts all around us, economical instability, high-speed changes in societies that sometimes question the values and ideas we thought were set. All of that has its undeniable mark on the cultural heritage field as well, and I would stress out, to the greater extent, those who are just entering into the sector.

This is why we need teamwork, compassion, understanding for people around us, creation of an inclusive and sustainable system built on mutual respect, shared values and clear goal of creating a better world using the lessons from cultural heritage.

 

 

About the European Heritage Hub

European Heritage Hub

The European Heritage Hub is a two-year pilot project launched in May 2023 by a consortium of 20 partners, led by Europa Nostra and co-funded by the European Union, to set up a permanent and autonomous heritage hub in Europe.

Youth presence in the consortium is ensured by the partnership between Hispania Nostra and ESACH who are in charge of the coordination of youth activities throughout the project. ESACH, as a youth-led network of around 400 students and young professionals, contributes to the consortium as an associated partner and ensures the presence of younger generations in the debates and Hub activities. Learn more here!

 

You can find all CHARTER’s Young Cultural Heritage Professionals interviews here!

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