New profile on the Young Cultural Heritage Professionals series:
What was your motivation to enter the cultural heritage field? Was it your first option?
I wanted to be an archaeologist ever since I was 9 and happened to visit Syria. However, after taking up a certificate course in archaeology in the last year of my undergraduate studies (I majored in Ancient Indian Culture), I realised that a career in archaeology was not for me, not only due to the laborious nature of the work itself but also because of the state of funding in the sector.
I eventually began to realize that perhaps the need of the hour was to protect the existing heritage, as excavating more sites would make little sense if we were unable to keep them safe – that is how the gradual shift in my career choice from archaeology to heritage studies and management took place.
How are you looking/looked for a job in heritage? And how do you experience/experienced the phase of search and application?
It’s a struggle. Even after undertaking multiple (paid and unpaid) internships across many countries, the chances of finding a stable job that pays enough to be self-sustaining seem bleak. I have been looking for jobs on LinkedIn and certain Facebook groups, but nothing substantial has come up yet. I recently interviewed for the position of an art research assistant that demanded 55 hours of work per week and offered a fairly low pay. Also, crowdsourcing ideas and getting work done by multiple applicants for free seems pervasive back home.
Additionally, since I am an Indian citizen, not having a residence permit and working rights outside the country is a major setback. It has been particularly difficult to find an organisation in Europe, Australia or the US that is willing and has the means to do the paperwork for me to work with them, even if I am well-qualified for certain positions.
What skills and competences do you notice are demanded the most in job offers?
I have noticed an overwhelming number of communications, digital and social media related positions being advertised recently. Research too – but not so much.
Based on the profiles of job positions, do you notice skills or competences that your education didn’t provide you with?
The first thing I see lacking is the years of experience. It seems like everyone wants an employee with lots of work experience, but barely anyone is willing to provide that experience to fresh graduates.
Acquiring basic design and digital skills in university would definitely be an asset, as a lot of work has moved online post-covid. I also think an introductory course in grant-writing would be useful.
How do you think young people can be attracted to work in heritage? Do you have proposals?
I truly believe that there are a lot of young people out there who are passionate about heritage and culture. The problem is that a professional career in the sector is not viewed as practical and sustainable, with good reason. I admit that it is a struggle to keep up the momentum and motivation to pursue what we are most passionate about when there simply do not seem to be enough (entry-level) jobs – which is also one of the topics we, the HeritaGeeks bonded over when we first met. Only if the sector is streamlined, well-funded and allows one to be financially independent, can we expect people to consider a career in this sector without letting out a giggle!
Formulating a policy that pays and values cultural professionals the same as professionals in other mainstream sectors is certainly a pressing need – culture and cultural workers have to stop being regarded as expendable. Actions born out of a transparent and constructive discussion with those in positions of power about issues workers are facing on the ground would also be highly beneficial.
How do you see the future of the cultural heritage field?
Despite the issues we are currently experiencing, I think there is a growing appreciation for cultural heritage, especially post-covid as many museums and heritage sites across the world witnessed a stark increase in the number of visitors to their websites during lockdowns. Engaging with digital cultural resources, museums and cultural spaces is believed to typically improve the mental health and wellbeing of people; several studies to determine the social impact and benefits of culture are underway.
If we are able to work through the aforementioned challenges, recognise the value and importance of cultural heritage in our lives and make fellow heritage professionals truly believe that the work we do is invaluable, I cannot see why the heritage field will be anything but flourishing.