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 have always been attracted to art and history. It was therefore logical to turn to cultural heritage when the opportunity was given to me. I tend to want to understand all the aspects and layers of a concept when I am passionate about it and cultural heritage was no exception to this.
So I studied the restoration of built heritage and worked in architectural offices and then turned to heritage governance and international cultural policies and finally cultural project management.
How was/is your transition from studying to working?
After my first master’s degree specialising in built heritage, I directly worked for an architectural firm specialising in the conservation/restoration of historic buildings and built heritage. The project that made the strongest impression on me was a mission we carried out in Haiti to make an inventory of the historic facades in the city centre of Cap-Haitien.
The discussions we had with the local communities and organisations were very emotional and intense and it was from there that I decided to get involved in community engagement and participatory approaches. I therefore undertook another master’s degree in four different European countries on the theme of heritage, conflict, and integrated approaches, with an international vision and a local anchorage. Unfortunately, the period after this master was difficult because it was still the COVID crisis, and it took me a few months to find a job. For me, the transition from education to work has been possible thanks to timely meetings and I stress the importance of creating synergies and networks.
How are you looking/looked for a job in heritage? And how do you experience/experienced the phase of search and application?
The period when I was looking for a job in the heritage field was during the COVID crisis which was not an easy period to find a job. I applied to many job offers, doctoral offers, contacted relatives in the field, sent spontaneous applications, etc. I am very selective about the jobs I apply for, but I find that there are not that many jobs in the heritage field.
After five months without a job, I was selected for a Blue Book traineeship at the European Commission, to work on its cultural heritage sector. Then I started working for ICHEC Brussels Management School and supporting the management of a cultural entrepreneurship project, C-SHIP, which aims to provide business-oriented tools and methodologies to cultural entrepreneurs in CCIs.
What skills and competences do you notice are demanded the most in job offers?
This of course depends on the structures where one applies, be it in Academia, NGOs, public administrations, or private offices. Often, a few years of experience are required, with skills ranging from project management to cultural policy and field experience.
Based on the profiles of job positions, do you notice skills or competences that your education didn’t provide you with?
Having a diverse academic background, I have been able to acquire skills and competences relevant to the profiles and job positions I am applying for. A skill that is often requested, but rarely taught in our field, is budget management. Budget analysis and financial management is one of the skills I would have liked to acquire but that comes more with work experience.
How do you think young people can be attracted to work in heritage? Do you have proposals?
In my professional experience and voluntary work in the field of heritage, I have had the opportunity to meet many overqualified young professionals, mainly women. I think that before trying to attract young people to work in the cultural heritage field, we should empower and value the young people who are already studying/working in this field.
Having said that, I think that interest in heritage should start at a very young age. There are heritage organisations that educate young people from the age of 6 about heritage, visiting primary schools and organising interactive workshops to give them a taste for heritage and history.
How do you see the future of the cultural heritage field?
The very notion of cultural heritage has evolved significantly since the 1972 Convention, to include new and broader components, both tangible and intangible, with new management models, integrated and participatory approaches, discourses that support local communities, climate action and human rights, and which are ultimately drivers to transform society towards an inclusive and sustainable world.
However, I also find that some discourses use radical and identity vocabulary, which, in my opinion, can lead to conflicts. Heritage has certain ambivalences that should be taken into account for the future.