Working with museum collections can be an isolating experience, especially if you’re part of a smaller organization.
It can be difficult to accurately assess how you’re doing unless you have several peers who perform similar roles, or a very engaged manager to provide you with supportive assessments.
Without access to this feedback, it’s difficult to determine how you’re doing until annual review time … when it’s too late to make adjustments! A lack of input also makes it difficult for you to accurately assess where your professional experience ranks in the larger museum field. This uncertainty can lead to experiencing imposter syndrome, incorrectly thinking you’re not right for a job, or suffering from a lack of confidence to advocate for an appropriate salary. This post will outline three methods to calibrate your self-evaluation abilities—with ideas for where to find self, peer, and market value information.
1. Start With the Job Description
The first place I recommend you start is with what you know: your job description. When you applied for your job, there was a job description provided that outlined the job’s roles and responsibilities. It’s time to break that out along with your annual review goals (if you have them). The first part of your evaluation is a self-evaluation.
Self-Evaluation: As you look at each responsibility and goal, give yourself an honest ranking of how well you’re performing on a scale of 1-5. Indications of how well you’re doing can include:
- How confident you feel in that area;
- How often you perform or put off the task; and
- Areas where you’ve received praise or felt you could use additional help.
2. Conduct an Informal Peer Review
Once you’ve performed a self-evaluation, you’re ready to solicit feedback from trusted peers. The people you choose can be fellow colleagues within the museum, or fellow museum professionals employed elsewhere. The most valuable feedback is honest feedback so make sure that you’re in a mental space that’s ready to receive an evaluation from a peer. All feedback is data you can use and will be helpful. Additionally, it can be equally uncomfortable for peers to offer critiques so make sure you have a couple specific “asks” or areas for them to focus on.
Peer-Evaluation: Pick people who have at least some knowledge of what you do, and who you can trust to give you candid feedback. I recommend starting by stating your goal for the conversation. And, in order to solicit honest feedback, start the discussion with an outline of what you found during your self-evaluation. This information will serve as a jumping off point as it will help you feel more comfortable and able to focus on the task at hand.
3. Assess the Market
Once you’ve completed the self-evaluation and peer-evaluation, you’re ready to mine the data available for the field. Collection work is often undervalued and humanities-based jobs as an aggregate are suffering chronically low salaries. That’s why it’s so important to know where you are in your career and, subsequently, your worth within the museum field.
Market-Evaluation: A combination of current job posts, salary surveys, and geographic-specific data can serve as a composite to compare where you’re at. Use this information to understand where you’re currently excelling and areas where you could use additional development in. Gather salary figures for jobs of a similar scope to yours and that requires a similar amount of experience, and analyze where you fit in. This portion of the exercise will help you to identify where you should focus next to grow your career, and how much you’re worth as a museum professional on the market.
Tip: Go check out my How much am I worth? webinar for additional resources to help you calculate your professional worth.
I recommend making an annual practice of performing these evaluations as it will continually support your growth as a museum professional. It’s also a great way to shore up your confidence in knowing exactly where you are within the field and where you want to go next.
Rachael Cristine Woody
If you’d like to learn more about this topic, register here for Rachael’s upcoming webinar, “5 Steps to Intentional Museum Work” on February 23, 2022. Rachael Cristine Woody advises on museum strategies, collections management, and grant writing for a wide variety of clients. In addition to several titles published by Lucidea Press, she is a regular contributor to the Think Clearly blog and an always popular presenter. And learn about Lucidea’s Argus solution for powerful and innovative museum collections management.
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