Aviv, 30, worked as an urban planner and project coordinator for a consulting group for six years before heading back to school to earn a master of museum studies. “I found the consulting space extremely narrow-minded and wanted to move to more progressive circles that support anti-racism and anti-oppression,” she writes. “Museums are highly problematic spaces with colonial roots and systemic oppression, but there has been a movement to ‘decolonize’ museums for decades – I want to be part of this ongoing effort.”
After graduating from her master’s program in June, Aviv has been unable to find work in her new field. Instead, she’s been working at the clothing store where she was employed part-time during her studies. “There are not many opportunities and lots of competition from my cohort of graduates across schools,” she says. Her ideal role would be “in a community arts organization that engages communities and animates public spaces through street art.” But given the limited job market, she’s also applying to galleries and history museums to build up relevant experience. “I’ve also been looking and applying for jobs beyond the GTA.”
Aviv has a clear passion and direction for her new career but few job opportunities to consider. So we asked career coach Shauna Vassell of Koncave Coaching and Consulting and Jenny Donnell, manager of the human resources at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, how Aviv can best position her resume and her prior experience.
What the career coach says
Ms. Vassell commends the format and layout of Aviv’s resume but has plenty of suggestions for revamping its content. To start, Ms. Vassell suggests that Aviv start her resume with a professional summary which would incorporate content from her current Skills section. “She has a wonderful list of skills and some transferable ones too from her work as an urban planner,” Ms. Vassell says. “The summary is to get a sense of her ideal role – not just the culture and work environment, but the ‘When I grow up, I want to be…’ position.” The breakdown of Aviv’s work experiences could also use improvement. “Each bullet should start with a verb,” Ms. Vassell recommends. “I noticed she used ‘enthusiastically’ and a few other adjectives, which don’t add much information or emphasize what she did.” Instead, Aviv should add qualitative accomplishments and outcomes to her resume. For example: “How big was the exhibit? How many attendees were there? How many artists were brought together? What were the Instagram stats for participation?”
Ms. Vassell believes that Aviv can give her resume a stronger edge by showcasing her previous experience in a way that applies to her new career. “The resume almost lists her as a junior starting from scratch with a few internships, until you flip to page two and see ‘urban planner’ and ‘multi-million dollar,‘” Ms. Vassell says. Adding a professional summary will help to achieve this connection, along with an Accomplishments section where she can showcase quantitative achievements that would otherwise be buried in her resume, like “Managed a GoFundMe campaign raising $600 for an exhibition.”
To expand her job opportunities, Ms. Vassell encourages Aviv to target “horizontal linkages” between companies and organizations, as opposed to focusing too narrowly on a linear, upward path. “Aviv should be thinking, ‘What do I know that others need?’ and ‘Who would benefit from it?’” Ms. Vassell says. “This will give her insights on how she can leverage relationships and networking to connect with people in these areas.” She also recommends researching companies that have made commitments to social change, and “following the funding” to learn what organizations they are working with.
While networking is an important part of any job search, Ms. Vassell encourages Aviv to be active in the process. “Follow the thought leaders, get seen and be intentional when connecting with people and building your network,” she says. “Actively engage with people. Don’t just add them and forget them in your connections.”
What the industry expert says
Ms. Donnell also appreciates Aviv’s current format and layout. “Her resume appealed to me with the use of colour and space. The colour was unique, which implied a creative person, and the font size also indicated thoughtfulness to the reader.” As Ms. Vassell suggested, Ms. Donnell also suggests adding a capsule statement about herself to the top of the resume. “I want to learn something about what the applicant is passionate about,” Ms. Donnell says. “This would make the recruiter realize that Aviv has a sincere interest in and passion for the arts and that it’s not just a job that she’s after.”
Aviv’s current arts experience would qualify her for entry-level positions at the McMichael such as a gallery guide, part-time support for a studio or weekend camp, or in retail sales. “These front-line positions also provide exposure to the inner workings of a museum and opportunities to speak to staff in different positions,” Ms. Donnell says. However, to achieve a better position in programming or education, Aviv will have to find ways to bridge her prior urban-planning career to the role she’s applying for. “She could enhance how her previous full-time experience has transferable skills to programming posts,” says Ms. Donnell.
Aviv has plenty of transferable skills that she can highlight in her resume. “She should promote the relationships that she fostered in her field,” says Ms. Donnell. “Working with municipalities bodes well in the not-for-profit sector, and her outreach to the community and relationship-building experience are transferable skills that will support her desire to work in public programming.” In addition, Aviv could also highlight the regular reporting she did in previous roles, which demonstrates her knowledge of performance indicators and how to measure successful engagements. With some resume rejigging, Aviv could qualify for intermediate arts-programming roles if she’s able to connect her previous experience to new job requirements.
As Aviv noted herself, posted jobs for arts and museum roles are slim, but she can help forge connections and build her network by reaching out to organizations where she feels her skills would be a fit. “Don’t sell yourself short,” Ms. Donnell advises. “Be proud of all you have to offer. State confidently how you can do the job without being overbearing.”
The new resume
Aviv has revamped her resume to target a community-arts role. She has added a professional summary to bring her years of professional experience to the top, along with her passion and interest in the arts. She has also added an accomplishments section to highlight relevant accomplishments that were missing from her resume, with keywords and stats bolded. Academic project highlights were also moved up, while the education section was moved to the end.
Within her job descriptions, she has removed adverbs at the beginning of bullets so that all bullet points start with a verb. Aviv has also added more quantifiable detail to job tasks to help emphasize what she accomplished in each role.
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