As students we are well aware that these days it isn’t enough to just have a degree. Somehow, while you are studying you need to gain experience in the field you want to enter. But without your qualification that may seem like an impossible venture… *enter the feeling of being on a hamster wheel*

I’ve found a solution to this problem. I am studying a Bachelor of Arts (Librarianship and Corporate Information Management) and since April 2015 I have been a volunteer Intern at Melbourne Museum. I have found the workload manageable and have been able to weave the internship around my study.

H.L. White Egg Collection in custom made Queensland maple cabinet. Source Museum Victoria
H.L. White Egg Collection in custom made Queensland maple cabinet. Source Museum Victoria

Volunteering while you study is an excellent way to get some experience under your belt. Not to mention all the professional connections you could make! I can see your face though, you may be thinking I’ve heard bad things about organisations taking advantage of volunteers or you don’t really get worth-while skills out of that? Well I’m going to do my best to give you a different point of view.

I have been quite strategic with my studies. From the start I researched the type of institutions that people in librarianship, information management and records management worked.  I wanted to know how I could make myself more appealing to those institutions. I also quickly realised that the information management industry is small, everyone seems to know everyone else! So honing my people and technical skills become my goal. That’s when I discovered volunteering.

In my Internship I have learned how to use digital and collection management systems employed by museums. I am gaining experience in proposing an item for accession to museum collections. I have learned how to target my writing for a scientific audience. These are technical skills that museum staff (especially curators) use everyday and now I have experience in them too. As for people skills? I have performed interviews and recorded oral histories of collectors associated with Museum Victoria. I have also made professional and social connections with other museum staff. Even if I don’t end up in a museum the people I have been interacting with are experts in their fields with incredible knowledge to share and well worth knowing.

Have I changed your mind yet?

Let me make just one more point. Whatever your degree, when you finally receive that piece of paper that says you have graduated, what is going to make you stand out from the crowd? By volunteering in the industry you want to graduate to means you learn the lingo before everyone else, become familiar with the trends, develop skills to perform everyday operations and know the community. Lastly, volunteering while studying proves to future employers you have the dedication to make it. So do yourself a favour and go out and grab some opportunities.

Interested in Interning at Museum Victoria too? I found their Student Research Projects page and kept an eye on that. Some other places I researched are now part of a Volunteering for History: Australia post on Ancient History et cetera.

More information about volunteering in Australia Fair Work Ombudsman

Till next time
DFTBA (Don’t Forget to be Awesome)