I wouldn't say that I've mastered being an introvert in an extrovert world, but I do have tips and tricks that help me navigate through the extroverted museum world. The reason why I love the Collections department is because it's just me and the objects. I don't feel socially drained, and most importantly, my social meter is not highly activated.
As an introvert, I prefer behind the scenes versus Front-House positions. To land my dream job, I took multiple Front-House opportunities because they were my foot in the door. I was drained, nervous, and slightly overwhelmed when large groups walked through the doors. I try to be positive and optimistic about those experiences by telling myself that I gained customer service skills and other trite justifications for hanging in there. But, honestly, I felt forced to endure Front-House positions since those positions were more accessible.
I don't come across many folks in the museum world that was able to avoid Front-House positions. I use the word avoid because Front-House is out of my comfort zone. I commend extroverts and museum Front-House staff, for we all play a part in achieving the same mission, and their role is just as essential. I commend introverts, who have taken extroverted positions in order to land their dream museum job. Continue to push through, but when you feel your social meter running out or begin to feel drained, try to step away. It's ok to tell a co-worker you need a minute.
Based on my experiences, I've learned that depending on the institution's size will determine how much social advocacy one will do. I've interned, worked, and volunteered at a range of institutions varying in size. Advocacy is needed for smaller museums as well, but it was more paper-oriented. Grants, emails, and intimate meetings ruled in the smaller institutions...ahh intimate, I love that word.
I thrive in intimate, quaint settings. However, recently I have hosted, co-hosted quite a few sessions, webinars, and other extroverted events that have required me to prep and recharge my social battery. I'm highly thankful for these opportunities. They are great resume boosters for sure, but more importantly, the hard work of the behind the scenes crew that often gets overlooked, or overshadowed are given their time to shine! Museum advocacy is essential, so I am forced to push through!
I love walking through the galleries and seeing folks engaged in conversation about a historical or artistic piece. I am content in knowing that my behind the scenes role plays a part in visitors' experiences. However, my content feeling is altered by the progressive times we are in, which require us to use our voices to make a change.
Museums are no longer viewed as just buildings that hold old stuff; they are the communities' voices. Communities are now looking at museums to reflect current relevant issues. Platforms to create meaningful and impactful dialogue are taking over museum event schedules, which they should. Giving the community a space to express should be a museum’s top priority.
Museum Advocacy will forever be necessary for Behind the scenes and Front-House staff. So, how do I navigate as an introvert in an extroverted museum world?...
Introverts are often viewed as socially awkward or lacking people skills when in actuality, we simply prefer intimate settings; a different preference from the norm shouldn't be viewed as a hindrance. I think I speak for most introverts when I say we're not socially awkward. Get us around the right people, and we're totally extroverted!
Navigating as an introvert in an extroverted world is not an impediment; it is a superpower!