This is my third week working at the art gallery. One of the culture shocks I have encountered the most during my time here is the ambiguity of directions and tasks that are given to me. I have noticed that this position is very much an environment in which you must look for your own tasks. Furthermore, it is up to you how long it will take you to complete projects – and estimate how long is appropriate. Unlike other positions, here the expectations for my work are not clearly laid out, and the tasks I need to get done come randomly depending on when they’re needed, there is no strict “schedule”.
This has definitely been an adjustment for me. The necessity to navigate this became more prevalent during my second week here, when the new exhibition had been inaugurated and work began to settle. For one, I found myself confused as to how long I was expected to work on a project, for a ‘deadline’ is never really given. Instead of focusing on a time limit, like I may have done in the past, I invest my energy into completing the work to the best of my ability. I have noticed that if my supervisor does not say anything about the amount of time it takes, then it was probably within the appropriate amount of time.
In an art gallery position there are also a lot of instances when projects and tasks assigned give few instructions, and leave details up to the employee to decide. Though I sometimes find it to be a little nerve wracking, especially when you want to make a good impression on your supervisors, it also leaves a lot of room for creative freedom and personal style. Often, even when done well, a draft will change several times before it is even close to being done. These changes are made when giving the product a second and third glance and factoring in the input of fellow coworkers. At first I was worried that having to change my draft meant that I had done a bad job, however I soon realized that it is completely normal, and simply part of the work. I started having more fun with my tasks when I became more comfortable with this collaborative, editing as-you-go style of work.
Another thing I would find difficult to navigate was downtime. At an art gallery, work often comes in ways depending on exhibitions, clients ect. Because of this, sometimes I find myself with periods of downtime. This at first made me really uncomfortable because I wanted to make a good impression and did not want it to look like I was wasting time. I found it hard to not know what to do next, and felt uncomfortable always bugging my supervisors – who are generally very occupied – to give me a new task, and even then, sometimes there were none. What ultimately calmed these worries was talking to my fellow coworkers, who by now have learned how to navigate this situation. They reassured me that it was normal to have downtime, and that I should bring myself a book or have something to do during the spare time like they do. This was really helpful and made me feel a lot less lost and awkward during my shifts!
I am really starting to appreciate and enjoy this more open and ambiguous style of work environment. I find that it makes me feel more trusted to take charge of my projects and organize myself in the way that works best for me. I also find that it helps relieve the pressure on time constraints, and allows me to put more energy into focusing on the quality of my work and being more detail oriented. I think that these are generally qualities that are important when working in an arts related position.