May 20, 2014
For Steve Buss, there is no average day on the job.
“Every day is a new challenge,” says Buss, vice president of development and director of the CAF Airpower Museum in Midland, Texas. “I have a plan going into the day on what I will do, but depending on who calls on the phone or shows up at my door, that can rapidly change.”
A recent day showed how true that is. A museum visitor who noticed their F-14 on display mentioned to an employee that he worked on Tomcats in the early 1980s. All of a sudden, they were looking up the serial number of the plane they had, only to discover it was on the carrier the visitor had worked on.
Buss says he tries to split his day into the two parts of his job — fundraising for the continued growth and success of the Commemorative Air Force, and working at the museum, which can include anything from turning on the displays and exhibits to fixing a leaky sprinkler in the garden.
As a kid, Buss says he always hung out at the airport fence to watch airplanes come and go, and dreamed of becoming a pilot. But instead he went to college and studied Radio/TV/Film. However, he soon realized he could combine his interest in aviation — he now is a private pilot with a taildragger endorsement — and his media background and work in public relations for an aviation-related company.
The key to any career, Buss says, is being open to different opportunities. “People sometimes get set in their ways, and that is great if it works out. But there are also some great advantages to being open to other possibilities.”
Since it’s hard to get a job in the aviation museum industry, Buss recommends students have a back-up plan. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for archivists, curators, museum technicians and conservators will grow 11 percent from 2012 to 2022, but the BLS notes that applicants should expect very strong competition for jobs. The bureau predicts 13 percent job growth for public relations and fundraising managers.
Buss says classes in sales, business, public relations or journalism will help set you apart from other candidates. That also holds true for fundraising occupations. “Part of fundraising is telling a story and making it a compelling story that would cause someone to believe in what you are doing and want to support you.”
He also advises students to be persistent. “Chances are you won’t get your dream job right away, but if you keep working on it and gain experience, the right opening will come around.”
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