Kim Sommer: From Marketing Executive to Mom to Docent.
Why did you step back from full-time employment (or make your latest transition)?
I stepped back from my full-time marketing career when my kids were born and we moved to a new city. I started and ran my own business for the first few years, but then I sold the business and did full-time parenting until 2009. I saw the writing on the wall; my kids were growing up and moving on. I was divorced and knew I had to figure out how to have a life that didn’t center around my kids. I started to dig through my brain to find what would make me happy and fulfilled.
What surprised you most about the transition?
I found myself with time on my hands. I had been very involved with volunteer work—mostly around my kids’ schools and sports, but I knew that was not going to be right for me. I had to think about what would make me happy beyond my identity as my daughters’ mom. As for my next gig, it was more challenging than I expected. I thought I’d just jump into it, but I had to compete and train even though I wanted to be a volunteer.
What are you doing now?
I am a docent at two museums on the same University campus. I had long-standing interest and passion for the arts. In college I was an Art History major, and I intended to work in the museum world after getting my MBA, but that didn’t work out at the time. This was my return. I call it my own midlife crisis. My role as a docent is to become familiar with the museum’s collection and seasonal exhibits; to know as much as I can and share it with the public in ways that interest them. My work is visitor-focused and I give interactive, thematic tours. It is so enjoyable to talk about something you love with someone who’s interested. For me, at least half of what is so great about the position is the community of other docents. We’ve become collaborators, friends—our own society of art lovers. We go to lectures, exhibitions and other culturally interesting events.
How did you decide to pursue these opportunities?
To figure out what I wanted to do, I looked back just as much as forward. I thought about what had made me happy in the past.
What advice would you give to someone in the same circumstances?
Look back through all your years of experience and activities and give some hard thought to when you were happiest and what you were doing when you felt that way. That’s what I did. I didn’t dwell on the what-ifs, I just did what I had to do to get back to the place I wanted to be.
Given your vast experience both professionally and personally, do you have a top 5 or 10 list of things that you would tell people if they would like to follow in your footsteps or follow a similar path?
-Get familiar with art organizations in your area.
-Find out if they have docents and if there are trainings scheduled.
-Make sure you understand the commitment involved. Hours, research and preparation.
-Try to talk to some current docents about what the program is like.
-Ask questions about the relationship between docents and the curatorial staff.
-Be humble. Most docents are educated and accomplished, but docents are students too. Learn about touring, teaching and art history. They all matter.
For more information on being a docent, check out our Amava Spotlight.
Kim Sommer is the mom of three formidable women. She’s run businesses, homes and events, but never marathons. Her background is in consumer product marketing, but her foreground is a love of the arts. She is an Amava Member.