Smithsonian Reviews

Updated July 27, 2015
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Smithsonian Secretary Dr. David J. Skorton
Dr. David J. Skorton
2 Ratings

Pros
  • It is quite an interesting place to work with behind the scenes understanding of what happens in the largest museum complex in the world (in 3 reviews)

  • Great benefits if you like the learning opportunities (in 4 reviews)

Cons
  • Not much of a chance for full time position (in 5 reviews)

  • Huge bureaucracy, it takes a long time to process any new plan (in 3 reviews)

More Pros and Cons

53 Employee Reviews

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  1. Incredible opportunity, decent follow up

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Intern - Orchid Collection in Washington, DC
    Current Intern - Orchid Collection in Washington, DC

    I have been working at Smithsonian as an intern (Less than a year)

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook

    Pros

    Great staff. Most are clearly passionate about their work. Access available to museums outside public hours. Constant supply of lectures, presentations, and other educational opportunities to explore subjects outside of your field.

    Cons

    Very prominent hierarchy, making advancement, communication, and progress slow. Contains many departments, each with a different work culture. This can make cross-departmental work burdensome and the results are inconsistent. Challenging to follow up with a full time position.

    Advice to Management

    Continue pouring your passion and wisdom into all staff you come across, not just those directly below you because trickle-down is unreliable. I believe Secretary Skorton is the man for the job.


  2. Good experience

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Intern in Washington, DC
    Former Employee - Intern in Washington, DC

    I worked at Smithsonian

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    Pros

    Hands on work, caring team, little errand running, practical experience, commuter benefits

    Cons

    Little pay, spread out offices, reluctant to change, bureaucracy, but over all a great experience


  3. I Loved It But Emotionally, I Could Not Stay

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Contractor - Independent Contractor in Washington, DC
    Former Contractor - Independent Contractor in Washington, DC

    I worked at Smithsonian as a contractor (Less than a year)

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook

    Pros

    If you are someone who embraces life-long learning and has just an overall love of knowledge, everyday at the Smithsonian is bliss because there is always some type of discovery being made or poignant research being done. The Institution does an amazing job of maintaining blogs and newsletters that inform all staff of the current work across the organization. It's also really easy to connect with Smithsonian staff from other Units for informational interviews and to form social relationships. Though I worked in the OEEMA ( Office of Equal Employment and Minority Affairs), I spoke often with staff from the Institution Libraries, Contracting Office, and Museums. The atmosphere is open and jovial in offices and really tries to foster a familial structure among staff.

    Cons

    As open as the Smithsonian is with its fun events and discoveries, it is tightlipped internally about actual business information such as budgetary figures, project timelines, and Unit operation procedure. The Smithsonian Institution is a decentralized organization and it functions like one. At this point, the communication culture in the Smithsonian is fragmented with each Unit acting independently from one another until it reaches a step in the process where collaboration is unavoidable. There is a siloing effect among Units. This observation is largely influenced by how difficult it was for me to get specific information when trying to communicate with public parties about Smithsonian projects. Finally, though the personalities are amicable, working at the Smithsonian is actually a very high stress situation. Most of the work I performed included communicating information that was changing in real time so I was constantly updating myself and checking in with sources to stay current. All across the Smithsonian, there is an urgency to being part of projects that will eventually lead to either physical exhibits or affect the lives of living humans and animals. Everything has a deadline and any snag in the process can create a very public acknowledge and response to the changing of dates for final products. With such a large audience to which to answer, including the Secretary (head executive of the Smithsonian Institution), Congress, and the American Public, there are no small tasks at the Smithsonian, which is both empowering and daunting.

    Advice to Management

    2 Things: Communication and OverExtension I would focus on identifying and removing the barriers between Smithsonian Units when it comes to sharing information. I understand that sensitive information must be protected;however, the protection of that information should not impeded the access of internal Smithsonian Staff to relevant information. The divide can be between internal Smithsonian staff and public parties, not between the internal offices themselves. Many employees within the Smithsonian have multiple roles at an administrative level. The structure is very bureaucratic. Some Units have adequate staff for all the roles needed to function while other Units are very small and have staff performing in more than 3 capabilities. With all the change in the organizations, it is palpable that some people are overextended. Personally, I believe the solution exists in a combination of hiring new staff or reassigning roles to better fit staff skills and streamline Unit objectives. Tradition is highly valued at the Smithsonian but when sticking to traditional roles and responsibilities is holding the organization back, that's a signal that it's time to change and adapt procedure.


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  5. Great place to work

    Former Contractor - Anonymous Contractor in Berkeley, CA
    Former Contractor - Anonymous Contractor in Berkeley, CA

    I worked at Smithsonian as a contractor (More than a year)

    Pros

    It's the Smithsonian! Lots of very passionate researchers and curators. Always something new to learn.

    Cons

    Somewhat old school on the technology and organizational fronts.

    Advice to Management

    SI is a vast vast place with lots of units and departments. Someone should be handing out maps with org charts.


  6. This job has it

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in New York, NY
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in New York, NY

    I have been working at Smithsonian full-time

    Recommends
    Negative Outlook
    Approves of CEO
    Recommends
    Negative Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    Pros

    It's a federal job. So, the benefits are great.

    Cons

    There isn't any growth potential.

    Advice to Management

    Promote the personnel who are qualified to do there job, proficiently.


  7. Great benefits, great coworkers... little promotion potential.

    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I worked at Smithsonian

    Pros

    Great benefits, great coworkers, exciting work, great location, job stability, training opportunities.

    Cons

    Slow hiring process. Little promotion potential and low-graded positions at particular museums mean lower salaries.


  8. Summer Program Intern

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Intern - Anonymous Intern
    Former Intern - Anonymous Intern

    I worked at Smithsonian as an intern

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook

    Pros

    Really interesting place to work for summer break. People there are really friendly and smart. I learned lots of new things within 6 weeks of internship. Great little benefit for interns including free tickets to all the IMAX shows.

    Cons

    The summer program is unpaid. The whole process of getting into the program is somehow takes a while.

    Advice to Management

    Better communication and cooperation between each department


  9. Mostly positive!

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Curator
    Current Employee - Curator

    I have been working at Smithsonian full-time (More than 3 years)

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook

    Pros

    Wonderful to be part of a institution dedicated to increasing and sharing knowledge via museums exhibitions, research, publication programs and other educational offerings. Amazing benefits, including learning opportunities, good health, vision and dental insurance, retirement contributions and transportation benefits.

    Cons

    Lots of bureaucracy, some difficult/territorial personalities, not much room for career advancement or salary increases in many of the positions.

    Advice to Management

    The institution doesn't seem to do much to retain and promote its most valuable, hard-working employees.


  10. Great organization, well structured

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Facilities Management and Reliability in Washington, DC
    Former Employee - Facilities Management and Reliability in Washington, DC

    I worked at Smithsonian

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    Pros

    Things are well organized, you are not left figuring things out for yourself. People are very friendly and always there to help.

    Cons

    Very silo-d work environment. The different departments are very isolated from each other, and do not communicate other than officially.

    Advice to Management

    Create more opportunities for individuals from the whole institution to gather and share experiences and become acquainted with each other


  11. Helpful (1)

    Creative work in a bureaucratic setting

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Curator
    Former Employee - Curator

    I worked at Smithsonian full-time (More than 8 years)

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    Pros

    compensation is excellent, benefits excellent, access to materials and collections cannot be matched, national prestige is great,

    Cons

    but another system of rewards operates inside the institution, which can make it hard to remember all the excellent opportunities: time off policies depend heavily on your supervisor's interpretation of your responsibilities; large gap between job descriptions at "humanities" agencies vs "science" agencies, even if titles (aka "Curator") are the same. Some Curators are responsible for exhibits, some are not, some write exhibition texts, some do not, some are subject to evaluation from outside committees of their peers, some are reviewed only by those inside the institutions, and recognition from the institution is rarely more than lukewarm. Advice: make sure to travel, and get feedback from your professional peers, do not rely on supervisors (who have little incentive to be supportive) or institutional colleagues (whose standards can be too low because limited to what goes on "at home"). It will be as good as you make it.



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