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Jobs 101: Museum guide


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There's more to this job than just reciting history facts.

When you hear the words 'museum guide', the image of old, balding men talking in monotonous voices may come to mind. 

But when Youth.SG went down to Resorts World Sentosa's (RWS) Maritime Experiential Museum to chat with Foong Oi, we realised she was nothing like that stereotype.

Taking us as one of her guests, she spoke animatedly about the displays, despite being a quiet person by nature. 

Who: Foong Oi, 25 
Occupation: Museum guide 
Studied: Diploma in tourism resort management 

Tell us more about yourself! 

I'm quite interested in Chinese history, so working in this museum is like a dream for me because I get to share my background knowledge on Zheng He and the maritime voyages with visitors.

I am currently completing my degree in Chinese Language and Literature with Translation at the Singapore University of Social Science.

Foong Yi Initially joined the Maritime Experiential Museum (MEM) as part of her polytechnic internship in 2012, and signed on full-time after graduating.

Describe a typical day at work.

Currently, I'm a team executive in my department. On top of doing tours, I manage a team of tour guides.

I will reach the office by 8am to familiarise myself with the day's work. Afterwards, all team managers at RWS will be briefed on what's happening around the park, not just their own attraction.

By 9am, I'll do my checks in both the parks and ensure all my team members are ready to work. By 10am, we'll open. From there it'll be monitoring sales and making sure all is well in the park. Normally, I'll only go up to office after lunch to do paperwork.

Tours are per booking, so it's not a fixed schedule. Each tour lasts about an hour on average, depending on the group and their pace.

"Memorising the content is a must, in order to interact with the guests," said Foong Oi. 

What are some of the challenges you face as a guide?

Every new group of guests has their own needs and expectations. 

Sometimes, we do get upset when we meet guests with unreasonable expectations and bad attitude. However, in the service line, we should not show our unhappiness or our emotions. We have to really keep our cool. 

What are some of the memorable experiences you've had as a museum guide? 

Once, two Japanese kids went missing here, and the mother panicked. There was a language barrier, but we managed to find the kids outside the museum entrance. While it wasn't that far away, it took a lot of teamwork and effort.

Foong Oi ensures that guests never feel uncomfortable asking questions about the exhibits, and encourages her team members to approach guests first.

What motivates you in your work?

The colleagues around me get me through the day with their constant lame jokes. We settle everything on the spot, so we don't bring our emotions back home.

I also like the opportunity I get to make a difference for our guests when we give them a tour. Knowing there are people out there who acknowledge what you're doing and value what you are going to share helps me to appreciate my job.

Foong Oi believes that a tour makes information from the museum more understandable for them, which value adds to their experience. 

What advice would you give to youths considering a career as a museum guide?

Don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. I'm not one to approach strangers, but when it's time to work, I do it.

When doing a tour, you're only with the students for two hours, maximum. So it's okay even if you embarrass yourself in front of the children. At the end of the day, everyone is happy.