(The following is an excerpt from my upcoming book “Becoming an Archaeologist: How to Create a Fruitful Career in Cultural Resource Management.” The book hasn’t been published yet; it goes live on the Kindle Bookstore on May 23, 2016, so you still have time to tell me what you think. You can write one below or send me an email. Thanks.)
Every marathon begins with a single step. For many of us, dreaming about digging for ancient artifacts from a long, lost civilization is the impetus to that motivates us down the long path towards a career in archaeology. For most, that dream of being an archaeologist does not mesh with the reality of doing cultural resource management. Turning this dream into a career is not the solution for most of those who’ve dreamed of doing archaeology. It is better left a dream.
As I mentioned in the previous blog post, taking the time to decide whether or not you want to do archaeology as a career is an important, yet frequently overlooked step.
If you’ve thought about it and decide you still want to do this for a living, it’s probably a good idea to think about what steps you can take towards achieving that goal. Nobody is going to come by your house and offer you a job doing archaeology. As with everything good in life, forging a fruitful career will take a lot of sustained effort over time. However, nothing is going to happen if you do not take action.
Commit to Action
You know where you want to be, but how are you going to get there? The only pathway from where you’re at now to where you want to be is a series of focused actions that all achieve a single goal. You have to put in work. I’m sorry if you thought this was going to fall into your lap, but something like creating the career of your dreams does not happen without you steadfastly applying yourself over a period of time. It will take years for you to get where you want to be. It will take thousands of small steps. This is an ultra-marathon so you’ve got to start training.
As with any worthwhile thing in life, every major goal begins with a single step. If you’re following the instructions in this book, you’ve already taken the first step—turning your dreams into a booklet of instructions. Your journal is your playbook. That is the first step.
The second step is making a commitment to act. You have to do something to turn scribbling in a notebook into a reality.
Make a promise to yourself: You will spend at least 60 minutes a day working on your goal. Call this your “Power Hour.” This action could be journaling or surfing the net looking for CRM companies and archaeologists with whom to network. Or, you could spend an hour reading magazine articles on archaeological discoveries. If you’re studying archaeology in college, it’s a given that you’re already reading about the field so turn your attention towards gaining the skills necessary for finding work in CRM: résumé -writing, networking, applying to jobs, practicing GIS, learning how to do field activities, learning how to write like an archaeologist, et cetera.
This can be as hard or as easy as you like, but you need to make sure you stay consistent. The only difference between you and your college professors is a ton of reading, a lot of writing, dozens of conferences, public presentations, volunteering, and some digging— basically, sustained effort across many years.
Those hours will add up over the weeks and months but they will never accumulate as long as you’re simply visualizing and journaling. You. Must. Act. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time.
Set Short-Term Goals
Acting without focus is another way to waste your time. Sixty minutes a day spent randomly will never turn into something that will get you where you want to be. In order to be effective, you will want to direct your efforts into small, bite-sized goals that you can accomplish in a shorter period of time. You have the overall vision. Now you need to break this down into manageable tasks that will accumulate into larger projects.
Write down a series of 1, 3, 6, and 12-month goals. Be very clear on what you intend to accomplish. Don’t overcommit but try and push yourself.
For example, if you find out that CRM companies in your area need historical archaeologists, think about what you can do in this year to describe yourself as a historical archaeologist. What do you need to know? What do you need to do? Now, write down a series of short-term goals that will help move you closer to that goal (HINT: You will need to read and write stuff on historical archaeology and will have to do some sort of fieldwork or lab work. You will also need this work verified by other professional archaeologists, so you need to find opportunities to do just that.)
Are you going to read 10 books on archaeology in the next year? Will you call at least one archaeologist each month for a telephone conversation? Will you apply to at least one archaeology job each month for a year? Whatever you have to do, write these goals down and start accomplishing them.
Channel your Power Hour into accomplishing those goals. Over time, you will be impressed at your progress if you keep it up.
The secret to success bottled up into an hour each day
While it will take hard, concentrated work towards a single goal, the long quest will not be accomplished in one large stroke. Your success will be built upon successfully completing hundreds of smaller tasks. Careers are built sequentially on a lot of little things done over a long period of time. You have to commit to acting on your goal if you are ever going to succeed. This commitment to action is the first step in achieving your career goal.
Are you going to achieve your goal by working towards it for only one hour each day? Probably not. Or, it will take you so many years that you won’t be too old and gray to enjoy the fruits of your labor. You will definitely have to spend more than 365 hours each year working towards your goal, but starting with a commitment to one hour each day is an excellent start. Actually, it’s more than most people do to actuality their goals.
Just like it takes more than an hour to finish a marathon, you will have to invest more than an hour a day to your goal of becoming a cultural resource management archaeologist. But, it’s not how much time you spent that matters. What matters is that you act. Now.
The book isn’t published yet which is why I’m asking for suggestions. What do you think about this post? Write a comment below or send me an email.
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