Last month, I read Seth Godin’s book “Linchpin.” In case you didn’t know, Seth Godin isn’t an archaeologist and, based on his writings, he doesn’t appear interested in cultural resource management or historic preservation. Godin is primarily known for his postmodern business writings, which have been rapidly been accepted by many of today’s budding companies and entrepreneurs. I think many of his philosophies can also be used to improve the health of the current cultural resource management industry.
The concept of Linchpin is that the world has changed to the point where the old equation “get good grades in high school–graduate from college–get a good job–live a happy life” is no longer the best way to forge a fruitful career. He highlights the facts that the modern economy is moving faster than ever and previous memes in marketing and business are no longer working as well as before. Outsourcing, downsizing, and automation is eliminating not only blue-collar but also white-collar jobs. Degree inflation is also something we archaeologists need to think about. Godin believes that in this more connected world we live in, the only way we can fight back is by being indispensable not just knowledge-hoarders, but the creative, analytic, fearless persons that actively seek problems and ways to solve them. He calls these folks Linchpins because they are frequently industry leaders that aren’t afraid of being different or failure.
These facts have been stated in his previous books and by other authors, but I feel like they are particularly relevant to those of us attempting to craft careers in cultural resource management, archaeology, historic preservation and heritage conservation. Finding and keeping a job in cultural resources is difficult. It’s something I haven’t always been successful at in the past. Landing work in CRM became substantially easier after I unknowingly started applying some of the concepts Godin writes about in his books. Rather than following the predetermined path set before me by my professors, mentors, and co-workers, I sought to become someone that Godin would call a Linchpin. I started doing things that were out of the ordinary for other CRMers and it has helped my career greatly.
Of course, I was doing these things partially because of my own personality (Anti-establishmentarianism, anti-authority, and love of rebellion marked my teenage years and twenties). I was just doing what felt good and right. I had no idea these would help me out in my career. Here are some of the things I did and you can do to help you become a Linchpin:
Remember that criticism is free, but not all criticism is valid- “Anthropology? What are you going to do with a degree in anthropology? You’re just wasting your time/money/life.” I know you’ve probably heard that before. Well, so has anyone else that is currently an archaeologist.
The first thing I did was resolve to become an archaeologist, no matter what. Second, I decided I’d get paid to do archaeology. Third, I figured out what it would take to make that a reality and did those things. All along the way and still to this day, people tell me that I’ll never make it or that archaeology isn’t a worthwhile profession. Guess what? I could say the same thing about investment banking or getting an MBA. Once you’ve made the decision to become an archaeologist, stay the course.
Stand out from the crowd- In addition to being headstrong and hard-headed, I also took great measures to focus on aspects of archaeology that stood apart from what other folks were doing in my geographic region. I studied to become a historical archaeologist in the west an area where historical archaeologists are comparatively rare. I also decided to care about buildings, properties many archaeologists shun. I was able to make myself unique because I found a niche in archaeology that was overlooked by the others in my area. This also made me more employable because, in addition to having knowledge of the regional prehistory, I was also able to handle historical resources. It has become a selling point on my CVs and has opened doors for me.
What is overlooked in your region? Could you be a contracting or procurement specialist that is also an archaeologist? What about a specialist in land acquisition that also understands the mechanics of environmental and historic preservation law? Can you become the foremost social media marketing specialist/ archaeologist in your area? Are there any urban geomorphologists in your area? Think of ways you can separate yourself from the mass of other archaeologists in your area.
Don’t specialize- It seems like it contradicts what I just said, but it’s bad to specialize in archaeology because most of us go on to work in cultural resource management. CRM rarely provides careers for super-specialized archaeologists. It’s also increasingly rare in academia as well. You want to become a T-Person someone with a specialty that also has a firm grasp of a wider range of topics.
Projects are the new résumé- In his chapter “Google You”, Godin explains that the only way to prove you’re indispensable is to show, not tell (pg. 74). As someone that has written a book on résumé-writing, I am intimately aware that a résumé is simply another form of self-advertisement. At best, a killer résumé can only get you an interview. It’s extremely rare for a résumé to actually land you a job, sight-unseen.
In today’s interconnected world, your future employer is extremely likely to “Google” you once they see your résumé or receive an email from you. They’ll probably do more than that. I know a hiring manager that ALWAYS had his assistant look up the name of all job applicants in Facebook and on Google. If I was doing hiring, I’d also look applicants up on LinkedIn. For better or worse, checking social media and search engines for an initial impression of a job applicant is part of the job hunting game. It’s the world we all live in.
Godin recommends using this interconnectivity to your advantage. He says you want to become the kind of person that doesn’t need a résumé. The folks interested in working with you should just be able to Google your name and see a portfolio of your past successes. This will give them an idea about how you’re going to work at their company. I’m a firm advocate of using the power of the internet to your advantage, so make sure you highlight your skills and projects in a medium that is likely to impress future employers.
“You are not your résumé. You are your work” (Seth Godin, Linchpin 2009, Pg. 131). Linchpin reminded me of several career tips that I was unaware I’d even followed. While it wasn’t penned specifically for the cultural resource management archaeology crowd, the book is an informative and entertaining read that I recommend to any young CRMer. It also contains valuable tips that can be applied to CRM companies around the world. Becoming a Linchpin will not happen overnight, but following Godin’s advice and the tips above will help you along the way.
I’d love to hear what you think. If you have any questions or comments, write below or send me an email.
“Resume-Writing for Archaeologists” is now available on Amazon.com. Click Here and get detailed instructions on how you can land a job in CRM archaeology today!
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