The following is an excerpt from my upcoming book “Becoming an Archaeologist: Forging 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.
Do you really want to become an archaeologist? Oh yeah? Well, how bad do you want it?
Every time I tell somebody what I do for a living I hear, “Oh, that’s cool…” and we go on to make small talk. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve also heard, “Really? I wanted to do archaeology when I was younger but…” How come so many people want to become archaeologists but so few do?
Being an archaeologist remains a dream for most because of three main things: 1) a fear of not making enough money; 2) a fear of failure, and; 3) a general lack of belief in one’s abilities. Some people don’t think they can make enough money doing archaeology while others don’t believe in themselves enough to succeed in their mission of becoming an archaeologist. Others are afraid of failure, so they simply do not try.
We all know archaeologists exist, however. They are much more common than unicorns or Sasquatch. We see them on T.V., in university classrooms, and, occasionally, in everyday life. They are living proof that you can actually get paid to do archaeology.
Even though there are thousands of archaeologists working in the United States and around the world, I’m going to let you in on a little secret: Not all archaeologists are happy they’ve achieved their dream job. I’ve met a great number of archaeologists who are unhappy with their careers, especially in cultural resource management. Some of this dissatisfaction is natural for high-achievers like archaeologists. I mean, what do you do once you’ve achieved your life’s goal of becoming an archaeologist? Where do you go after you’ve gotten to where you’ve always wanted to be?
While there are myriad reasons why archaeologists become unhappy with their careers, but they largely revolve around two aspects of turning the dream of doing archaeology into a paid profession: 1) Archaeology was always a dream but doing it for a paycheck has become tedious and not fun, and 2) Many CRM archaeologists are no longer doing what they always wanted to do in archaeology and are unhappy about this fact.
Fortunately, there are ways around these two impasses but it requires introspection and self-reflection. What I’m going to tell you doesn’t sound much like the career advice you thought you were going to receive but if you want an archaeology career to keep giving you fulfillment it is very important to think about who you are as a person, what you want out of your life, and where you want your career to take you. It is best if, from the start, you begin regularly reflecting upon yourself and where your job search adventure is taking you because you will be able to quickly see if you are becoming who you wanted to be or who somebody else wants you to be.
Your mind is the most powerful resource you have. It is always with you, so you can always draw upon its faculties. Learning how to focus your mind and direct its power towards a single goal is the only way you will achieve goals in life.
Your mind can also become your worst enemy. Negative, depressing thoughts can stymie your progress and zap your energy. Your thoughts can also make you very unhappy with the end result if you let them. Channeling your thoughts toward clear, concrete goals is the best way out of a career rut. Let’s begin.
Self-Reflection: Is cultural resources right for you?
Since you will spend much of your adult life working, it makes sense for you to choose a career path that makes your life better. Archaeologists are dreamers who, typically, stand undeterred by all the people that told them they couldn’t make money doing archaeology. We all had to believe in ourselves to a certain degree, otherwise we would not have chosen this career. Even though we spend so much of our adult lives at work, it is surprising to hear how few people take time to think about whether or not the job they currently have is the one that makes their lives most fulfilled.
Deciding whether or not a career in cultural resource management is suitable to the life you want to live is the first place to start on your voyage. You need to think about what you want out of life: Where do you want to live? What kind of people do you want to work with? What do you want to do and how do you want your work to contribute to the betterment of mankind? These are hard questions that only you can answer. The correct answer is always changing because your goals will change throughout life. The constant flow of your life makes it very important to periodically ask yourself these questions.
The goal of this exercise is to create a clear vision for what role your career will play in your life. In the process you may find out that cultural resource management or, even, archaeology is not what you actually want to do for a living. Or, you may find out that you could be satisfied volunteering on projects while doing something completely different for a living. Better to know now rather than spend a lot of time and money on something you are unlikely to enjoy.
Envisioning the Life You Want to Live
Archaeology is not for everyone. It is nowhere even close to what you see on television. It can also be very depressing for someone who did not realize what this job actually entails.
Rather than spending half a decade, or more, in college working towards a career you will ultimately hate, it makes sense for you to spend some time thinking about what exactly you want out of life. If archaeology is your dream job, how does that play into the way you want your life to be? For some, archaeology is better left as a hobby rather than a form of employment. The following exercise in creative visualization will help you decide if doing archaeology will actually be fulfilling work for you.
Write down what you think your life will be like in the next 5, 10, 20, and 30 years. Be detailed: Where will you live? Will you have kids and a spouse or will you be single? In what kind of dwelling will you live? What kind of car will you have? What will your ideal day be like from morning to night? Do you plan on traveling? If so, where will you go? Will you work in the field, lab, or the office? Will you be making a ton of money, going on lavish vacations, or will you have a more modest lifestyle? Will you spend most of your nights in a hotel, tent, or in your comfy bed? What part of this life do you value most?
Most importantly: Ask yourself, who are you as a person and what do you stand for? Why do you want to do archaeology? How will this help you give back to the world? How does this career help you realize the world you want to live in?
Answer these questions and more for each of the time intervals. Again, these are just thoughts but they give you some sort of direction to work towards.
Visualization is a powerful tool for all of us, but it is particularly useful for folks working in competitive job fields like cultural resource management archaeology. We spend a lot of effort focusing on targeted goals: finishing college, getting a job, working up to the management level, completing each project, doing fieldwork. It is very easy to forget the reasons why we started doing archaeology in the first place. Keeping an altruistic career visual in mind can help you keep moving in the direction of the work you’ve always wanted to do. It also helps break the stagnation caused by actually achieving career goals.
Tell me what else I missed in this blog post. Write a comment below or send me an email.
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