Don’t show your desperation while looking for an archaeology job

Don't be that desperate archaeology job seekerImagine this scenario. You’re a lady grabbing some drinks at the local bar after a long day of work at your new employer— Down n’ Dirty Cultural Resource Management Archaeology. Everything is copacetic until you catch the gaze of a young guy at the end of the bar. He looks clean, respectable, and unthreatening—not too shabby. And, that friendly glance may mean he’s interested. You never know, right?

After a few minutes he starts walking your way. You’re trying to play it cool. Your night just got interesting.

He walks right up to you and says “hi” with a friendly smile. “Hello,” you respond. Everything seems normal until a few minutes into the small talk. “I saw you having drinks with your friends and you seem nice,” he says. “You see, I’ve been looking for a wife. I really want to have a family and you seemed like a nice lady.”

The situation just changed. You’re uncomfortable. Your friends are now paying even more attention than they were before, waiting to see how this is going to go. It doesn’t look good.


You don’t want to be rude. “Look,” you say, “I’m just here trying to have a drink with friends. You’re probably a nice person, but I don’t think I’m the person you’re looking for.”

He keeps up the pursuit. He responds, “Well, I’d be a great husband. I really love all that ‘Leave it to Beaver’ fatherly stuff and I love cleaning. I also love kids. You see, I’ve been looking for a wife for so long and nobody seems interested in me. I don’t know why.”

The smile melts from his face. You can see he’s desperate. “I’ll do anything to get a wife. I just want a wife, any woman will do. You’re great and I definitely wouldn’t mind marrying you. Just give me a chance. I know I’ll be an awesome husband. I just need a chance. Please, give me a chance…

What would you say if this happened to you?

Well there’s a sizable population of ladies that might think, “He loves to clean??!?!?!! Maybe I should give him a shot.” Just joking.

Realistically, this proposal would make any woman uncomfortable. Most guys too (Although, there’s an even more sizable population of men that would take that woman up on her offer… least for a few weeks….Some guys are such scumbags).

That scenario seems so preposterous and off-putting that most of us cannot actually believe it would happen. Unfortunately, that’s the way I see so many archaeologists go about looking for a job. You’d be pretty close to the mark if you just substituted the words “archaeology job” for “wife” in the story above. I see desperate students and unemployed CRMers begging just like that man in the story above. Desperately begging for a job—any job.

I know how it feels because I’ve been that guy. I’ve been the student trying everything I could to break into the industry. I’ve been that laid-off CRMer with bills to pay, kids at home, and a wife you don’t want to disappoint trying everything I could think of to get a job in archaeology. In fact, that scenario is why I created this blog and wrote my eBooks. It makes me so sad to think about the desperate archaeology job seeker that I’ve decided to help everyone I can stay out of situations like the one above.

How do you stay respectable even though you’re desperate?

Honestly, I don’t think there is an answer to that question. There’s more than one way to not sound desperate when approaching companies for a job, even when you really need work. The best strategy is to avoid the whole situation by expanding your professional and personal network so you’ll be in-the-know whenever work materializes. But, networking is also hard.

In my own experience, I tend to do three main things whenever I’m talking with someone that I want to give me a job:

1) Talk about them, their work, and their company. Don’t talk much about your own life unless asked. Understand, nobody cares about your problems. Nobody is interested in hearing about how you’re unemployed and having a hard time finding a job. You don’t want to come across as a complainer to anyone with the power to hire you because, honestly, they don’t really care about you until they get to know you.

Conversely, everybody loves themselves more than talking about someone else. We love hearing about ourselves. Most people love talking about their interests and what they’ve done. So, feed that ego. You can learn a lot about their ability to offer you a job if you spend a few minutes talking about their work. If they don’t seem to have anything interesting going on, either their not interested in you or don’t have anything going on. Either way, you don’t want to work for a person that doesn’t like you and doesn’t have any work. Most importantly, it’s easier to get valuable information by keeping the focus on the other person instead of yourself. You can use this info to further your cause of finding gainful employment.

2) Stow away any preconceptions, misconceptions, or feelings. Be indifferent. Ninety-nine percent of the time, you aren’t going to get hired on the spot. Most of the time this person has no work for you anyway. Go into any conversation with a hiring manager or cultural resource management company PI with a positive attitude, but make sure your feelings of desperation don’t get in the way. Also, pay no attention to bad stuff you’ve heard about this company because you never know what role this person will play in your job search. Even bad companies with bad archaeologists have good people that can help you. These people may give you that tidbit of information that will transform unemployment into employment.

Job or no job, at least you got to meet someone new and make yourself known. That’s the first step in any professional relationship.

3) Offer to help them out. I can hear you now, “I don’t have a job. I don’t have any money. How could I help out a CRM company that I don’t even work for?” I don’t know, but you’d better figure out how you can do exactly that. If you’ve played your cards right, you’ve struck up a conversation with someone that hires archaeoloigsts and have some idea what that person/company does/has done. Can you offer to give them an article or technical report that may help their research? Do you know a professor that’s an expert in that area or has done significant research on similar topics? If so, freely offer those resources or connections.

You can also offer to do “free work” for a limited time. I’m wholeheartedly against #freearchaeology except for in certain circumstances. But, most of the time, companies could really use someone to do some sort of free work that could get you some marketable skills. If you choose this route, be careful. Whether its fieldwork or office work, you need to make damn sure you deliver above and beyond the call of duty. Expectations may be low for an unpaid volunteer, but, if you kick some ass, there’s a higher likelihood you’ll get hired—if not there, at another company. Plus, you’ll get more connections to other archaeologists, possibly learn about future paid work opportunities, and get some job references.

Make sure your free work offer has a specific time limit. If you agree on 2 weeks or a month of free work (full or part-time), make sure you tell your boss when their free ride is over. Express how much you appreciated working for them and how much you learned, but you also need to tell them that, if they want this arrangement to continue, you need to start getting paid. If they can’t afford you, ask for a recommendation or some information on where you can find a paid job. I’m not sure if this technique works in archaeology (U.K. archaeos, where you at?), but, since you’re already unemployed, might as well give it a chance.

(WARNING: If you choose free work, you will need to BUST ASS. I can’t emphasize how important it is for you to pour everything you’ve got into your free work. The vast majority of people do not give their all at volunteer jobs. I’ve seen so many instances when the volunteers realized that archaeology is really boring, hard work after they sat at the screen or held a shovel for a few hours. At that point, they’re just a worthless carcass that should really go home. If you choose free work, you will really need to prove yourself. Compare your free work to the NFL combine where college players play their hearts out for a chance to get into the National Football League. Take it that seriously.)

Remember, everyone hates a Debbie Downer. Don’t be that person. Do not show your desperation when talking to someone that has the potential to offer you a job. Nobody cares about your problems so don’t share them. Instead, try to make an honest connection based on mutual interest. Freely share your resources, including, in select circumstances, your time and labor.
If you have any questions or comments, write below or send me an email.


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