This week, I started earnestly building my professional virtual network of contacts on the social media sites I frequent. There are dozens of big social media websites out there, each of which is inhabited by a tribe of archaeologists. I really don’t like spending time on social media because, like most of the other archaeos I know, I think it can be an enormous time suck. Facebook is like a mesmerizing time vacuum that can easily devour a half hour without you even knowing.
However, I’ve realized that there are thousands of other cultural resource management professionals at all levels that troll social media outlets from time to time. I’ve also realized that a few minutes each week spent on social media, specifically LinkedIn, gives me a chance to reach out and “connect” with industry peers, co-workers, and professionals I haven’t yet met in person.
Like any college-trained nerd, I also checked out a few books on networking via social media. One of the best tips I’ve read so far is: have a clear objective that you’d like to achieve using social media. Because the internet has no real boundaries and is working 24/7, creating and using an online professional network is like building a perpetual motion employment machine. It is in your best interest to make that machine work for you.
- Do you want to build a network of specialists in a specific niche?
- Looking for a job and the people that can hire you?
- Want to know more about the cultural resources, historic preservation, and heritage conservation industry in a certain town or part of the country?
Here are 5 specific reasons you should start building your virtual professional network:
1) You may be rapidly approaching “That Age”– Every great field archaeologist can remember the first time their back hurt after digging for 10 hours. Not just “I’m-too-tired-to-have-another-shot-of-whiskey” hurt. I mean “I-think-I-need-a-chiropractor” hurt.
In my case, I’ve also got 2 young kids and a wife to take care of. It’s hard to be there for your family when you’re walking around in the desert 6 months out of the year.
Archaeology is hard on your body and personal relationships. Every one of us has to eventually face the fact that we’re probably not going to be able to rampage in the field at the same rate we used to. I’m only 33 years old right now and can still out dig most twentysomethings. But, how much longer can I say that? Five more years? Ten years? Why wait until you’re no longer able to lead crews into the field before you start thinking about the next step in your career?
2) CRM archaeology doesn’t reward old age– Along the same lines as my previous point, most CRM companies do not value the experience that comes along with being a seasoned field veteran. Most companies primarily care about making money and not getting sued while providing the least benefits for their employees. This aspect of the industry tends to be worse at the larger companies.
No matter how much experience you have in CRM, you need to start thinking about your future because, in the next 5 to 10 years, you might become that expensive employee that can be replaced by someone younger with the necessary education.
The Archaeology/anthropology job outlook created by the United States Department of Labor suggests there will grow by 21% between 2010 and 2020. But, they also say there are only 6,100 of us in the country. Recent information collected by the American Cultural Resources Association (ACRA) suggests the CRM industry employs 10,000 individuals and generates over $1 billion in revenue. This only includes ACRA member firms– primarily cultural resources-only companies. The real employment and revenue totals are probably larger than most estimates. I wonder how many of these archaeologists are twentysomething field techs at the bottom of the labor pool.
Nevertheless, regardless of what some archaeologists think, the Baby Boomers, who occupy the majority of upper-level CRM management positions, are not retiring fast enough to make room for the hundreds of other mid-level Gen-Xers. I also doubt the industry is growing fast enough to employ all the thousands of anthropology majors that graduate each year. It’s no news that the careers of Gen-Xers and Millenials have been stagnated in many industries across the country and I’m not saying that our parents should move aside and let us have their jobs. Anything worth having must be earned. However, the current market conditions do force us to make some serious decisions.
In order for someone of my age and experience level to move up in the corporate ladder, you can: A) lay on your back and hope for a promotion before you get laid off, B) hop from company to company– taking advantage of occasional job openings (which may damage your integrity if not done properly), C) start your own company, or D) use your network to generate clients for your company while learning from your interactions with upper management. I’m aiming towards C and D.
3) You might want to be a leader someday– Upper management positions at most CRM companies require a graduate degree and, since most serious CRM archaeologists know they’ll need at least a masters, you might have to go one step further and get a PhD.
You will also need a PhD if you would like an opportunity to teach cultural resource management at a university or participate in the rapidly developing international CRM industry. Academic work is different than CRM. If you’re a CRMer, you will probably need to have a network with graduate students, professors, and other academics as well as one with professional cultural resource managers in order to maximize your potential.
4) You might want to relocate someday– It only makes sense to build a nationwide network of industry professionals in case you decide to move away in the future. Your virtual network is also a great resource for conducting company-specific intel before you think about making your move.
5) A good network is unemployment insurance– In their chapter in Voices in American Archaeology, Altschul and Patterson (2010) estimated that the CRM industry employed between 14,000 and 17,000 individuals. As mentioned before, ACRA estimates the industry employs 10,000 people. Although both numbers are estimates, they suggest that the industry shed a significant percentage of its employees during the Great Recession. These numbers may not be accurate, but I do know a lot of archaeologists that lost their jobs during that time period– including me.
You can stay employed longer and in this industry if you build and maintain a robust professional network. Your network will also give you the inside scoop on upcoming jobs and who is looking to hire.
Virtual networking can never replace good old face-to-face contacts, but it is a close second. Some websites, specifically LinkedIn, archaeologyfieldwork.com, and shovelbums.com, are practically essential for any archaeology careerist. Now is the time to start adding to your network online.
If you have any questions or comments, write below or send me an email.
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