How to Get a Job in Archaeology, Part 2


Ever since I scored high enough on my ASVAB to qualify for military intelligence, I’ve been a fan of spy movies. I’m a really big fan of the Jason Bourne movies. I love the suspense and, second to killer fight scenes, I really love how the movies build to an action-packed climax. All that background information collected on the Internet throughout the movie is applied artfully until the intelligence agents have their inevitable meeting with Bourne.

And we all know how it always turns out.

The Bourne movies are excellent examples of how killer background research can create actionable results. Both Bourne and the CIA extensively use what they dig up on the Internet to fulfill their missions with great success.

This is part of what you’ve got to do if you want to land a job in archaeology. Fortunately, the Internet is always indexing information on all of us that you can use to your advantage and apply to your cultural resource management, heritage conservation, or historic preservation job search.

All this information has greatly increased your odds of connecting with people in our field that have the power to hire you.

The Importance of Online Networking

If you’ve been reading my previous post, you know I’m in the process of helping a friend find and land a job in the San Francisco Bay Area. He’s a skilled young archaeologist that’s looking for a position as an archaeological technician with a good company that has work.

I gave him some suggestions and he’s skillfully executed them. He gathered tons of information about the company he wants to work for (I’ll tell you what company he’s chosen if he lands a job). He used the Internet to make a database of the people that work at this company and what they’ve done in archeology.

All this information will be used to make professional connections with the folks working at the company. Aside from the goal of landing a job, this online networking will hopefully provide additional information on other Bay Area CRM firms, the work situation there, and establish long-lasting relationships with other folks in our field.

Most importantly, this networking gives my friend a chance to help another archeologist with their research, if they need/accept his offer.

I can’t stress how important reciprocity is in a tightly-knit field like archaeology. The Golden Rule rules the day. The best way to get help with your job search is to help someone else first.

The Basics of Step 2

Okay, so you’ve done your homework. You know OF people that work at the company. But how do you get them to know of YOU. Here are 4 things you should do with all that intelligence you’ve amassed:

1) Discover common research interests?- People are more willing to help someone that they have something in common with. In archeology,we all love to find out that someone else is aware of our research and thinks it’s interesting. You can use a mutual research interest to help you get a job, but, more importantly, you can make a connection that can facilitate collaboration AND further a common research domain.

I know you’re trying to get acquainted with folks that work at the company you want to work at, but don’t take advantage of your future co-worker. Don’t exploit someone just to get your foot in the door. And, don’t be dishonest. Lying and manipulation will only bite you in the end. If you have absolutely nothing in common with ANYONE at that company, do not pretend like you do. Find another way to get noticed

There are 2 two types of people in this world that everyone hates: thieves and liars. Don’t be one of “those guys.”

Is there someone at the company that’s an expert in something that you’ve honestly had an interest in? Is there a project you want to know more about? Is there an article that you think someone at the company may want to know about? Use this topic to introduce yourself.

2) How can you help them make money?- This can be hard for new archaeos to grasp, but CRM companies and research organizations are businesses that need money to stay in business. It’s not all that matters, but it is the truth. That’s how you pay your bills. Your job is to use your skills to help them make money.

Think about something that you do well or have done in the past that can help this company solve problems. What do you know how to do that can help this company’s bottom line? What can you offer? Is there some skill you already have that can help this company make money? What experience do you have now that they don’t already have? What else can you contribute?

Knowing your skills will help your pitch when you go to write a cover letter (more on that later). You should be trying to figure out what you can sell to this company that will help you land a job and help them make money.

3) Do they have work?- It’s okay to make a new acquaintance, but you need to find a job. And you need to find a place that has work coming down the line. Many companies don’t let their employees know what’s next, which is pretty sad, but most archaeos know something about their employer’s financial status. Try can tell you if it’s bleak or if there’s stuff coming.

You want to find out what’s coming. That should be an important part of your research. You only want to put yourself out there at companies that have work. Keep networking until you find a company that has work.

If you’ve made a connection with someone cool at a CRM company that doesn’t have work, don’t just bail on that new acquaintance. Keep in touch and cultivate that relationship. You never know what will happen.
4) Who’s in charge?- You need to find out who does the hiring. Who’s gonna decide if you get hired or not because that’s who you need to get in contact with.

Forget submitting résumés directly to the website. Don’t wast time cold calling the PI with another generic résumé. She doesn’t want another random arch tech begging for a job. PIs want quality people that will solve problems, further company research, and make/save the company money.

So, your task is to show the boss exactly how you can do that. The boss is who you want to talk to. That’s who you’re writing your cover letter and résumé to.

It’s great if you can use your research interests to directly help the PI. Principals almost always have research interests and no time to pursue them. It would be great if you could co-author an article or paper with a principal, or provide them with some references that can help them out (Excellent CRM reports from another state or area are awesome, hard-to-come-by resources that few know about. It’s even better if you contributed to the report).

Putting this Intel to Work

Once you know who you’re most likely to have a fruitful relationship with, get to work right away. Contact someone you’re interested in. Share some information or ask them a good question. See if you can help their research or work out a research joint venture.

Putting this plan to work is a delicate game. You don’t want to ruin your reputation or push too hard.

  • Do not try to sell yourself at first contact.
  • Don’t beg for a job right off the bat.
  • Don’t immediately bark out that you’re looking for work and ask if they know of anything right away.

The first response will be NO!

After your introduction, try to find out if there’s any work coming. Does the company have some projects that you could help with? Find out.

After an email or two, create a killer résumé and cover letter that highlights:your skills, how they can help further research, and how they can help the company. (Shameless Plug #1- check out my résumé -writing series on this blog for some great tips on how to write a killer résumé . Or, Shameless Plug #2- buy Succinct Research’s book and get a step-by-step résumé-writing manual written specifically for archaeologists and other scientists).

Don’t send your résumé to your contact unsolicited. And, don’t send it to them unless they have the power to hire you. Just say you’re interested in working with your contact’s company and have some experience/skill that may be useful on upcoming projects.

Now, figure out who’s the boss. Once you know who the boss is, get their direct contact information. But, I’ll explain how to do that in another post.
I would really love to hear from you. If you have any questions or comments, write below or send me an email.

Keep reading the Succinct Research blog for information on my upcoming book on Small Cultural Resource Management Project Success.

Learn how my résumé-writing knowledge helped four of my fellow archaeologists land cultural resources jobs in a single week!

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