How to Get a Job in Archaeology: A Case Study, Part I


(This is the first part of a case study about how I helped a co-worker land a new job in archaeology. The names and people involved in this case study will remain anonymous until the end.)

Recently, I received the email highlighted in the photo below:

The guy that sent that email is a great field archaeologist that’s just starting his career. I’ve worked with him quite a few times in the past year and can vouch for his intelligence, diligence, and willingness to learn. I’m sorry to see him leave Tucson, but he’s moving to the Bay Area and I was more than happy to help him find a job.

My co-worker/friend is an asset to any company that hires him. He has a BA in Anthropology from a Pac-12 school, 2 years experience in cultural resources and biological consulting, is a skilled prehistoric ceramics analyst, and is great to work with in the field. He’s always willing to go the extra mile on every project, no matter the work conditions or time constraints.

I also wanted to use his job search as a case study profiling all the things I do whenever I look for a job. In the past, I’ve helped dozens of archaeologists find and land jobs all across the country. I use the same things that have helped me land jobs, but, since the Great Recession, I’ve augmented my old techniques will a few new, internet-based methods.

(Shameless Plug 1: This whole job-search process is summarized in the free eBook I give to anyone that subscribes to the Succinct Research Newsletter [enter your email in the space at the end of this post to subscribe]).

(Shameless Plug 2: The résumé and CV-writing techniques I use are covered in my eBook Résumé-Writing for Scientists, which you can buy here. This book will also be available on Amazon in the Kindle bookstore in February).

Step 1: Use your network

My friend was smart to immediately send an email out to many of the archaeologists at his current company. Archaeology is a small, incestuous field and most of the time someone you know knows someone else at the place you’re trying to land a job. Fortunately, I decided to go all out to help him.

I only know one person that works in northern California and he works in Sonoma County (not exactly the “Bay Area”). But, I do know a couple of people that worked in Oakland and San Francisco. So, I sent out a few emails, a Facebook post, and a Tweet. Within a couple days, I had three leads.

Step 2: Do your homework

I told my co-worker about one particular company I thought he had the best chance to land a job at (I’m not going to tell you the company’s name until he lands a job there). There weren’t any openings for archaeological technicians or crew chiefs, so I knew he’d have to create a job for himself there.

Those of you that have been working in cultural resources, historic preservation, or heritage conservation probably know that just because a company doesn’t have any openings posted doesn’t mean they aren’t hiring. Good companies are always looking for good people. In our field, you can’t get contracts if you don’t have the people that can do the job. It’s also easier to land contracts if you can demonstrate you have star-studded employees.

Cold calling and randomly emailing your résumé is unlikely to land you a conversation with the PI, which is what you need if you want to get hired. The best way to get in touch with the people that can hire you is by doing a little research.

Here’s what I told my friend to do:

  • Google everything he can about the company. Create an Excel table of the people that work there, their contact information, and any articles written or projects they’ve done. Also, pay attention to the job posts they’ve posted on their website, which are loaded with keywords.
  • Go on Facebook and LinkedIn and find as many employees profiles as you can. Send them a friend request. Hopefully, they’ll accept. If not, you can still look at their profiles and see some of the groups and hobbies they’re interested in (especially on LinkedIn).
  • Create a list of projects, tasks, and skills you already have that correspond with things on the company’s website. You’re looking for some keywords you can use in your résumé.

Step 3: Create a kick-ass résumé

Once you know what the company does, who works there, and who has hiring power, you’re going to need a targeted résumé and cover letter that demonstrates your skill and advertises you as “THE” person they want to hire (Yes, you need a résumé AND a CV. Here’s why you need a résumé).

I told my co-worker to:

  • Make a list of every single project he’s ever worked on. List his official role, tasks accomplished, and the end result of the project.
  • Brainstorm keywords from his research about the company that correspond with skills he already has.
  • Create a keyword-targeted résumé based on a template I gave him (an example is in my Résumé-Writing eBook).

I also gave him a copy of Résumé Writing for Scientists so he could see where we were going with his job search.

The key is to use information you collected from your online research to create a résumé that can get past any applicant tracking software (ATS) AND make you look like a godsend to the hiring manager at the place where you’re trying to get a job.

It has only been a week, so my co-worker is still in the “Data Collection” stage. I’ll keep you posted here on Succinct Research so you can see what happens next.

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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