Introduction to Friendraising for Archaeology Networking

(This post is drawn directly from the materials I prepared for the upcoming online course “Paths to Professionalism” that will be launched on the Campus in the next few weeks. Networking is essential for having a successful career in archaeology, historic preservation, and heritage conservation. For those of us that don’t like the word “networking”, it may help to think about it as a form of friendraising. Here’s an introduction to using friendraising concepts to build your professional network.)

Introduction to Friendraising for Archaeology Networking

Some archaeologists get their jobs in some interesting and amazing ways. I know:

  • An archaeologist that got his first job by holding his boss’ hair back while she threw up at a party.
  • A friend that got her first job by being the only person that showed up for an archaeological site tour on a rainy day.
  • A guy that volunteered with a local preservation group and met his future boss who hired him to work at a national forest the next year.
  • A former farmer that couldn’t find a job in her home country so she moved to the United States, told an archaeological technician she met at a bar that she was also an archaeologist, and got hired on a trial basis for a nearby project. That was over 20 years ago.
  • A graduate student from the United States that gave an appalling presentation in the United Kingdom. The collapse was witnessed by a cultural resource management (CRM) company principal investigator (PI) who was surprised when the student gave an excellent presentation 2 years later. With a recommendation from a common acquaintance, the student landed his first job with the CRM company soon after graduation.

(That last story was my own)

While hiring stories like those sometimes happen, the most likely route to landing work as an archaeologist is through connections made in college, during a field school, or from contacts in the archaeology community. After landing their first job, almost all archaeologists stay employed through professional acquaintances. The most successful archaeologists are able to leverage the contacts in their networks to learn about open positions or potential job openings and to get referrals. It is much easier to circumvent the usual job application process with insider information about where and when the jobs are going to be.

For archaeologists, networking isn’t exactly the right term. One of the most basic definitions of networking is a simple exchange of information with the goal of cultivating business or employment relationships. Most of us are not business owners or high enough in the corporate structure to be in the position to establish connections directly with CRM clients– hoping that those connections will turn into contracts and projects. That is why, instead of focusing on how to cultivate business connections, this course section will focus on how to cultivate employment connections. The best way to develop connections that will give you insider information on job positions is by using a series of concepts originally created for non-profit fundraising called friendraising.

As it pertains to career networking, the goal of friendraising is to create a community of friends, peers, co-workers, and others that are interested enough in your success that they will advocate on your behalf. Members of this community know you personally, know of your capabilities and achievements, and know about your career goals. If asked, they will step up and, through their own personal networks, will try to help you find a job because they have a strong desire to help you succeed. These philosophies are at the core of modern society, so most individuals are familiar with how the overall strategy works. Once you place friendrasing concepts the heart of your career networking strategy, you will find networking a more effective and less stressful endeavor.

Friendraising Core Philosophies

While friendraising is well known within the non-profit and philanthropy fields, few comprehensive books have been written on the subject. The following core philosophies have been distilled from many, discrete resources on the topic of friendraising:

1.         Know thyself– In order to convince others that you’re serious about pursuing a career in archaeology, you need to be able to clearly articulate what you plan on doing and why it matters to the world. Non-profit fundraisers call this “finding your passion” or “creating your story.”This is essential because your personal story is one of the best ways to make a memorable personal connection with the people you’re networking with.

It may be difficult to think about why you want to become an archaeologist, but this is important for your success because you need to know the end destination of your efforts before you start along a career path. Your goals are also integral to your career plan. You may also find it hard to think about why achieving this goal will help society, but that is also an important element to establishing career goals. Having an understanding of “the big picture”– how your career can contribute to the world– will provide motivation to continue along your career path and strengthen your resolve to contribute to the world.

2.         Seek to make friends– Nobody likes being used. I have seen archaeology job seekers stand in line at a conference for almost an hour just to get a chance to barrage a CRM company PI with their resume and 30-second elevator speech. How do you think that PI feels about that? Would you like it if dozens of strangers sought you out and struck up trite conversations just so they could ask you for something?

Now imagine if you knew that the same PI was going to attend the conference and, about 2 months in advance, you created a relationship with her by sending her a kudos email about a recent project she successfully completed and attached a related academic journal article about a similar site. Then, about a month before the conference, you told her you’d be there, told her what you were presenting (poster or presentation), and asked if she or anyone at her company was presenting there. What if, during the conference, you saw one of the PIs co-workers’ presentation and took some mental notes on what more you wanted to know about that project.

Now, what do you think would happen if you waited in line for a turn to talk with the PI about the company’s presentation? What do you think she’d do if, after your cordial correspondence and conversation, you handed her a jump drive with your presentation/poster and a paper copy your resume? What do you think the PI would do if you asked her about the job market in your town and if she’d refer you to any other local companies that might be hiring?

Friendships are created through personal connections. The goal of career networking should be the establishment of these personal connections, regardless of whether or not this connection will immediately result in a job. It is easier to create personal connections when you have no agenda and have a sincere desire to build relationships, but it can also be done as long as you do not base the relationship solely on your agenda. You may be eager to make the connections that can directly result in a job, but you need to always remember that, sometimes, a job is landed in the most unexpected way from an unlikely personal acquaintance. You never know who can help you. You never know when a friendship will help you get a job.

An important aspect of friendrasing is to remember that the goal is to create friends first. Friends help each other out when things get tough. They have compassion for each other because they know each other’s personal story. People don’t help students, co-workers, or peers. They help friends.

3.         Friendships are cultivated through reciprocity– This philosophy is intimately linked with the previous one. Reciprocity is one of the primary principals of human relationships. We have dozens of sayings that all boil down to one theme: “Give and you shall receive.” It may be difficult to see how we can give something of value when you need a job, but there is always a way to give first. The second version of the networking story from Philosophy 2 was based on the job seeker: taking an interest in the PI’s personal and company’s work, giving a potentially valuable reference, and having a sincere dialogue before asking for a job.

The hard work of archaeologists usually goes unnoticed by the rest of society and much of the archaeological community. There are thousands of archaeological projects, articles, and books completed each year. The vast majority of this work rarely garners much attention. The legions of support staff (archaeological technicians, principal investigators, and peer reviewers) go largely unacknowledged.

Personally complimenting the work of other archaeologists is one of the best ways to initiate a friendship. This is easy to do. Whenever you read an article or report that you enjoy, make sure you send an email to the author and express what specifically you liked about their work. If you learn that a technician worked in a particular area or on a specific site, make sure you thank them for their thankless work. Sincere compliments are easy to give and always welcome.

Sharing contacts and references is another excellent way to give before you ask for help landing a job. Your personal network is one of your most valuable assets. Since archaeology is such a small field, it is likely that you can connect two archaeologists, students, professors, or companies in a manner that is mutually beneficial. With the increasing proliferation of online references, I recommend creating a digital library on a portable hard drive or cloud storage system. You should be willing to share these references with other archaeologists whenever the opportunity arises.

You should also aim to cultivate your friendships through reciprocity. Sharing can get you initial contact, but sustained reciprocity will strengthen the bond. Make sure you promptly help your friends whenever possible so that they will be more likely to help you in the future.

4.         Friendraise for the long-haul– Establishing and cultivating quality friendships takes time. Don’t expect a person you’ve just met to give you a personal endorsement. Amassing a huge network of connections will not happen overnight, but, fortunately, you are not starting from zero. You already have a number of individuals that are willing to help you at the drop of a hat. All you have to do is build upon this base.

Additionally, momentum builds as you make more quality connections and tell more people about your personal goals. You will attract a larger network once you start engaging people with your story and through your efforts. This success will fuel further growth.

5.         Plan for the future– I’ve heard unsubstantiated claims that the average adult in the United States changes careers every 5 to 8 years. Assuming you finish college when you’re about 22, this means you are likely to change careers about 5 to 8 times before you reach retirement age. Since 2008, the numbers of jobs in archaeology have decreased dramatically and archaeologists are forced to routinely switch jobs between companies in order to take advantage of the firms that have work. It is highly likely that you will need to find a new job within a few years of landing your current one.

These facts also make friendraising all the more important. It is much easier to find work when you already have a broad network of people that can give you personal references and tell you where you are likely to find your next job.

These are some of the most essential ideas behind successful friendraising campaigns. These philosophies will move your career networking efforts from a “me-first” perspective toward a more robust, people-centered orientation.


If you have any questions or comments, write below or send me an email.


Resume-Writing for Archaeologists” is now available on Click Here and get detailed instructions on how you can land a job in CRM archaeology today!










Small Archaeology Project Management is now on the Kindle Store. Over 300 copies were sold in the first month! Click Here and see what the buzz is all about.



Join the Succinct Research email list and receive additional information on the CRM and heritage conservation field.