My wife had lunch with a friend that is also an archaeology field director earlier this week. Conversing while they enjoyed a relaxing meal, her friend started describing how frustrating her last project was because of two particular co-workers.
She was called upon to lead a particularly challenging archaeological testing project in Arizona. The schedule was hectic and there wasn’t a lot of time allotted to complete a large number of tasks. Extra crew members were called in from another CRM office in New Mexico, two of whom had never worked with my wife’s friend.
The project was in full swing and everyone was working feverishly—except for these two archaeology technicians from New Mexico. The field director understood the stakes; the client could consider it a breech of contract if the project wasn’t completed on time. The company might lose money as a result. Most of the crewmembers also understood this.
But the technicians from New Mexico didn’t seem to get it.
They insisted on working together and weren’t willing to work with anyone new. They had to be specifically instructed on how to do every single job-related task. Each instruction required extensive clarification and, even when all the particulars had been explained, these two still made mistakes. Every task took these guys twice as long. They wasted time chit-chatting and texting when they should have been working. They were dragging down the entire crew and jeopardizing the project’s successful completion.
Finally, my wife’s friend was exasperated and almost lost control of her temper. She was forced to have an uncomfortable conversation with these two. She explained it to them like this: either take the initiative and work to your full capability or get back in your car, go home, and find a new job.
This is a story that many of us working in cultural resource management, historic preservation, and heritage conservation can relate to. We don’t always get to choose our co-workers. Oftentimes, the people we work with aren’t as motivated as we are to get the job done on time and on budget. This is especially true with new practitioners in our field, but I’ve met a number of “old timers” that also seem to have a poor work ethic.
Taking the initiative is one of the most important things a new employee can do to further their career. Opportunities are placed before us every day. Even obstacles can be important chances to improve our careers and our lives. It up to each of us to seize the day and take the initiative by tackling the challenges in our work lives. Fortunately, there are innumerable teachers that can show us how to solve our problems and help contribute to the world. All we have to do is accept their guidance.
Here are three important things every CRMer can do to improve their skills and further their careers by taking the initiative:
Pay attention to your supervisors and leaders: Watching and learning from the people in charge is one of the best ways you can further your career. What are they doing on a daily basis? Are they giving their all, pouring themselves into their work? Do they see challenges as opportunities or just another reason to complain? Do they go the extra mile? What do they know that can help you be better at your job? Watch what your leaders do while you work with them. Mimic their good behaviors and attributes. A good leader will notice this and you will make a good impression on them. Incorporating the best attributes of those around you is one of the best ways to improve yourself.
Do not copy bad behaviors or attributes, though (ie. Complaining, giving up, taking too many breaks, doing sloppy work, ect.).
Apply what you’ve learned: It makes no sense to pay attention to your supervisors and co-workers if you never apply what you have learned from those observations. Knowing is not enough. You have to act if you ever want to move forward in your career. A good boss loves to tell you the tips, hints, and tricks he or she knows. The supervisor will look better if his crew members know how to do their jobs well. And, it will make the boss’ job easier too.
Whenever possible, try to apply what you’ve learned throughout your career in a manner that solves problems.
“Do or do not. There is no try.” Yoda.
Strive to learn more: Always, ALWAYS, strive to learn more about your profession. In heritage conservation, there is no end to the amount of knowledge you’ll be expected to have about human history, prehistory, and how the world works. There is no end to learning in our field. You will make an excellent impression on your supervisor and co-workers if you take an interest in your job and seek to learn more. Keep this up throughout your career and before long, you’ll realize that you know more than most of the folks you’re working with. Then, you’ll be the leader.
Taking the initiative at work is more than just trying doing more. In order to further your career, you’re going to need to know: when to do more, what to do, and how to figure out how to do what you don’t already know. None of us is born knowing how to do cultural resource management, heritage conservation, or historic preservation. It’s a diverse field with many concentrations and specialties. We can create fruitful careers for ourselves if we pay attention to those in leadership roles, apply what we learn from these leaders, and continue striving to learn more.
Remember, opportunities for improvement are all around you all the time. Take the initiative. Move forward in your career.
I would really love to hear from you. If you have any questions or comments, write below or send me an email.
Learn how my résumé-writing knowledge helped four of my fellow archaeologists land cultural resources jobs in a single week!
Join the Succinct Research email list and receive additional information on the CRM and heritage conservation field.