One morning, I woke up to an email from the Doug’s Archaeology RSS feed. As I brushed my teeth in my dark bathroom, I read his post about the Blogging Carnival he’s spearheading in anticipation of the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) session “Blogging Archaeology, Again.” (FYI: I’m going to be participating in that session and, yes, it will be amazing). For the Carnival, Doug will reach out to other archaeology bloggers by asking one question each month.
In November, Doug asked: Why did you start blogging?
That’s a great question, Doug. Apparently, I’m about the only archaeology blogger that hasn’t thought about why I started in the first place. Why the hell am I doing this? After pondering it while scrubbing my molars, I realized why I started doing this.
Workplace Mistreatment, the Layoff, and my “Coming to Jesus” Moment
The origins of this blog, and Succinct Research, were born from the industry-wide mistreatment of mid-level archaeologists that was an outgrowth of the Great Recession. I’d been working at a large CRM company in the Southwest, which I thought would give me more opportunities for advancement than the small business in Seattle where I had been formerly working. After a few years, I came to the realization that I’d made a mistake.
After my departure from Seattle, my old company was bought out by a larger environmental firm. The pressure to make money solely from cultural resources was lessened. Meanwhile, the company I was working at in the Southwest was coming on hard times. This company was a top-heavy CRM-“solutions” outfit that emphasized “quality”, a losing recipe in the “just-get-it-done-on-the-cheap” world of the Great Recession. They landed some big Obamacash projects, but they started cutting staff when that money ran out. After all the archaeological technicians had been let go, they started cutting mid-level project directors like myself. I wasn’t technically laid off. I just had all my hours taken away and was told to go home and wait by the phone for them to call me.
With a wife, kids, mortgage, and the rest of “real life” looming large, I started thinking deeply about continuing on with this whole archaeology thing. I also scrambled to find a new job.
Years ago, right after finishing grad school, I spent a depressing stint working as a janitor. The job was easy, but unfulfilling as I wanted to be an archaeologist. I used the down time at my job to learn everything I could about landing a job. For about nine months, I read every job search, networking, career builder, and résumé-writing book I could find. I applied to at least 2 archaeology jobs every single week and was rejected dozens of times. But, my technique improved. In the spring of 2005, I was offered three jobs in a single week. I accepted a position as a historical archaeologist with a CRM company in Seattle. My career was born.
Fast forward to 2012, I’d been laid off by one company but was determined not to let that keep me down. I was going to stick with archaeology, do or die. I drew upon those skills I learned in 2004 to land a temporary job in less than a week from being laid off. In less than a month from the layoff, I’d landed a permanent position. None of the companies I landed jobs with were advertising a position. Although they all needed a competent archaeologist, they weren’t actively looking.
At first, I thought I thought it was a fluke. Maybe I was just lucky. Maybe. Because I doubted my own capabilities, I decided to do a little experiment. I reached out to other archaeos I knew and asked if they needed work or wanted a new job and offered to help them with their job hunt. I knew two really good archaeologists that were unemployed. I told them exactly what I’d done to land a job and remodeled their résumés to make them look particularly good for each employer. Those two landed quickly landed jobs. With two more successes, I kept going and helped a few more people. It was a real “system” that really worked.
That’s when I realized helping other archaeologists find jobs was something the world really needed. That was my calling: helping archaeologists improve their careers and find gainful employment.
Helping other archaeologists with their job search was my initial goal when I started the Succinct Research blog. While I’d been reworking other folks’ résumés, but all the cheap skate archaeologists I knew weren’t willing to pay me to do that. Plus, résumé-writing takes time. Teaching someone how to write a résumé takes an initial time investment, but kinda flows automatically after that. The archaeologists I helped said they would be willing to pay for a book about résumé writing aimed specifically at archaeologists. So, I wrote the book around the time I started the blog. I was going to offer the book for free, but I wanted to see if eBook writing could pay for the website. It can and does. I also like to think it helps archaeologists land jobs as well (maybe some of you readers can tell me if my advice worked).
Coming to Jesus Led to Other Things
I write my blog for the simple reason that there is a huge disconnect between what is learned in college and what is required for a successful CRM career. Stuff like writing a bad-ass résumé is rarely taught in grad school and, as a result, archaeology is a tougher field than it needs to be (BTW: There’s a huge difference between writing a résumé and writing a bad-ass one that gets an employer’s attention). In fact, most of what I learned in my BA and MA was useless for the stuff I was doing on the job as a CRMer.
That’s when I realized the second goal of my blog: to help spread the kind of information that is really necessary for being an archaeologist. I also realized that I could network with other archaeology bloggers to spread the word to a wider audience. Doug and Chris Webster have been really influential in my blogging career and have helped me reach a wider audience. They have also helped keep me steadily working on my blog and eBooks.
My current goal is to continue creating stuff that can be used to help archaeologists in their careers. With the blog, I can quickly get the message out in my own way and in my own voice. It’s also an easy way to spread useful information. EBooks are also a great tool because they’re portable and cheap when compared with the huge costs of a paper book created by a huge publishing company. I’m also thinking about creating some trainings and MOOCs in the future, which I will obviously be blogging about.
Ultimately, living in the real world takes more than getting a college degree. I think the degree is absolutely essential to working as an archaeologist because the field was born from academic scientism and needs that aspect to keep its identity. Archaeology is not archaeology without academic-style thinking. But, I also believe an education should teach what is needed to do a given job. College should not simply be an exercise in abstract thinking. It should also incorporate an element of vocational training that will make graduates more competitive in the world job market. That’s not really happening in university programs of archaeology, cultural resource management, or heritage conservation (although, that’s starting to change). My blog is just an attempt of a single individual to help others learn what they need to know in order to forge a fruitful career.
You can follow the Blogging Carnival using the Twitter hashtag #blogarch. If you have any questions or comments, write below or send me an email.
“Resume-Writing for Archaeologists” is now available on Amazon.com. 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.
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