So You Want to Be an Archaeologist

“We’ll be digging every day, and it’s hot in East Texas. Can you dig 10 STPs in one day?”
“Uhhh, what’s an STP?”

Source: texasrobo via Flickr

That was my first job interview. It took place on the phone with a harried sounding man from Texas. I don’t remember his name, the company, or anything about the project except for “East Texas.” I didn’t take the job.

It could have been a great opportunity. They didn’t care that I had zero experience, and that I didn’t even know what an STP was. They were willing to teach me everything. I didn’t take the job because I thought there would be more opportunities closer to Southern California. Boy was I wrong. (Trying to get a job in a recession=HARD)

For a year and a half I did not get paid to do archaeology. That was a learning experience. I learned that as a recent grad with no real experience as a field tech, you take whatever job is offered.

I wasn’t idle for a whole year and a half though, and I would not recommend anyone who wants a job to have long gaps like that in their resume! To fill up my gaps I continued to work in the Archaeology Lab at USC. I took a class in archaeology at Cal State University Northridge, in which I learned a whole lot of theory and met some awesome people. And I volunteered my time to the cause of archaeology with Passport in Time!

However, none of that really helped me with my next job interview. They needed someone with lots of local regional experience, which I didn’t have. The woman who interviewed me liked me well enough, and she and I even had a common acquaintance, but that didn’t get me the job. It would have been helpful to know beforehand what kinds of questions I would be asked in the interview.

I used the resources available to me to try to figure out how not to bomb my next interview. I Googled “job interviews” and “interview questions.” I came up with lots of links about interviewing for business-y jobs. The only resources I have come across for getting a job in archaeology are Shovelbums, Archaeology Field Work and the Have Trowel Will Travel Guide. If you know of any other resources, please let me know!

I also got in touch with the USC Career Planning and Placement Center. I got some one on one time with Denise Johnson- she is AWESOME. She was very motivating, and opened my eyes to some Alumni resources that I wasn’t exploiting. She helped me rework my CV to a more standardized, easy to read format. And she worked on my cover letter with me. The only problem was that she couldn’t help me with specifics related to a job in archaeology, that didn’t stop her from trying! I do give credit to Denise for helping me get the job I have now. Denise- if you see this- Thank you!

I got lucky with my next job interview. It went something like this:

“Let me pull up your resume… Oh you have GIS experience, they’re looking for someone with that. Can you start tomorrow?”
“Uh, sure!”
“Great, let me get you the office’s phone number.”
The location is pretty close to where I live, only 1.25 hrs! And I’ve been given an opportunity that I don’t think I would have at another company. I work with GIS!

I’m not exactly sure how I was picked for this job. I don’t think it was my GIS experience, I was not initially hired to do mapping. Later my boss implied that it was all because of my references. I don’t think I’ll ever really know for sure.

Now that I am finally employed, there is a book that includes guidelines on how to get a job as an archaeologist.

Source: Amazon.com

The Anthropology Graduate’s Guide is published by Left Coast Press. It markets itself as a book “intended to assist you in learning how to plan for the next five years, write your letter of introduction, construct your resume, and best present the knowledge, skills, and abilities learned in class to prospective employers.” –courtesy of Left Coast Press

Check out the Table of Contents. It’s super comprehensive. It covers all of the topics that I want to know about! Especially “Chapter 8 Letters of Introduction and Reference” and “Section Three: Set Yourself Apart.”

It reminds me of the book I got for myself when I graduated.

Source: MelParkerBooks.com

From B.A. to Payday is a great book, it’s very motivating and supportive- specific to my generation (Generation Y). The only problem is that it is oriented to a business student. There is no information about archaeology, and very little info regarding jobs in the social sciences in general.

I’m very excited about this new book from Left Coast Press, I hope it lives up to its hype. I’ll let you know.

ALSO- If you have an experience you want to share with the world, email me at archaeofieldtech@gmail.com. I want to hear about it!

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2 thoughts on “So You Want to Be an Archaeologist

  1. Anonymous says:

    Very interesting, even though I neither knew what an STP or GIS was beforehand. I was reading this for info on my career investigation for LCVP, so this was pretty helpful, thank you!

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