Topic ID #26085 - posted 1/8/2013 12:17 PM

Finding a job as a new graduate?



My name is Sara, and I've been lurking on this site since I started my B.A. four years ago. Well, I am sure you've heard a lot of these advice requests, but I am starting to get a little desperate for advice. 
 I graduated in May of 2012 with a B.A. in Archaeology with a minor in Geology. I then spent my summer in Turkey through a language scholarship I received (CLS Scholarship).

Since I returned in August, I've been seeking a position with an archaeology/ CRM/ Geology firm either in California (where I'm from) or along the Pacific Northwest, more specifically the Washington region. I'm currently residing and working at an unrelated job in the Midwest, where I went to school, but I am completely willing to relocate without assistance, I just need a job before I go.
I'd even be willing to start as a secretary, receptionist, or any odd job where I could work my way into a archaeology technician position. I have a Geoarchaeological Field School under my belt at Poverty Point State Historic Site, and I was a geoarchaeology lab assistant for my professor, who I know would be willing to write a letter of recommendation.

In short, I think I have all the necessary qualifications, I am willing to move anywhere in those regions on my own dime, and I am willing to work my way up. 

Am I doing something wrong? I hate that I am working at a job that isn't utilizing my degree, and in fact my coworkers are constantly telling me how unfortunate it was that I "wasted" money on a degree I'm not using. I want to prove them wrong!

Post ID#19913 - replied 1/8/2013 12:55 PM


Hang in there. The economy is still bad, which cuts down on the number of big projects that require lots of boots on the ground. Also, it's winter, and with all the snow there isn't a lot of archaeology going on anyway. Keep working your nonarchaeology job (at least you have one) and wait for spring.

Post ID#19914 - replied 1/8/2013 5:26 PM

Jennifer Palmer

Consider applying for some of the seasonal federal arch tech positions on USAJOBS that are beginning to pop up, and will continue to be posted over the next few months. Though many of the adverts are posted in the winter, seasonal arch positions often don't begin until late spring or early summer. Some, though not all, parks and forests may offer government housing at a discounted rate for seasonal employees (several years ago I shared a house with several roommates at a NF and paid about $180/month). Not as good, of course, as landing a permanent job, but those are fairly rare anyway at the tech level in CRM. At least it will give you a solid 5-6 months of employment in the region where you would like to live, and potentially make it easier to land local employment thereafter.

In the meantime, perhaps you can find somewhere local to volunteer, and additionally augment your resume, such as an archaeological society, museum or historical society. If you can afford to take a little vacation time from work, you may also want to consider volunteering on a Passport in Time ( project in your intended area of relocation, just to get some experience there under your belt. 

It is true that CRM has been hit pretty hard, and I know many who are struggling for work, even folks with considerable experience.

Good luck, and let us know how it works out for you.


Post ID#19917 - replied 1/8/2013 7:11 PM


Residing in a city or county that has a bunch of CRM firms will probably increase your chances of landing an archaeology job.

Post ID#19919 - replied 1/9/2013 9:37 AM


Thank you Archaeovagrant and Jennifer for the advice/ kind words. I should be thankful that I have a job at all. Hah. and Fresno, you're right, I need to live in a city where there are plenty of firms. I thought by searching while I lived in the Midwest would make it easier for me, but perhaps my area code and distance is a little intimidating.
Do you think would be better for me to move somewhere where there are plenty of firms, such as Seattle, and just get a regular job and keep applying? I would love to either be back in southern California, or up in the Seattle region, and there are plenty of places such as museums and archaeology societies that I could volunteer for.

I'll also keep a closer eye on USAJobs, since it's Park Ranger season!
Thanks everyone!

Post ID#19922 - replied 1/9/2013 2:50 PM


Here is something you might not want to hear: The statement "I've been seeking a position with an archaeology/ CRM/ Geology firm either in California (where I'm from) or along the Pacific Northwest, more specifically the Washington region" is a career killer. It takes most people in the CRM world about ten years of experience before they can seek employment in a specific place, even broad regions. The fact is that no one is more employable than someone who is already employed (also Jennifer was right-having a current reference from a volunteer position is better than writing secretary in the work experience section of your resume). My advice would be to apply for all arch tech positions and take the first one that'll hire you-even if it's someplace you said you'd never live. The more times you get archy work, the more responses you'll get to your applications in the future so you can discriminate a little more each time.

Post ID#19923 - replied 1/9/2013 3:51 PM


Agreed. Take whatever you can get, and work your way west. Hopefully you can eventually focus more on jobs in the NW, but it's pretty important to get experience wherever you can at the beginning.

Post ID#19925 - replied 1/10/2013 12:30 PM


Sara - I have two questions for you that you do not address in your original post
1.  Is the Geoarch field school the only one you took?  You do not indicate a "plain" archaeology field school - that could be an issue for some firms that are looking for just field techs.  I know it seems silly - but I have seen stranger things happen.

2. Do you have any other field experience?  Again - I do not see that in what you told us so far.  Aside from a more traditional field school - have you volunteered on any digs, or worked for a local CRM firm while working on your BA?  The firms I worked for over the years alwasy hired on students as summer (and when available otherwise) labor - and it provides a great experience and opportunity to build the resume. 

I ask these questions because as someone who has hired folks for over 20 years - what you have given us does not tell me that you have very much experience - or would be much help to me on most jobs that are nothing like geoarch work and require long days, digging many empty holes, often on your own and far from any help aside from the few on your crew.  You do have the minimal quals it appears, but that seems to be it.  I could be wrong, but that is what I see in how you have presented yourself - and in seeking work that is the key - what do you show prospective employers in that one page cover letter and short resume that makes you stand out.  Keep in mind that every time a firm looks to hire someon they have a lot of reading to do getthing through stacks of resumes and you really need to catch their attention quickly - in some how be memorable.  This is especially true right now with all the unemployed experienced folks out there clogging up the pool of possibilities.  Hopefully as we move into spring there will be more options and your chances will improve - but you may want to:

- do whatever you can to build the resume now - volunteer somewhere, check the local amateur societies and see what they are up to you can hook into, etc. (I know some are just glorified collectors, but others, like the group here in NY actually emphasize doing real research and publication of results)

-take a second look at how you present yourself - consider being less specific in some things (can you ethically call it just a field school in archaeological methods? - with a component on geoarchaeolgical?)

- if you are still anywhere near the school  you went to, see if the folks you already know, professors, classmates, - have connections with local firms that might be able to get you a few projects.  That may be easier to do even with a limited resume that cold contacting folks thousands of miles away (the personal connection or recommendation can be that memorable item I mentioned earlier).  Once you have some midwest experience - you resume will be more appealing.

- Get out to meetings if you can, local, regional, state, national - whereever you potential employers are likely to be - and then make sure you introduce yourself to them, strike up a conversation, admire their work and ask questions about it - (more of that memorable stuff).

I hopoe you find this helpful - not discouraging.  Remember that not every path is easy, but the challenging ones often have best payoff when you get to the end.  Good luck with your search.

P.S.  - if your degree is in Anthropology - tell you coworkers you use it every day - as you watch them live their lives.  And keep in mind the skills you have developed can lead to many different paths - you just have to be open to them.

Post ID#19926 - replied 1/10/2013 1:14 PM


Thank you for the feed back Dmack89, let me try to clarify things just a bit.
1. The geoarchaeology field school was my only field experience, but it still held all the components of a traditional field school. We excavated, mapped, plotted, photographed, and did water screening as well as flotation. What classified it as a geoarchaeology field school was in addition to the regular field duties, we also took magnetic susceptibilty measurements in situ and core samples for lab analysis. I spent the following year working as a Lab Assistant for my professor compiling all of the information into graphs and maps. So, while it was technically a geoarchaeology field school, the majority of the work was field technique. I am hoping that my description on my resume will make it clear that we participated in all the necessary traditional practice. I tihink I could definitely call it a field school in archaeological methods with a geoarchaeological component, since a majority of it was excavation.

2. Other than my field school and lab coursework, I haven't had any other experience. I went to school in a small enough area where our department did most of the local excavations if there was a need for it. I assisted with the sorting, cleaning and report writing during my B.A., but I've never worked for an independent company. I will have to move somewhere larger in order to be able to start volunteering with companies and historical organization, as we only have the local universities who handle that work (I'm 100% willing to move, just unsure of where to go to start this process).

Would you recommend that I pay to attend another field school this summer for more experience? I've only participated in my own university's field projects. On that note, I will definitely make a trip to my university next week once school begins and see if my professors have any connections in order to help me build my resume.

Once again, I appreciate the advice! I think my post was out of fear that if I don't get a job relating to my field soon, perhaps I wouldn't be an ideal candidate. I'll keep working toward a stronger resume.

Post ID#19927 - replied 1/10/2013 2:34 PM


Another field school might be a good investment - especially if you can get one in an area you hope to work in.  any chance of "going home" to CA for the summer if there is an opportunity near family - that would help cut the costs.  If you do, be sure to ask the staff about their connections in the CRM field and try to get introduced.  If someone is working on a project see if you can tag along for a few days and get your face and name to those who might make decisions (not always possible due to insurance limitations).

in the end you have to make choices that consider your current financial needs - but for the long run, the more you can show you have done - and can handle - the better,

Post ID#19929 - replied 1/12/2013 3:56 AM


I am not going to beat around the bush here. The fact is that in this industry no one wants to hire YOU, no one is looking to give a person with a field school a permanent position. That is not going to happen, be ok with that. 

The good thing is you have Geoarch experience, companies like that, because the reality is you are going to be writing up geological descriptions of sterile shovel probes 10 times more often than artifact and feature descriptions from units. Market this geological knowledge. 

As someone who has worked in the PNW I can tell you they like people to have regional experience. The most likely situation for you getting hired from the midwest is one of the large survey projects that happen every year. Often times companies need 15+ techs and they will try out new people. Many companies seem to make a point of hiring on a few untried techs every year. That said, this is likely to be seasonal work only, I have seen people get solid work after being tried out on a small project, but this is the exception, not the rule.

If you are serious about working in a specific area take the advice given above, get as much work as possible and once your resume is strong enough that you are writing it as a professional, and not a student, think about relocating to the area you want to be in. You should realize though that it is very hard to establish yourself. You will likely have work for a few months, and then here nothing for awhile. Some advice I wish I had been given, once a company starts dragging out the start date of a project start looking for other options. Always try to have multiple irons in the fire. Be careful though, there is a real art to doing this correctly and not pissing of the company, or companies, in the process.

I'm sorry if this comes off as harsh, that is not my intention. I just want to make sure it is clear that getting a job in archaeology is more like a cage fight than a recruitment process.   


Visit our Employment Network websites: - - For information on advertising on this website, contact