Topic ID #31983 - posted 3/27/2014 10:32 PM

Frustrated and confused about finding some semblance of work...


I've been out of college for about a year now with a BA in anthropological archaeology. All told, I have about 6 months of field experience if you count my field school, my four-month stint as a field tech last year, and a month I spent in the field for an internship. I also a fair amount of lab experience, maybe a year altogether if you count volunteering I did when I was in high school and two museum internships I've done. 

Ever since January, I've been sending resumes out for every archaeology related position I think I'm remotely qualified for, but I haven't had a single real bite. I finally landed a paying internship by the skin of my teeth (the first-choice candidate actually canceled, and I ended up with it because I was the second choice) for the BLM, but it's only marginally related to archaeology--I give tours to a rock art site and work in a visitor's center--and it ends in May.

I've been looking for ANYTHING for after the position ends, but all I'm getting are rejections or no answers at all, even for internships and jobs that I feel like I ought to be overqualified for, or at least in the running for. I haven't had ANY interviews or any calls, just your standard, completely uninformative form-rejections by email. I just don't understand. I know I'm not terribly experienced, but since graduating, I've done everything I possibly can to change that, and I've got some good references. So I guess my question is just, what the hell do I do? Am I doing something wrong, or is the job market really that bad this year for people with my relatively-limited skill set? 

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I've been feeling lost for a while, and I really, really could use some guidance. 

Post ID#20470 - replied 3/28/2014 2:36 AM

Jennifer Palmer

I think a big part of it is that you are trying to line up work for the future.  Most firms will only hire (unless they have a big project and have a lot of slots to fill) when the positions need to be filled.  You might have better luck sending out resumes a few weeks before your internship ends.

In the meantime, I recommend doing your best to network with others in the field, especially in the region you intend to work in. Have you attended any archaeological conferences, or even meetings of local archaeological societies?  I went to a regional conference a few weeks ago and received three job offers just from striking up conversations.  Often, with all other things being equal, just having a face to go with the name and knowing something about you personally can help you get selected for hire over someone else that is a complete stranger.  You may also consider looking for volunteer opportunities in your area.  Having more experience is always a plus (especially when you are just starting out), but there are also networking possibilities to be had.  In the past I've also received job offers as a result of volunteering on several projects.

In the future, you may also want to send resumes to CRM firms in your region, whether or not they have posted any positions.  Often people do not want to go through the trouble of putting up an advertisement if they have one or two positions to fill.

Good luck to you!


Post ID#20472 - replied 3/28/2014 9:47 AM


Jennifer is right.  As someone who does the staffing for projects, I will tell you that when I do have to post for crew positions, it usually means that I've already gone through and filled as many positions as possible from my current pool of available techs.  When the postings do go up, you are competing with 100 other technicians for a few slots.  By and large, the techs who have taken the time to come in and/or spoke to someone in our office are the ones that will get the job as they are the ones who went that extra step.  So, instead of being "reactive" to the job market, you need to be more "proactive".  That means marketing yourself through networking at conferences like Jennifer said.  Look on the SHPO websites in the areas you wish to work as many SHPOs will have a list of archaeology firms that are permitted to work in that state.  Target those companies, walk in with your resume, and introduce yourself in person to the archaeologists there.  Also, on your resume/curriculum vitae - list what projects you've been on and specifically what types of sites you recorded/excavated. That gives the person doing the reviewing a better idea what your experience level is, and it also shows that attention to detail, strong documentation skills, and professionalism that we are looking for.

Best of luck.

Post ID#20475 - replied 3/31/2014 6:07 AM


<Target those companies, walk in with your resume, and introduce yourself in person to the archaeologists there.>>

If you are going to do this... Call or email, first.  Don't just walk in cold.  A lot of folks don't like that and then your first impression is a negative one.

Post ID#20476 - replied 3/31/2014 6:52 AM


What part of the country are you in? Most companies like to take locals first and then branch out. When you say your sending out to everyone is that everyone local? in the region? across the country?

I would also echo some of the other comments here and say depending on where you are based the field session shuts down for the winter. It is very hard to find a temp job in Jan or Feb. it should be picking up again, sometime soon.

Post ID#20478 - replied 4/3/2014 11:33 PM


Besides all the comments above, which are all sound advice, you've got to look at the time of year. Most projects don't start up until the spring, i.e., April and May. That means the months you have been looking right now, traditionally, are typically slow. Essentially, if I'm not on a long-term gig by January, I don't expect to find anything longer than a couple weeks until the spring. Once you see a post you actually want, don't wait to contact them. That job will be gone in a day or two. E-mail them right away with your resume and cover letter, and if you don't hear back and you really want to be on that project, call them. I would say, gather as many company names that actually do field work (there are a lot of companies that exist, but only a fraction of those actually post or have work) and that pay decently enough (out of the companies that actually work, only another fraction of those are worth the time and energy to work with). Unfortunately, the only way to find those companies is by constantly applying for work. Build a good rapport with the good ones; they might not have work right now, but when they do, they are worth coming back to time and again. Avoid the companies not really worth working for, they are more pestiferous than beneficial for both you and the field. Also, for about every five to ten projects I hear about, I only get an offer from one, and I have plenty of experience, am extremely hard working, and am an amicable individual, and still find myself in that place. This is probably the biggest reason people leave the field: the uncertainty and unreliability. It is just the nature of CRM. However, after a few years, if you are a decent and hardworking individual, you'll build a reputation and people will start calling you back for projects and you'll build a network of friends. Though, don't get complacent and expect that this will carry you through all the time. Even the best companies have slow years and keep your eyes open for other good companies to work with--a good reason to keep an eye on (just say'n). Even with that, expect to be laid off for a couple of months almost every year, and especially around the winter months. Besides, do you really want to be chomping around out there in the freezing cold, in thermals and Carhartts, digging holes through frozen soil and doing survey in the bitter wind? Just remember, keep at it. And with any luck, this year's work should pick up soon.

Post ID#20481 - replied 4/8/2014 12:14 PM


Thanks for all the replies. Oddly enough, literally a day or two after I posted this question, I started getting actual responses from places, so I guess what you all say about seasonality is true, and stuff picks up in April. I guess that ought to have been obvious, but I'm from southern California, and our seasonal changes are pretty minimal. Anyway, I have a field tech job starting in June, so I'm really looking forward to that. 

In the future, I'll definitely keep what you all say about making connections and meeting people from my field in mind. It's a little hard for me, because I'm a very, very shy person, and the very idea of trying to mingle with people at a conference is a bit daunting. I know that's something I have to overcome if I hope to be successful, of course. Anyway, thanks again for all your ideas. 

Post ID#20483 - replied 4/15/2014 7:34 AM

SHPO Grunt

Are you willing to travel?  Right now the Bakken is probably the place to look for summer work.

Post ID#20484 - replied 4/25/2014 11:37 AM


Don't stop applying to jobs once you secure one. If something better comes up or is a longer duration than the summer work you're doing now, don't hesitate to apply to and accept a new offer. As a tech, do not hold yourself to any loyalty to a company or feel bad that you may leave early or are leaving someone in a tough spot. Trust me when I tell you that the company you work for has no similar feelings about laying you off or hiring you on a "project to project" basis. Remember that CRM is a business and doing what is best for you (both professionally, socially, and/or economically) is a business decision. In my experience, most companies won't penalize you for making constant employer changes. It's expected. Many of the techs I know have had three different employers in as many years.


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