Getting Your First Job in Cultural Resource Management: A Practical Guide for Students
Each state has a state historic preservation office (SHPO), state archaeologist's office, or equivalent that can provide a list of companies that do contract archaeology in the state. This is especially helpful for people who seek employment in an area that they have not worked in before, or who lack a network of local contacts that they can tap into for employment information. Professors and graduate students can also be useful sources of information about ongoing CRM projects and job openings and can refer people to potential employers. Those looking for employment should not underestimate the importance of making contacts. Many people get CRM jobs through the recommendations of friends or because of a prior association with a key employee of a particular company.
A cover letter should always be included with the vita because it provides important information about the applicant that might not be apparent on the vita such as dates of availability, the position sought, research interests, and related skills. Most importantly, applicants can use this letter to "sell themselves" by highlighting certain skills and/or experiences that may be relevant for a particular position. For students who are looking for short-term CRM work during academic breaks, it is important to keep in mind that the timing of CRM projects does not always coincide with the academic schedule. Therefore, students should convey their willingness to fit into the company structure and to work around it for the short period that they may be employed there. Enthusiasm and willingness to learn are also important assets that can be used to supplement work experience, particularly for first-time applicants, and can be expressed in the cover letter.
CRM companies receive dozens of vitas every year from students or recent graduates looking for their first professional jobs. With this in mind, it is important to take the time to produce a vita that is professional, current, and honest with regard to abilities and experience in order to give a favorable impression to potential employers. In addition to the standard information such as name, address, and educational background, the following information should be included in a CRM vita:
A carefully prepared vita and cover letter can help get a foot in the door for CRM employment. Establishing a network of contacts is equally important as a means of keeping up with current projects and opportunities. Students who are strictly looking for summer work should begin mailing vitas in March or April, and can follow up with a phone call a few weeks later. Those looking for long-term positions should send out vitas three to six months prior to the time they want to begin work, with the knowledge that it may be several months before any positions are available. As with any job application process, there is no substitute for professional behavior and enthusiasm about the work.
Thank you to Cherie Scheick, program coordinator for Southwest Archaeological Consultants, and Lyle Stone, president and principal investigator of Archaeological Research Services, for their comments and suggestions.
Samantha Ruscavage-Barz is a member of the Student Affairs Committee.