Archaeological Personalities and the Profession’s Future
We live in a moment in which the profession of historical archaeology seems characterized by…
I held down the button on my iPhone until I heard a quiet tone. I clearly enunciated a question: “Siri. Who is Bill White the archaeologist?” A robotic female voice replied: “Checking my sources.” A short pause. “Here’s what I found on the web for who is Bill White the archaeologist,” Siri replied.
With one hand, I scrolled down the list of information in Siri’s response on my phone while I was holding my son, Cyrus, with my other arm. “Daddy, that’s you,” my son said when he saw my picture in the query result. Looks like Siri found the correct Bill White, archaeologist.
It may seem like the height of vanity to query yourself using Siri—Apple, Inc.’s knowledge navigator that comes with every iPhone since the 4s. I mean, asking a robotic smartphone program to search the internet for information about yourself seems really similar to when the evil queen in Snow White asks a mirror on the wall, “Who is the fairest one of all?”
In reality, it is very important to know what kind of things the internet is saying about you. Online search engine queries are a good way to discover what information exists about you on the internet. When you ask about yourself on Siri or Google, what do you see? Your contributions to a local community archaeology project, your profile on the Department of Anthropology’s webpage, or your latest political rant on Facebook? Or something worse?
This summer, I attended a webinar attended titled “How to Build Your Personal Brand Online”. The webinar was sponsored by the University of Arizona’s Human Resources Division and was led by two amazingly experienced social media advisers: Christine Hoekenga and Jaynelle Ramon. Hoekenga is a freelance writer and the Social Media Coordinator for the University of Arizona’s Office of the Senior Vice President for Health Sciences. She’s been published in High Country News and Technology Review and is an online content strategist (Learn more on her personal website http://christinehoekenga.blogspot.com/). Ramon is the Web Content and Social Media manager for the UA Alumni Association. She is also the writer and copy editor for Arizona Alumni Magazine. This webinar was a great introduction to online persona management for folks that may not realize how important this is for career development and promotion.
Controlling your online persona is an increasingly important element to job searching and employment in all industries. Recent polls cited by Hoekenga and Ramon revealed:
These are the statistics for a number of industries. I do not believe these numbers accurately reflect the situation in archaeology because our field is still very tight knit and many archaeology jobs are still filled based on personal recommendations from friends and colleagues. However, I will admit the archaeology job market is competitive and will only get more competitive in the future. In a jobs workshop I attended at the 2014 Society for American Archaeology Conference in Austin, I learned that universities in the United States grant about 8,300 anthropology B.A.s, 1,000 M.A.s, and 440 PhDs. Not all of these folks will go into archaeology, but it gives you an idea of the sheer quantity of degrees granted every year. At SAA2014, I also learned that top-tier universities get between 40 and 50 applications for every anthropology professor position. Other universities get well over 100 applicants for each position.
These numbers tell me anyone that wants to work in archaeology had better use everything in their power to become well-known and well-connected long before they think about starting their job search. Conducting some extensive personal branding is one way to make yourself known and network extensively with other archaeologists.
This webinar inspired me to create a blog post series called Personal Branding for Archaeologists on the Succinct Research Blog. In a series of seven blog posts, I covered a number of personal branding techniques archaeologists can use to increase their visibility on the internet, connect with other archaeologists and potential employers, and demonstrate their personal experience and expertise. I also created an eBook called “Social Media Strategy for Archaeology Job Seekers” that outlines three strategies archaeologists can use to brand themselves as professional archaeologists.
I have complied the text from the blog posts and the social media guide into one document that is available for download by clicking Personal Branding For Archaeologists.
The body of this eBook has seven main parts:
Part I: Why Should Archaeologists Care About Branding— You need to care about what Google tells potential employers because they are going to look you up on the internet before they even think about hiring you. You need to make sure they only see good things. Personal branding allows you to highlight your skills, knowledge, and abilities in a positive site and differentiates you from the other 10,000 recent anthropology graduates.
Part II: Low-Hanging Fruit: LinkedIn— Harnessing the search engine optimization (SEO) power of LinkedIn is the easiest way to brand yourself as a professional archaeologist. LinkedIn is also a great place to connect with other archaeologists.
Part III: Listen to the Twitter of Little Birds— Contribute to conversations about archaeology with archaeologists around the world via Twitter. Use this platform to let the world know your perspectives and connect with archaeology communities of practice.
Part IV: Control the Message: Build your Own Website— Building your own website allows you to create an online portfolio. Projects and accomplishments are the new resume. Use a website to demonstrate your skills to the rest of the world.
Part V: Blogging your Way to Infamy— A blog allows you to address relevant questions in our field using your own voice. Blogging has the potential to replace the working papers of old and allows others to comment on your ideas and theories. It is also a great way to get published.
Part VI: If a Picture Says 1,000 Words, What Does a Video Do?— Archaeology is a very visual field. Use photo- and video-based social media to spread the word about your work and life. This is also another way to connect with other archaeologists.
Part VII: Crafting a Social Media Campaign— Online personal branding can be a daunting, time-intensive project but it doesn’t have to be. With the right planning and strategy, you can craft your image as a professional archaeologist in a few hours each week.
I have been working on my online personal brand for a couple years now and still have not gotten my name in the top 10 Google search results. There are simply too many politicians, former athletes, and neo-Nazis with that same name for me to compete with. However, a lot of good things about me come up if you Google “Bill White archaeologist”. That’s exactly how I want it to be.
Online personal branding is important for all archaeologists, but it is especially important for early careerists and archaeology students. Nobody in archaeology knows who you are in the beginning— before you’ve published a laundry list of articles, book chapters, and reports. You can paint a positive picture of yourself as an archaeology professional if you take advantage of the interconnectivity of the internet. You can also use the internet to connect with a vast network of archaeology professors, cultural resource management specialists, and government archaeologists around the world. Most importantly, you need to act as soon as possible to make sure the search engines are showing the world what you want them to see: your finest accomplishments and best achievements.
About the Author
Bill White, III is an archaeologist, author, PhD student at the University of Arizona, and the creator of the River Street Digital History Project. He is also the Research Publications Director at Succinct Research— a company dedicated to helping cultural resource management professionals learn what they need to forge fruitful careers.