#238 Job Creator or Scary Effing Responsibility

I just finished week two of a three week project where I had to hire my first employee. It’s an interesting arrangement all around. DIGTECH was subcontracted to do the fieldwork for this project and they needed two people. So, there’s me, and someone I’ve worked with on excavations before, RC.

On post #236 I talked about all the pay and per diem troubles I was about to have so I won’t go back to that here. What I want to talk about here is the silver lining on all this stress: being a job creator.

Creating Jobs

We always hear about jobs in the news. Around election time, people up for the big offices talk about how many jobs they’re going to create. Their policies might bring in companies that will hire people but they are not real job creators. I gave a friend a job. That’s an amazing feeling. Even if it is just three weeks, he has work because of choices I made. Oh, and I’ve only been in CRM for about 9, almost 10, years. Up or out, I always say.

During my time in CRM I’ve worked with a lot of people. I’ve also argued with a lot of people. Most of the time I can only sit by for so long while leaders above me continue to make bad, or inefficient, decisions. At some point I call them on it. Early in my career I call them on it in a way that made them resent me. I tried to learn from those instances, but, the result was always the same no matter how hard I tried to help. Those people are still toiling away for someone else. I hope they’re happy.

So, I started my own company. It’s been a long and difficult road, but, things are starting to change for the better. There are big things in the works right now and if it all goes well it will mean creating jobs for a lot more people. I don’t want just any field tech, though. I want the best.

When I put out a job posting, I’m going to want to see your LinkedIn profile with recommendations. You’re going to be paid well for your time and you’ll be respected. Because of that, I expect to deal only with true professionals. If you plan to get drunk and high every night after work you can work for someone else.

For leadership positions I’ll also want to see what you’ve written. This doesn’t just mean technical writing, either. I want to see what you’ve written to support your passion for archaeology. Show me your blog, your Twitter feed, your Instagram feed, or your contributions to LinkedIn and Facebook groups. If you aren’t writing and talking about archaeology with your peers and the world then you won’t be a Crew Chief of Project Manager with DIGTECH. I’m pretty deeply entrenched in online archaeology so if I haven’t heard of you and if we aren’t already connected online then we probably won’t have much to talk about when you call to ask for a job.

I have very simple requests. They are difficult for some people to comprehend and some might say that I won’t find anyone that fits the bill. I say fine. If those people don’t exist then I’ll go to universities, get new graduates, and create those people. I have a passion for archaeology and a respect for what we do. I don’t care about making a million dollars or saving $2 on my next project. I care about giving good, honest, people a chance to help make the world a better place by doing good work and good science. 

If you want to join me, then, get your online persona together and let me know you exist. I’ll be adding to my very small list of people to call soon and I hope I can give each and every one of you passionate professionals a place you can be proud to work and contribute to.

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the field!

#205 Why NOT to Start A Business

Historic site southeast of Eureka, Nevada.

Over the last year I've heard, and seen, a few comments on reasons to start a business. Usually, people are envious and say that they'd like to start a business because they don't want to work for someone else, or, because they are tired of looking for a job, or, because they can't get hired by anyone. Only one of these is a good reason. I'll let you work out which one. Of course, it's not the only reason you should do it.

Don't start a CRM firm if you don't want to do something different. If you're going to start up a firm just like the ones you've worked for then you'll just be more of the same. Don't do that. If you have a novel new idea, or a great management style, or something that is different, will foster good will and friendship among employees, and will make people want to work with you then go for it! 

Now I'll just talk about one reason listed above for why not to start a company: because no one else will hire you.

First, I'll talk about my last job and why I didn't immediately seek out further employment. My last company was, and is, going through some tough times. I can't really put a finger on exactly why they were going downhill, but, it certainly stemmed from management issues and a project manager or two that didn't know how to actually manage projects or people. Those things alone will sink a company. I'm not sure why I was laid off first, but I was. The reason given was that I didn't fit the direction the company was going. That must have been because they were going down, apparently. I couldn't agree more. I wasn't happy with the massive ethics violations that I was trying to fix from within anyway, so, I wasn't too upset. Within the next four months they laid off much of the rest of the staff.

At that point, I'd been in CRM for about eight years and had seen the good and the bad in a number of companies. I've always thought that there could be a better way. I'm also 38 - well 37 at the time - and I'm not getting any younger. So, I decided to finally take the plunge and start my own company. I never did look for work or send out a single CV or resume. I simply wasn't interested in working for anyone else.

My company is, and will never be, like all the rest out there. Browse my blog for the numerous posts about the type of company I have.

No one in their right mind would start a company just to give themselves a job!

Starting a company is a long, involved, stressful process. I'm still finding out things I should be doing that I'm not. No one tells you what organizations you should belong to, what licenses you actually need, where to find projects, how to get paid for those projects, and how to just make sure everything is running smoothly. I've made a ton of mistakes over the past year. Through this blog I've tried to relay my mistakes so someone else wishing to do this can save a few headaches.

Also, if I started this company just to give myself a paycheck then I'm a pretty crapy employer. I've paid myself a total of about $5,000 this year. That equates to approximately $2.84 an hour over the past 11 months. What a dick. I did all this because I believe in what I'm doing, not because I needed a job.

I wanted to write this post to start a conversation about the business of archaeology. If you started a business, why did you do it? If you started, then stopped, why? What about archaeology as a business in the first place? Have we cheapened the science by taking it out of the hands of universities and commercializing it? Should all arch firms be non-profit so they don't succumb to the "constantly grow" philosophy of modern capitalism? If you have an answer to one of these questions, please comment on the actual blog post. That way we can have the conversation in one place, rather than on five different social media sites. If writing a comment on the blog is too tedious, let me know and I'll try to fix it.

Thanks for reading and I'll see you in the field!

#71 Archaeological Hierarchy

The Great Basin has been a cruel mistress these past few years.  Since I was in the Navy and my division chief, Chief Davis told me that you’re up or out, meaning that you either move up or move out of the way for others, I’ve been motivated to climb whatever ladder I’ve been on.  Working in the South that meant get a Master’s degree and you can run projects and write reports.  You can even run a company some day.  I thought it worked that way in the west which is why I went to graduate school.  I had a lot to learn.

When I finished graduate school and returned to the Great Basin I somewhat expected a position to land at my feet because I took the initiative to educate myself and gain the necessary qualifications for advancement.  That’s not how it works here.  At every company I’ve worked for I’ve seen people with BA’s running projects and writing reports.  True, there are always a few MA’s around but you don’t need an MA to gain a higher level of responsibility out here.  

One drawback to this system is that those BA’s that have worked at a company for a few years, have a lot of security, and have a lot of responsibility, also have no desire to leave and get a higher degree.  Why should they?  If then never want to run a company and don’t mind always taking direction from someone else then why would they even want to move up?  It’s a system that doesn’t quite seem fair to those that choose to become better archaeologists by taking the initiative to get more education.

Now, I know some of my readers will say that just getting an advanced degree doesn’t make you smarter and it doesn’t make you a better archaeologists.  You’re right.  It doesn’t.  What it does do, however, is exposes you to different levels of resources and different ways of thinking.  A graduate course is a great place for networking and for learning some writing skills.  Of course a great archaeologist is always learning and trying to do better.

Another frustrating aspect of the Great Basin is that even if you do have an advanced degree and years of experience you will likely start out at the bottom of any company you work for.  I know someone that has an MA and over 20 years of experience running projects and writing reports and he’s answering to BA level project supervisors.  He’s a nice guy and doesn’t seem to mind but it’s unfair to him.  Because all of his experience is in the eastern United States all of his years of leadership experience and his experience with clients is thrown out the door.  How do they get away with that here?

I’d love it if a few PI’s in the Great Basin could comment on this post and tell me why they treat people this way and how this sort of system came about.  I don’t want this post to make it sound as though I’m bitter or anything.  I can see how it could come off that way.  Clearly, I’ve chosen to stick around and be a player in this crazy system.  I just want to know why it is so different than how the rest of the country appears to be.

My next post will be a detailed account of how I’d like a company to run.  It’s a pie-in-the-sky idea and probably wouldn’t be profitable but it’s a dream anyway.  I need to win millions on a game show so I can bring the idea to fruition.  I think that if the company were started, staffed, and filled with technology from a money source that didn’t involve clients then it could be self-sustaining.  I know there’s no real money in archaeology and that you can’t get rich doing it but I think you can run a company that focuses on its employees as the bottom line rather than on the clients.  Sure, the clients pay the bills, but the company would be nothing without the techs.  Many businesses treat their employees well while still managing to keep the client happy.  

There is one simple change that I know would be simple and easy to make.  Everyone would be in the same space.  I’d want to get away from the system where the grumbly old PI is off in an office somewhere and people are afraid to talk to him/her.  If everyone is in the same space, with no cubicle walls, then a more collaborative approach can be taken.  If you’re worried that they’ll gossip too much or get too distracted then don’t hire people that don’t share your passion.  There are plenty of high quality, passionate, out-of-work archaeologists out there just waiting for their shot.

I’ll save the rest for the next post…

See you in the field.

#58 Shovelbums Guide Part 10: Unemployment

(Brief may have noted ads on the right side of this page.  I started a Google Adsense account in an attempt to help pay for this site and to make it better.  Squarespace charges for bandwidth limits, which I haven’t hit yet, and hit count limits, which I also haven’t hit yet.  Of course, it would be wonderful to promote archaeology full time but this isn’t going to do it.  A few clicks on the site and telling your friends, however, can make it better.  Thanks and on to the post).

Throughout my career I’ve heard of people working through the season and going on unemployment for the winter.  The smart field tech will have saved enough money to live for three or four months during the off season but sometimes you need that little government bump that you earned anyway.  In twenty years of paying taxes I’ve never collected unemployment.  Since I’m currently out of work, a bit earlier than I thought I would be, I figured I’d get the unemployment ball rolling and report back for those that might be interested.

I’ve always been a bit too lazy to file for unemployment in the past.  I figured that working in several different states throughout the year would just make it way too complicated.  Also, the unemployment procedures are different for every state.  This post will discuss filing for and collecting unemployment in the state of Nevada.

The first thing I did was Googled “nevada unemployment”.  It pretty much brought me right to the page that I needed to use to start a new claim.  There are a lot of pages that try to confuse you and that have way too much information on them.  Once you sort through all of that it’s pretty easy. online filing system asked me a few questions to assess whether I could even file online or if I had to use the phone system.  The question that stopped we was whether I had worked solely in the state of Nevada for the past 18 months.  That is the period they use to assess how much you will qualify for.  I decided to test the system because I had one two-week job in Georgia at the beginning of the 18 month period.  I thought that I could just forget that part.  That was my first mistake.

Since I answered the test questions satisfactorily the website directed me to the online filing system.  I answered a bunch of questions and made it down to my work history.  That’s when I backed out of my plan to forget about the little Georgia job.  Once I admitted that I’d worked in Georgia the system immediately kicked me out and told me to use the phone filing system.  Damn.

The phone system is automated and asks the same questions as the online system.  It never even asked me about the Georgia job because this is when you find out that they are only looking about nine months back.  Nice.  It took about 15 minutes to complete the filing process by phone.  At that point I thought I was done.  The automated system told me that my claim would be evaluated and that I’d be contacted.

The next day I received a call from a person at the unemployment division.  He asked me almost all of the same questions, including the names and addresses of my last employers (during the last 9-12 months).  He was able to instantly pulled my financial data from those employers and determined that I had made about $33K during the last four quarters.  That qualified me for the maximum unemployment benefit of $396 a week for a maximum of 26 weeks (or $10,296).  I was told that there might be federal taxes assessed on this “income” (Nevada doesn’t have a state tax) and I was given the option to hold 10% of the disbursement each week.  I elected to do that because I don’t need the headache of dealing with pulling taxes out of savings in April.

So, now I have to file each week and keep a log of the jobs that I apply for.  They say you should apply to at least 3-4 jobs each week but that it is almost impossible to enforce that if you have a job that doesn’t have many open positions (such as archaeology in the winter).  I could be asked to show my job log at any time.  If I don’t satisfy the unemployment division they could take back all of the money they have given me.

There is one more complication because I’m a veteran.  Veterans are supposed to go to Nevada Job Connect to see if they can assist in the job search.  I don’t know why and they could’t give me a good answer.  Last week I went there for the first time and the representative that I talked to had a contact for a local company and was going to send my information to them.  The only downside to using Nevada Job Connect is that if they refer you to a job and you are offered that job, regardless of the conditions of the job, you have to take it.  If you are offered an interview, you have to take it.  If you don’t do these things they can submit your case for adjudication and you could lose your benefits.

Now, every Sunday I can file for the previous week.  You can file starting at 12:01 am on Saturday night.  The sooner you file the sooner they pay you.  I filed online at about 9 am on Sunday morning and by Monday the money was in my account.  Not a bad turn around.  I said the money was in my account.  That’s not entirely accurate.

The way they pay you is by putting the money into a Wells Fargo savings account accessible with a very restricted debit card.  You get charged for too many withdrawals, too many balance inquiries, for trying to take out money that isn’t there, and for calling customer service.  You can avoid fees by going into the bank, so there’s that at least.  I just took out $340 (increments of twenty) and put it in my checking account.  You can elect to have paper checks sent but for most people there is too much of a lag between filing and receiving the check.

That’s my unemployment experience.  I’m using the money and the time to blog, read, and learn how to program iOS applications.  I’d love to start a company that is completely digital someday but I need the apps first (and a large pile of money).  Baby steps.  Maybe I’ll get the Jeopardy call soon and I can jumpstart this thing!

Good luck during the winter months.  Stay warm, use the time to better yourself and your skill set, and stay active. 


2008  The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Archaeology (iPad App), Oxford University Press, 2nd ed.   Developed by Handmark, Inc.

Shovel Pit Testing An extensive survey technique to sample the content of topsoil within a defined area by taking a fixed volume of soil (usually a shovelful) out of the ground and sieving/screening it to separate out and quantify the artifact population.  Widely used in the field evaluation of large areas in order to identify buried sites and define their approximate extent.

(My thoughts...There are usually at least two commonly used sizes of shovel test pit (STP).  Some are 30 cm in diameter and some are 50 cm square.  It depends upon the state you are working in.  Unless a sterile soil level has been identified STPs often go as deep as either the water table or the deepest you can reach with a shovel.  Occasionally you will continue with an auger.)

#14 Shovelbums Guide Part 3.5: Job Hunting Continued

In my last post I covered some of the most common job finding sites for CRM Archaeologists.  Those included Shovelbums, Archaeology Fieldwork, and USA Jobs.  This post will cover the remaining job sources that I know of.  Keep in mind, however, that the internet is changing the world on a daily basis and new job searching websites are popping up every day.  Welcome to Web 2.0.

A relatively new and upcoming job hunting resource is Linkedin.  On Linkedin you can upload your CV and populate the necessary fields within your profile, including education, job history, personal information, and other goodies.  Linkedin is a site for professionals.  You can network with former colleagues and classmates as well as search for jobs.  I think that Linkedin is going to be the place for an employer to check out an employee rather than having an employee send in a CV.  Tech savvy employers should be “googling” possible employees to see what sort of web presence they have and Linkedin can be part of those search results.  Consider that when a friend tags a photo of you in a less-than-flattering situation.

If you are still in college then your school’s job placement services might be a good place to look.  A lot of college job services departments don’t know what CRM is just yet but some are more informed than others.  Depending on your school you may have better success within the anthropology department.  Your professors might know more CRM archaeologists than you think.  You could get a great recommendation if you just ask.

Finally, word of mouth is an important part of CRM.  The more people you meet and the more jobs you have under your belt, the more you will be able to network yourself into a position.  Whenever I’ve needed a new job I always contact friends that I know are employed to see if there is anything available.  I’ve also been contacted by friends looking for jobs and I always try to help them out if I’m in a position to.  The world of CRM is pretty small, especially on a regional scale.  If you burn bridges it will come back to haunt you.  That being said, you have to stick to your ethics when you are faced with a situation that you aren’t comfortable with.  Some bridges should be burned so you aren’t tempted by higher pay or per diem to go back.

R. Joe Brandon of Shovelbums commented on my Facebook page about some of the historical ways that people used to get jobs and probably occasionally still do:


“The highest paying archaeology per-diem gig I ever had came by way of a fax from Patrick H Garrow to Cory Breternitz’s @Soil Systems Incorporated/SSI in Phoenix.  Garrow & Associates needed staff for a big pipline job and sent an announcement fax to other companies. Someone brought the fax out to the field for lunch one day and it was passed around and debated.”


He goes on to say that his first CRM job was obtained through a letter posted on the bulletin board at his anthropology department at Northern Illinois University.  The employer didn’t advertise anywhere except to college departments.

The last place that I’ve ever looked for a job is through a state’s SHPO office.  The State Historic Preservation Office, or in some states, the Office of Historic Preservation, can usually provide a list of CRM companies that they deal with in their area.  If you are really dedicated you can obtain that list and walk a few CVs in through the front door.  They might not be hiring at that time but a face-to-face interaction is worth a lot more than a faceless email.  Employers like hiring people that they know and walking in through the front door will likely put you at the top of the pile.

So, as you can see, there are many ways to find jobs these days.  Keep in mind that some of those large engineering firms that are bringing archaeology departments online are used to posting on more professional job sites such as Linkedin and  If might be wise to check some of those sites if you aren’t having luck elsewhere.

Good luck and I’ll see you in the field!



Written in Battle Mountain, Nevada: Halfway to everywhere!

#13 Shovelbums Guide Part 3: Job Hunting

I can’t imagine what finding a job in CRM was like before the internet.  It must have been equally difficult for employers to find employees.  I imagine that most people were hired because they knew someone or went to school with someone that knew a friend of a friend.  Luckily, in the digital age we don’t have that problem.  There are several ways that you can either look for jobs directly or look for specific employers.  Most of these websites cater to the United States only.

By far, the most popular website for finding jobs is Shovelbums.  Shovelbums was started 11 years ago by R. Joe Brandon.  The site now has over 15,000 members and posts job openings from around the country.  The most useful aspect of the website is the ability to receive an email everyday that lists the jobs posted on the site the day before.  You have to sign up on the Yahoo Groups page (there is a link within Shovelbums) to receive the daily email updates.  Even when I have long term employment I’m always looking for new opportunities.  If CRM has taught me anything it’s that nothing is permanent.  Situations change and growth opportunities always show up somewhere.    Every job I have had in CRM was found on Shovelbums.

Shovelbums Tip: If you desperately need a job, don’t wait for the daily email.  I don’t know how many times I’ve seen a great job at the top of the email only to see a post at the bottom that says all the positions were filled.  You can also “Like” Shovelbums on Facebook and see postings in your News Feed as they are posted!  Keep in mind, unemployment is high right now and everyone wants to work.  If you are looking for work then check the website every day.  Maybe even a few times a day.  Get that CV in as quick as possible!

Another website that I frequent is  The site was started by Jennifer Palmer in 1996 and has been going strong for over 15 years.  On the website you’ll find job postings curated from a number of agencies including government agencies.  There are also pages for posting CVs, discussion topics in CRM, and general archaeology.  Archaeology Fieldwork is on Facebook as well.  As far as I know there is no option for a daily email so checking the site is the only way to find that dream job.

In an effort to keep my posts a bit shorter I’ll discuss one more job posting website.  For jobs in the military, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, or the Forest Service (and a few other government agencies), the website to check is USA Jobs.  Job seekers can look for jobs by setting search parameters such as position and state.  You can even set up an alert to go to your email account every time your search parameters turn up a position.

Be forewarned, though.  Getting a job from USA Jobs is a long and tedious process.  If you think you’d ever want to work for the government I’d start an account and get all of the preliminaries out of the way now.  You may have to send in physical documentation of college credentials and proof of military service, for example.  Veterans should certainly check out the website.  Because of the point system that the government uses to rank your application, veterans come out on top because they get an extra 5 points.  Five points is a lot for that particular system and could mean the difference between getting the job and not getting the job.

In the next post I’ll cover a couple more ways to find jobs in CRM.  The websites listed above, however, will be among your primary resources.  Remember, before you apply for that dream job, prepare your cover letter and your CV!


Written in Cold Springs, NV. (Home of a Pony Express Station)