Have You Ever Googled Yourself?: Online Personal Branding for Archaeologists

This is a guest post by William A. White, SHA Member, author, and PhD student at the University of Arizona.

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:

  • At least 39% of companies use social network sites to research job candidates,
  • 43% of hiring managers who researched candidates via social media saw something that caused them not to hire a candidate (Facebook posts, anyone?),
  • Surprisingly, only 19% saw something that caused them to hire a candidate; however,
  • 56% of hiring managers are more impressed by candidates that have personal websites, while only 7% of job seekers have their own site.

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.

Personal Branding for 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.

Putting the Personal in Personal Statements: Tips from a NSF-GFRP Fellow

By Mia Carey

Before my maternal grandmother suddenly passed of congestive heart failure in the early 1990s, our family would gather every Friday night to play cards and cook, while some members drank and told stories of the old days. My grandmother was the matriarch of the family, and I believe it was her cooking that kept our family as close-knit as it was. She was a gorgeous woman, fair skinned with dark bone straight hair which was indicative of her Native American heritage, who got up every morning at the crack of dawn to begin cooking. I remember the house always smelled of cake. At those weekly Friday night parties, people from our neighborhood and our extended family from Northern Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. would travel to her home just to get a plate. My grandmother was traditional African American cook, the type who never premeasured anything but was able to make it the same way each time. If you wanted to know embarrassing stories of your parents, aunts and uncles, or any other members of the family, Friday night was the night for them to be told. The stories are beginning to fade from my memory now, but what I will always cherish is that those fading moments are a unique part of my heritage that have been passed down for generations and told as a narrative over shared meals.

Before I explain it, you should probably know that I am a historical zooarchaeologist. My particular interests are in African Americans and the Diaspora, the post-bellum, post-Reconstruction period (1865-1900), health & nutrition, and historic preservation. I recently finished writing my master’s thesis, which analyses the dietary patterns from two antebellum and two postbellum free African Americans sites in Maryland to assess whether or not dietary patterns remained consistent among the broad and sustained economic, social, and political changes that characterized the 19th century.

I opened with this particular snippet of my personal statement for two reasons: (1) I put the personal in personal statement and (2) I deviated from the same cookie cutter response to why and when I became interested in archaeology. Unlike some of my peers, I had no clue what anthropology or archaeology was until my second semester of undergrad. My path to archaeology was gradual. When I first started grad school I wanted to do business until I realized that I couldn’t imagine myself wearing suits and heels for the next forty or fifty years of my life. I ended up in anthropology and finally into archaeology by the end of my sophomore year. In one of my archaeology classes we were required to choose a project, and I chose to analyze animal bones out of all of the other artifact classes. Why? Food had always been a part of my life. As the snippet suggests, food was an important factor in brining my family together and what I believed kept us close. It offered an opportunity for several generations to share their stories and our heritage. It served as a comfort in times of need and a celebration in times of joy.

I know that most people can’t relate their research interests with such an intimate part of their lives, but it helps. I was commended several times in my application reviews:

• The applicant is a strong writer, having brilliantly crafted the personal narrative.
• In addition, she is descended from Free Blacks and has combined her interest in family history with a scientific study of class in her graduate studies…

My point in all this: Make your personal statement stand out and make it personal. Everyone is going to have a story about wanting to be in their field since they were a child, but it doesn’t make you stand out or memorable. I took a risk with this statement because I never express my feelings about the loss of my grandmother, but she’s been such an inspiration in my work. Think outside the box when applying for an NSF or any other type of fellowship or grant that requires a personal statement.

Further tips:

  • Do not share something that you are uncomfortable with letting people in on. Use caution.
  • Get started early and seek out people in your department who may have received the award before– if they are like me they would be happy to help.

If you’re interested in reading my statement or discussing the application process, I’ll be more than happy to speak with you via email: m.carey17@ufl.edu

Mia Carey is a third year graduate student at the University of Florida. She has received a McKnight Doctoral Fellowship (5 years of funding) and the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship (3 years of funding).

Meet a Member: Todd Ahlman

Here’s the latest in our series of entertaining interviews with a diverse array of your fellow SHA members. Meet a member for the first time or learn something about a colleague that you never knew before. This blog series also offers current members an opportunity to share their thoughts on why SHA membership is important (Camaraderie? Professional service? Exchange of ideas in conference rooms and beyond? You tell us!). If you would like to be an interviewee, please email the Membership Committee Social Media Liaisons Eleanor Breen (ebreen@mountvernon.org) or Kim Pyszka (kpyszka@aum.edu).

An Interview with Dr. Todd Ahlman, the Director of the Center for Archaeological Studies at Texas State University where he manages archaeological research for the university and other public and private clients.

Fieldwork or labwork?

Both. Besides the fact that I get to work outside, the instantaneous discovery that occurs in the field is exciting and refreshing. In the lab, I enjoy getting an in-depth look at the material culture and putting all the pieces together to better understand past human behavior.

 What would be your dream site to work at?

Every site is a dream site because I get to do archaeology. I mean really, I have a dream job.

What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading the Encyclopedia of Caribbean Archaeology edited by Basil A. Reid and R. Grant Gilmore III and published by the University Press of Florida. It is a great summary of the diversity in the Caribbean.

 What did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was a kid I wanted to be a football player for the Minnesota Vikings, a doctor, or president. I actually figured out at age 15 that I wanted to be an archaeologist. Indiana Jones had no input into my decision; it was just a love of the past and things. My old brother has told me he knew it was fate because I was always intrigued by the ceramic and glass sherds we found while playing as kids. There have been a lot of people along the way who have influenced my path of becoming an historical archaeologist, but being an archaeologist is what I’ve always wanted.

 Why are you a member of SHA?

This is a good question and one I ask myself every year before I join. I am mainly a member for the journal, but I’ve found our journal has become less cutting-edge theoretically and topically in the past 5-7 years. That being said, the content in the journal is still the best for those interested in historical archaeology and that’s why I am still a member.

 At what point in your career did you first join SHA?

I joined SHA sometime in the early or mid-1990s, not long after I started graduate school.

 How many years have you been a member (approximately)?

18-19 years

 Which article from Historical Archaeology has been the most influential to you?

The one article that has been most influential to me isn’t one that I’ve read, but one I published in the journal in 2009. It was a four year odyssey to get it published and if it wasn’t for some prodding by Joe Joseph, it may not have been published. What it taught me was to never give up when it comes to getting something published. As long and frustrating as the process may be, you must stay positive and push forward.

 Which benefit of belonging to SHA do you find the most beneficial?

The journal is the biggest benefit on a long-term basis, but I think the conference is the most beneficial to the society because we get to meet our colleagues face to face.