Michael J Curtis Job Tips

I was a 1970s undergraduate, at a time when there was much change in world of archaeology, and I found myself leaving university and venturing into that scary world of business. As it happened, what materialised was an interesting, and varied, journey and one which took me in and out of both the public and private sectors in the UK and Europe, acquiring a range of experience and skills that eventually helped me when it came to creating and managing my own small company.

In this blog I would like to offer a few tips based on my own experiences after many years in business.

1. Believe in yourself.
My first tip may seem like common sense, but it is surprising how often it is forgotten. I have seen this many times in the people that I have interviewed for jobs over the years. It is important to be confident and believe in yourself. Self-confidence and evidence of self-determination are key things that employers look for right from initial job applications and throughout employment, reflecting perhaps that these should really be classed as skills in their own right.

Self-confidence is also important when unexpected opportunities arise, and they do as I quickly found out! My negotiation work on the Packaging & Packaging Waste Directive put me in the sights of the European Commission and led to me being offered a posting to Brussels. Having never worked overseas before this appeared to be quite a challenge and I do not think that I would have contemplated it had I not had the confidence that I could deliver what was expected of me and cope with living and working in a different country and in a more pressured and complex environment to what I was used to.

2. Get Prepared and organised.
We are all guilty of sometimes leaving things to the last minute. However, it is useful to devote some time at university to start on your own Personal Development plan in preparation for life beyond university. The term ‘Personal Development’ is well known and widely used a lot in business, where it is more usually applied in the context of a person’s development within their organisation. I found it very beneficial to work out my own strategy for my personal development at an early stage. If done effectively this can be rewarding, and a strong cv which contains a range of additional skills and experience has a much better chance of getting into the shortlisted pile. The expansion of the internet has opened up the opportunity to take certificated training courses in your own time and in less pressured environments, which can be used to compliment the training received whilst at university. Employers generally prefer to see certificated courses and remember to retrieve and hang on to your certificates at the end as it is likely that you will need to produce them at some point.

Underlying my initial decision to venture into business was the need to acquire more people and project management experience. This is something that is essential in field archaeology and yet there is still no space for it as part of archaeology modules. Today there are a range of other essential skills in archaeology which I would add to this and some, such as health and safety training, can easily be done online. My point here is that if you are pursuing a career within your discipline, or indeed any specific career path, it is always worth checking what the requirements on skills and experience are likely to be and seeing if it is possible to gain this at an early stage in order to boost your chances of securing higher graded positions.

3. Networking.
In many respects networking is one of the easiest and perhaps one of the most important elements of research. There is a natural tendency to build networks around our research, and sometimes for our research. From the onset I would recommend having a broader network approach, developing connections with other professionals and organisations who might be useful when it comes to finding work and keeping in touch with your area of expertise once you leave university.

Profile enhancing web sites such as Academia and LinkedIn, amongst others, are important, and serve different purposes in each sector. Business orientated profile sites are frequently used by employers seeking additional background material on prospective candidates and by employment agencies searching to provide a selection of good candidates for their clients. It is important not to be invisible and a surprisingly large number of employers these days do search online for more information on their shortlisted candidates. Remember also to keep your profile page regularly updated.

4. Why should I bother?
As the UK heads into a recession there is every good reason to undertake as much preparation for work as is possible within your research commitments and university study. The competitive job market will put more emphasis on the skills and experience of the applicants. It is important to remember that from an employer’s perspective, the matter of skills and experience, along with what individuals can bring to their business, is always important, which why a strong cv can make so much difference.

In ending this blog, I would say that I have never regretted the career pathway that I took and through all my time in business I managed to successfully to maintain an active level of involvement in my discipline and to further develop my own specialism, with the skills and experience gained enhancing, and giving new direction to my research. In the end the journey was not as bad as the first prospects looked.

Michael J Curtis is a part-time PhD student with School of Archaeology and Ancient History where he is researching the Roman ports and harbours of Crete. His second co-edited book on Hellenistic and Roman Crete is due for publication later this year and he is an Adult Learning tutor, teaching Archaeology and the Oral & Social History of Contemporary Music.

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Martin Coffey

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Postgraduate Career Development Adviser, Doctoral College Team.

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