I Do and Don’t Miss Archaeology Work, But Writing About it is Awesome

It’s 10 years next month that I got (what is now) my last permanent job as an employee. It marked the end of my admittedly short-lived career as a field archaeologist and firmly put me back into a non-graduate administrative role.

I missed the Camaraderie of the team – even an introvert like me gets a buzz from teamwork with like-minded people. I missed the excitement of wondering what we might discover. I also missed the feeling of doing something important for our knowledge and understanding of the past.

I didn’t miss the low pay, the commutes, or the wondering whether I’d have a job to go to four weeks from now when the site is ready to close. I guess I was always a researcher at heart, not a fieldworker as much as I enjoyed every contract I had.

The job with a military contractor was going to be a gateway job. I had plans to upskill to learn GIS, something my university did not cover when I studied there 2004-7, and eventually prove my worth to work among the conservation team.

But things change.

The only job opportunity to move teams came, and went to someone else. Then soon, the same could be said of my marriage. I had the freedom to go anywhere I liked and with newly learnt GIS skills, I spent over a year trying to find desk-based conservation and heritage roles in line with my skills, experiences and interests, most of which included digital mapping – a massive skills shortage area back then. I looked for jobs all over the country, applying for jobs as far apart as Aberdeen and Exeter, and travelling to Northants, Dorset, the Welsh border area, and several attempts to get my foot in the door at English Heritage in Swindon.

I thought then that I would soon get thrust into a new world of heritage work; it was just a matter of time and patience.

Becoming a Writer

But that was not to be either. Despite performing highly in GIS tests as part of those interviews, around 6 interviews came and went and many letters of rejection. In spring 2013, I walked away from everything to become a writer. Then I had a strong sense of wanting to write about subjects within my experience and on the periphery, things like environment and sustainability, ecology, and conservation (both natural and heritage).

While most of my work today is recruitment and edutech, I’ve been lucky enough to have some contract writing work covering these subjects. I will be forever grateful to the original owner of environmentalscience.org (a client I still work for today though the site is now in the hands of new owners) for the opportunity to write about archaeology, anthropology, GIS, urban studies, sociology, ecology, conservation issues and many other areas that helped encourage students of today to become the academics of tomorrow.

I miss archaeology as a career. I miss the opportunities that went elsewhere. I miss that I’m not currently working from home or furloughed from a conservation charity or QUANGO, helping people understand the past and importance of conserving our built heritage for tomorrow. I miss nurturing the third eye for something’s not quite right under the ground, I wonder what we’ll discover?

But in the end, I never really left it. In my book Salmonweird, I explore the love of history and the human stories often intertwined with big events that change a country. Ditto Phobetor’s Children in a way.

I sold most of my academic books when I had no other choice but still have a few left, those I simply could not bear to let go. I’m sure somehow, somewhere, heritage and natural conservation will always remain part of what I do for as long as I am working. At the back of my mind, that is certainly my intention.

Are you an academic in need of a writer? Education institute or provider of private tuition and need a writer? Let’s talk. You can see more details of my academic experience on the professional writing page.

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