Friday, March 8, 2013

Melanie Miller ('12) at the First Division Museum

Life the year after graduation is filled with great expectations as well as disappointments, and several curveballs. My summer after graduation started out exactly as I wanted: excavating several ancient Maya sites in Belize and gallivanting across Central and North America. Then I returned from my post-graduation honeymoon and had a long-delayed appointment with reality. I was near broke, living at home, and frantically searching for an archaeology-related job to no avail. Practicality arising from a desperate need for cash flow forced me to widen my job-search net landing me in the world of retail. After being offered positions in everything from hardware to eye-care to electronics, I finally ended up as a sales consultant for cell phones at Best Buy Mobile. Many of you who know me will find great irony in this: the girl with the brick flip phone who just got texting this past summer and is one of the least tech-savvy people when it comes to smartphones now makes much of her living from selling phones.

I still wanted to do something that was archaeology or museum related so I decided that if no paid positions were open, then volunteering was the best avenue. I quickly discovered that unlike requests for paying jobs, people rarely turn down the offer of free labor and respond to your inquiries much faster. I chose to volunteer at a local war museum, the First Division Museum at Cantigny Park, where I helped in the digitization of hundreds of original documents and artifacts from WWI to the Iraq War. After volunteering over 50 hours in four months’ time, the museum encouraged me to apply for a paid internship position in the archives department. This was rather unexpected, but it proves that just getting your foot in the door can lead to greater opportunities. I have been working as an intern since February and am in charge of cataloguing and reorganizing thousands of documents and artifacts from a donation that fills 25 teetering banker’s boxes. The challenge I face now is balancing three jobs, as I still work at Best Buy and consistently babysit, which makes for a few twelve-hour work days and work weeks of nearly 60 hours. I am also studying for the GRE, which I am set to take next month. The best advice I can give on that is to take the GRE as early as possible so it is not looming over you!

Although my life mostly consists of work, study, and sleep when there is time, I can already see the benefits of my hard work. Clearly, the internship is one of them, but the money I saved from working three jobs is allowing me the opportunity to participate in another archaeological dig this summer, the Jezreel Expedition. This fall I will apply to grad schools for Mesoamerican archaeology while continuing to work. In short, while life after graduation may find you living back at home with a non-archaeology-related job, do not worry or give up. Instead, concentrate on preparing for grad school, save the money you earn for something to strengthen your archaeology resume such as field schools or conferences, and stay involved in something archaeology related, whether it is a class or volunteering, to help prevent you from losing focus or desire to go back to school for archaeology. And for those moments when you feel discouraged, sit back, drink a root beer, and watch the fourth Indiana Jones movie to reinvigorate your fervor to educate the public that aliens have nothing to do with archaeology and to put on your fedora once again.

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