Monday, May 2, 2011

My first staff photo for FPAN.  Yes folks, that's me digging in my pajamas. Read below to find out why....

Five years ago this April I made my first visit to St. Augustine as one of the four selected to interview for the Director position at the yet to be established Northeast Regional center for FPAN.  I promise, you have NEVER heard of an interview like mine.  Like ours.

Not in archaeology, anyway.  The interview was more akin to reality shows and we made jokes of it being like "Survivor: St. Augustine."  The powers that be brought all four of us in to interview on the same dates.  While odd in that we met our competition, it turned out to be a brilliant maneuver for scheduling and networking.  I remember seeing the list while still in Kentucky, Googling the other names, and becoming fascinated by three other women who's names were scheduled next to mine: Andrea White, Maureen Brown, and Norma Harris.

WOW!  Let me repeat: Andrea White who is currently the director of the Greater New Orleans Regional Archaeology Project, Maureen Brown who manages the Casa Navarro State Historic site for the Texas Historical Commission, and UWF Instructor (and future FPAN Board Member) Norma Harris!  They scared the bajeezus out of me on paper, and as it would turn out, in person.  While intimidated by their many contributions and credits, I was very curious to meet other like minded archaeologists.  It was an exciting time to be interested in Public Archaeology, and a significant time in FPAN history to get together.

Meeting Chuck Meide on my first visit to the St. Augustine Lighthouse.

True to Survivor format we arrived together, toured sites en mass, presented our job talks together, and communed as a group with the hiring committee.  Leslee Keys at Flagler College made the arrangements and Executive Director Bill Lees, State Archaeologist Ryan Wheeler, Dona Kathy Deagan, City Archaeologist Carl Halbirt, and Historic Tours of America Director Dana Ste. Claire rounded out the committee. 


I remember in my interview at the point where the job candidate is asked if they now have any questions (interview tip #1- ALWAYS ask questions!) I asked: what do you see as being the day to day tasks of someone in this position?  The hiring committee surprised me only in having a singular answer.  They didn't know.  Besides the Coordinating Center, this would be the first charter center.  FPAN was so new on paper, it had yet to be determined (even today, I may add) what the Network would look like flushed out and in 3D.

Two amazing mornings were spent in St. Augustine.  The first was the opportunity to dig with Kathy Deagan.  She invited us out to the Fountain of Youth do dig with her and her crew.  Tip #2: NEVER PASS UP AN OPPORTUNITY TO DIG WITH KATHY DEAGAN!!!!  Do you typically bring clothes to an interview?  I brought four suits but neglected to pack my trowel or dig gear.  My now famous solution seemed obvious to me.  I asked Kathy if it would be okay to dig in my pajamas, being the only appropriate covering for a field excursion.  She said yes, and my first staff photo for FPAN was born.

Speaking of idols, Kathy Deagan on the right.
One of my all time favorite photos- map has 1976 start date up top!
First day I met many of my favorite people- Toni Wallace and Nick McAuliffe.

The second amazing morning came on the final day.  I went downstairs in the Hampton Inn to get some breakfast bright and early and bumped into the hiring committee in the lobby.  I stopped dead in my tracks, shocked to see the deliberation happening right beneath my room.  Second shock of the morning came when I backtracked and headed out the exit only to find the three other candidates pool-side, all surprised at the reception and all unsure where we were supposed to be.

What followed was a candid, earnest discussion with rhetorical questions: what the heck is FPAN?  What would this job require?  Did we even want the job?   Truth is we were all curious, all using the interview as an opportunity to learn about the Network and the future direction of public archaeology, for Florida at least.

I'm really honored to have been chosen, but unlike other interviews of the past, I have the weight of knowing the competition and for carrying those rhetorical questions on daily.  I want to go back five years ago and bring some answers.  FPAN is a dynamic organization with the answers always in flux.  That's part of what I love about it, and part of what can burn me out.  To work for FPAN means you truly never know what you'll be doing tomorrow.  It will require every skill you have and especially those you never knew would serve your archaeological career (singing, knitting, work study at the Cornell College development office, Admin Assistant for University of Iowa Division of Infectious Diseases...).  And do I still want the job?


And the best part?  I get to keep up with my Idol friends.  I see Norma at least twice a year for FPAN Board of Directors meetings, plus SEAC and FAS conferences.  Similarly, I see Andrea at FAS meetings and have followed her work in New Orleans.  Maureen I see at conferences, in fact she was an organizer in Austin for SHA and SAA.  Both times she was generous with her time between meetings and it was fun to catch up with families and future directions of underwater archaeology.

Other interview tips:

Do your research!
Know the place, the institution, latest events, key sites and resources, potential partners.  Lay out the work plan for your first month. 

Leave them with something they didn't expect.
For my interview I gave the committee CDs with project examples burned for them to review. Did anyone even pop it in a computer? I would bet not, but they certainly weren't expecting it.

Practice interview questions, practice your job talk. I was telling Kathy Deagan I practiced my job talk in front of my family at Easter. She couldn't believe I had it done before I flew down, let alone time to practice.

Pick a strong theme for your talk.
Thanks to NAI I know better now how to phrase this- people remember themes, not facts. The theme of my talk was: Public archaeologists can collaborate with communities to bring about positive social change. I spoke mostly from the hip, but my conclusion I read with emphasis.

Have fun and network!
Something I learned from my dad was that no matter what, any interview is good experience, and the people you meet could lead you to your next job. I see Norma, Andrea, and Maureen at least once a year and keep in touch. I have no doubt the day will come when I need a job from one of them, that's just the way archaeology works.
So here's to an amazing five years, and truly looking forward to the next five (at least!).
From the archives:

Home Sweet Home.
BTW, no pressure giving a job talk in the opulent Flagler Room!  Photo 2011
First Advisory Board Meeting! June 2006. John Whitehurst, Sam Turner, me with Trever in the belly, Dot Moore, Kathy Fleming, Carl Halbirt, and Dana Ste. Claire.

April 17, 2006 St. Augustine Record article covering the public talks.

Text credit: Sarah Miller
Photo credit: Maureen Brown

One Response so far.

  1. Brenda says:

    Love it Sarah! Looking forward to seeing you this weekend, and maybe again at J.P.'s. Glad to be working here in St. Augustine with you!

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