Take the analogy of a medium-sized city in the southeastern United States: every year the city allocates funds and resources to various priorities, and attempts to anticipate threats and risks. Yet every time a winter storm comes along, these cities are grounded by lack of funding and failures to anticipate challenges. This is much like being an archaeological field tech in CRM; if your operating budget assumes optimal conditions year-round, you’re taking unnecessary risks.
Take the analogy of a teacher: you’re nearly guaranteed steady work and steady paychecks for about nine months out of the year. Your pay and your benefits might not be stellar, but at least there’s stability in it. You work for those three months though, where you can count on not working. Call it a vacation, or just call it what it is – a byproduct of the seasonality of your job. Many teachers take this time as an opportunity to relax, recharge, and grow.
The first winter I spent working as a CRM archaeologist, I lucked out. I was able to clock 40-hour weeks through a fairly mild midwestern winter and after that, I was on salary with reports to write and paperwork to file whenever I could spare time away from the field. I was spoiled and I got away with putting off the most important thing I could have done for myself as a CRM archaeologist – planning for unemployment. Last winter was the first time in almost seven years that I was really challenged to think carefully and act purposefully with my budget, and I honestly wish I’d learned that lesson much earlier. Here’s hoping you figure it out with more grace and ease than I did.
Unemployment – that’s something most people don’t tell you about when talking about a career in CRM archaeology. All the same, it’s inevitable. That’s why they call us “shovelbums” after all.
Before you think about unemployment any further, you need to divorce yourself from any notion that unemployment is tied to the general thing we usually call “welfare”. First off, we’re specifically speaking about unemployment insurance here. This is a whole different animal from the social program Red State politicians bemoan and use to legitimize some pretty terrible things, but that’s a rant for another time. Unemployment insurance is something that you’ve already paid for with every single paycheck you’ve earned throughout the course of the year. Think of it as a parachute that you built with your time in the field, so that you don’t have to fall so hard when there’s no work for you. You’ve earned it, so why shouldn’t you use it? It’s not a political issue, it’s a matter of economics.
As far as how to file for unemployment, that varies greatly depending on your state of residence, and even more by the particular details of your employment throughout the year.
We have a fantastic podcast episode on the Archaeology Podcast Network about unemployment and planning for time off in the winter. Go listen to it. Right now.
So here’s the point: you can (and should) plan to be unemployed in the winter. You can make it something positive, or you can let it be a hardship. You can also lessen the hardship. Archaeology is, by nature, unpredictable, but you can plan for this and control your situation during the least predictable part of the year for most of us in the United States working in CRM. Take some time off, and read the next post for ways to maximize your downtime.
Archaeology • Podcast • Undergrad Guides
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