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Review of The Anthropology Graduate’s Guide

April 7, 2011
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This post is bit off topic, but I know there are numerous anthropology professionals and students who read this blog, and I came across this excellent resource, so here goes:

The Anthropology Graduate’s Guide: From Student to a Career (Left Coast Press, 2011) is the one book that should be handed out with a diploma when a student graduates with a BA in Anthropology or by a student’s advisor before the first day of classes in a graduate program.  For me, the book is written as though authors Carol J. Ellick and Joe E. Watkins eavesdropped on my advising and mentoring conversations with both undergraduate and graduate students for the past 15 years, and then wrote about it.

The book is divided into three sections with a total of  fifteen chapters as follows:

Section 1 – Preparation contains five chapters for the student to begin thinking about a career in Anthropology.  There is a general introduction that importantly exposes the myths that one must ultimately get a PhD in the field, but that once you do, there are no jobs out there.  The authors also discuss creating a career journal and portfolio to help coordinate and showcase the student’s experiences and abilities.  This section also explores the career options flowing from both applied and academic tracks.  The authors include some great mini-bios to illustrate the diversity of career possibilities.  The section concludes with important discussions on professional standards and the resources for staying informed about job opportunities

Section II – Development is all about the nuts and bolts of preparing for a specific job search.  The four chapters in this section include details on creating a résumé, curriculum vita, biographical statement, the various letters in a job application, as well as the actual application process.

Section III – Setting Yourself Apart is in many ways the most valuable part of the book.  As I routinely note to students, it is simply not enough to show that you have a 3.9 GPA as you will need to translate those classroom skills into demonstrating the ability to function on the ground.  The author’s discuss the importance of internships and volunteering to demonstrate that real world link.  The critical ability to develop strong communication skills is the subject of one entire chapter.  The often overlooked opportunities within professional organizations both nationally, regionally, and locally are considered.  The section concludes with chapters that discuss the types of employment options with a focus on academic and research related opportunities.

The appendices to the volume are a considerable asset.  One appendix lists the employers of anthropologists as obtained from attendees name tag affiliations at an American Anthropological Association’s annual meeting.  A unique idea that certainly reflects contemporary reality of employment.  Perhaps one of the most useful parts of the book is the appendix of 15 mini-bios of anthropologists employed in an equal division of applied and academic positions.  Another appendix lists resources, mostly online, for further reference to many of the topics covered in the book.  A final appendix has samples of biographical sketches, letters requesting letters of recommendation, c.v.s and more.

The Anthropology Graduate’s Guide is written in a clear, non-jargon laden, and down-to-earth style.  Each chapter has many exercises for the reader such that the volume lends itself well as a formal classroom text or for self-study.  I noted at the outset of this review that the authors include the precise topics I cover in my advising sessions with students.  However, I still recommend this book for all incoming graduate students.  I say this for two reasons.  First, Watkins and Elick have done a very comprehensive job in creating a resource to prepare students for the job market.  For the advisor to review with each student the general scope they cover in 250 pages is simply not practical.  Second, by the time the student raises these issues with the advisor, it is usually too late.  Students often start thinking about the nuts and bolts of their job application process as their graduation date approaches.  The authors show that this process needs to begin before they sit down for the first graduate seminar.

If you teach in an Anthropology program you owe it to yourself to check out The Anthropology Graduate’s Guide as a resource for your students.  If you are a student, this book includes all those things you need to know and either forgot to ask or were too embarrassed to ask because you thought you should already know.

I am confident this book will enjoy a long shelf-life and go into revisions down the road.

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