Mar 2, 2018
At SAMC, we're thrilled that lots (and lots) of people have downloaded our article about why companies are so desperate to hire anthropologists. They want to find out more about how anthropologists can help companies see, feel, and think in new ways so they can evolve and adapt to changing times. So that's what I delve into today, sharing my experiences in corporate anthropology and even offering advice to anthro majors. I invite you to listen, learn and share!
Anthropologists seem convinced that no one wants to hire them
Today there are almost 4,000 anthropology-related jobs listed on Indeed, CareerBuilder, Monster.com and ZipRecruiter. Clearly, there are a lot of businesses looking for anthropologists. In fact, plenty of America's biggest companies have them already: Ford Motors, Intel, Microsoft and Google. It's all about seeing with fresh eyes. And that's what anthropologists bring to the table—they help businesses see, feel, and think in new ways.
"What does an anthropologist do and what could you do for us?"
I was actually asked this by a group of CitiBank-ers at a cocktail party when I was working in the academic sector. My answer? Anthropology is all about change. Evolution, natural selection, cultures, tribes, language, ingrained habits...all of these make us who we are as humans, which is always changing. The snag is that people hate to change.
Whether it's helping an industrial designer discover a new way to build a product or encouraging a CEO to sit on his company's telephone lines and listen to the calls coming through, anthropologists help make those a-ha moments possible, which in turn bring about change, which is how businesses stay in business.
My 1st piece of advice for aspiring anthropologists: do your homework
What do you know about the companies that you hope to work for? How much time have you actually spent in the business world? During your college years, are you out there doing internships with businesses? You've got to start thinking about college as a training program, a time in your life when you can get valuable experience that hopefully will turn into a job after graduation (law students do this all the time, with great success).
My 2nd piece of advice: figure out what businesses need and how you can fulfill that need
What do businesses need from you as an observer, a researcher, someone who understands the meaning of things, the symbols? Every company has its own culture. By observing these as an undergraduate, you'll be a step ahead when you're ready to ask a company for a job because you will have learned how to "speak their language."
Now, a question for business people: What are your pain points?
At SAMC, we get hired as anthropologists who help companies change. Typically, businesses come to us when they're on the brink, which is the title of my book, "On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights," a compilation of seven case studies of companies that hired us to help them see, feel and think in new ways. They needed fresh eyes. They were stalled. They couldn't see how why their award-winning product wasn't selling. Our job was to become observers with them and take them out exploring to see what was really happening out in the field, not what they were imagining.
So businesses, I ask you: what are your challenges, your pain points? What can't you see going on all around you that could really help you do better? Anthropologists are waiting to help you. It could be by doing in-depth exploration, i.e., looking at your emails, looking at social media, listening to the words your customers are saying and the stories they're telling you. I bet an anthropologist on your staff could help you hear those customers in new ways, differently.
So what's an anthropology major to do?
These days, the big market is global industries, local industries, entrepreneurs—all of whom could use fresh eyes to see things in new ways and to help them grow, which is, in fact, the essence of what a business is all about. And so for you anthropologists who don't get why businesses don't understand you and what you have to offer, it's time you saw the world backward from the inside out, not from what you're doing "in."
And what do you have to offer? You're connecting your ability to observe with a company's need to solve a problem. So re-craft the story you're telling. And then go take a look at all those 4,000 anthropology jobs that are available and see which ones could make you valuable to them and excited about what you could bring to them.
That's what it's all about: what YOU can bring to THEM.
Hiring an anthropologist like you should turn into new business opportunities for the company that hired you, new ways for its employees doing business and new ways of its customers finding solutions. Get yourself into the mode of thinking that you are a business helping businesses grow, using anthropology as your framework. It's all there for the taking—good luck!
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