I'm back at school to develop a second career. Anthropology appeals to me and I'd like to ask some actual anthropologists about their career and the current arc of their industry.

Are you happy as an anthropologist?
Is your job boring?
Do you travel as much as you hoped?
Are you learning what you hoped to learn at the outset of your career?
What's a day like?
Do you make adequate money?
What skills do you wish you had developed more as an undergrad?
Is the industry friendly to second career graduates, people starting out at middle age?

For those of you who choose to respond, your answers and the generosity of your time is most appreciated.

Warm Regards;

G

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Good questions, Christopher. Someone once told me that marriage is like flies on a window: all those on the inside are trying to get out and those on the outside to get in. So the answers you get will depend on where people are in their career. I would say it was a poor time to launch an academic career in anthropology, but ways of teaching and using anthropology outside the universities are opening up. Are you looking for a structure to adapt to or to equip yourself with the means of making a good life for yourself? Having made my academic career already, I tend to celebrate the latter possibility which I think is only beginning. In any case, an academic career hinges on a PhD which is a hard and lonely path carrying no guarantee of a job at the end of it. So you had better enter it because you love it for its own sake, to research and write at length about a topic you really care about. The great thing about anthropology is that you can do anything you like and call it anthropology. As for entering the profession in middle age, I am all in favour of starting again, having had 4 or 5 lives myself. But it is likely that you will be anxious to get quick results and that may push you in the wrong direction, towards bureaucratic conformity and away from discovering what anthropology has to offer to the free thinker.
Keith

u said

''The great thing about anthropology is that you can do anything you like and call it anthropology. ''

This can be really one of the best and of course 100% unorthodox definition of anthropology. Are there any limits to that ? I HOPE NO but in the same time I AM AFRAID YES. Anyway the road lewading to the top is hard and difficult. So, the only consolation is to define what this TOP could be. As about my personal opinion this top target of anthropology cannot be anything else as the DISCOVERY OR COMPREHENSION OF THIS HUMAN BEING CALLED SELF but in the social environment of others. An isolated anthropologist ( solitary after the discussion that is going on in OAC).can be transformed to a Saint or to a Hero. After all as the OAC tries to show , we are nothing more than a COOPERATIVE.
You are unlikely to make yourself rich, and 'adequate money' is rather a how long is a piece of string type question... The most significant advantage of anthropology is that it involves a concerted attempt to take other people's ideas, standpoints and practices seriously: though that certainly shouldn't equate with being very serious or pompous yourself, rather the reverse. Anthropology is the empirical study of other people's philosophies as these take concrete shape. Since people are always changing their minds, this is endlessly engaging. Hence I can't see a much better use of one's time - though the tendency toward paranoia and being cruel to children and animals has been discussed on the other channel, as Nikos Gousgounis points out...
Thank you for your reply, Mr. Hart. My interests are in applied anthropology, not academia. Specifically, I'm interested in anthropology as a foundation for a second career as a journalist. I'm definitely not looking at Anthropology as a path for self-improvement except as it pertains to gaining meaningful employment.

I see that there are definitely jobs in the private sector and I've read about different ways anthropologists are working with businesses and design companies. I'm interested in stories and storytelling and how they are changing because of platforms like this, Facebook, Twitter, and all the tools emerging from handheld tech--specifically, how this changes our definition of things like "now" and "here" and "local". Anthropology seemed like a great fit for putting me into a position to learn how to back up my curiosity with research.

Keith Hart said:
Good questions, Christopher. Someone once told me that marriage is like flies on a window: all those on the inside are trying to get out and those on the outside to get in. So the answers you get will depend on where people are in their career. I would say it was a poor time to launch an academic career in anthropology, but ways of teaching and using anthropology outside the universities are opening up. Are you looking for a structure to adapt to or to equip yourself with the means of making a good life for yourself? Having made my academic career already, I tend to celebrate the latter possibility which I think is only beginning. In any case, an academic career hinges on a PhD which is a hard and lonely path carrying no guarantee of a job at the end of it. So you had better enter it because you love it for its own sake, to research and write at length about a topic you really care about. The great thing about anthropology is that you can do anything you like and call it anthropology. As for entering the profession in middle age, I am all in favour of starting again, having had 4 or 5 lives myself. But it is likely that you will be anxious to get quick results and that may push you in the wrong direction, towards bureaucratic conformity and away from discovering what anthropology has to offer to the free thinker.
Christopher Garlington said:
Thank you for your reply, Mr. Hart. My interests are in applied anthropology, not academia. Specifically, I'm interested in anthropology as a foundation for a second career as a journalist. I'm definitely not looking at Anthropology as a path for self-improvement except as it pertains to gaining meaningful employment.

Knowing both journalists and anthropologists, I would say that the biggest difference between them is that the journalist is constantly under pressure to get the story and meet a deadline. The anthropologist needs time to acquire the rich experience of other lives required to produce thick descriptions. Thus it is that, when journalists feel ready to write big books, they take time away from their day jobs, to step back and reflect on all those deadline stories they have written or explore a new topic in depth. To my mind, a superb example is Edge City: Life on the New Frontier by Joel Garreau. Garreau is a journalist; but if he wanted to call himself an anthropologist, I'd say welcome to the club.
Ah, now it is clearer what your specific interest is. I agree with you that the way stories and the construction of the here and now are affected by Web 2.0 technologies is a suitable subject for anthropological research and an interest that would prepare you for a second career in business, journalism etc. You never know, you might find the topic so riveting and in academic demand that you would choose to stick with the research. Some assorted comments.

In retrospect, I feel I have led a double life, reserving Analysis for my professional career and Story for my private passion for movies, plays and novels. Their synthesis in some sort of intellectual practice now seems highly desirable to me. Moreover, the division itself comes mainly from the articifical boundaries of 20th century universities.

I have mentioned elsewhere on this site the example of Gillian Tett, an anthropologist who works for the Financial Times and has written a brilliant account of the credit derivatives industry that brought about our collective ruin, Fools Gold. If you google her, you find in several places that she reflects on how her anthropological training helped her to see what others couldn't or wouldn't.

I have a video of a recent lecture, An engaged anthropology for the 21st century, which around halfway addresses the core of what I think interests you.

Have you got anywhere in the search for suitable places to pursue your interest?
G,
Given what you say, it may well be that you should pursue your anthropological interests in a discipline which is less vocational and more directly oriented to gainful employment. Many schools of management and/or business studies have a strong interest in ethnography as a method. They are generally better equipped intellectually to show how this method can be turned into economic capital. So - this is just a suggestion - it may be a good idea to seek out management schools that favour this approach and which have an appreciable record of finding jobs for their students.
Many schools of management and/or business studies have a strong interest in ethnography as a method.

It may be worth considering, however, why ethnography has become a hot topic in business. Anthropologist turned marketing professor John Sherry remarked a decade or so ago that the conventional social-psychological paradigm for market research was no longer delivering fresh ideas. Businesses that are interested in hiring anthropologists are looking for new angles. If this assumption is valid, it is far from obvious that ethnography as taught in business schools will do the trick. Most of what is taught in business schools is stuff that people have done before, and, here I can bear personal witness, no one makes big bucks for trotting out an old idea when what the boss is looking for is creativity.

A famous marketing anecdote (possibly urban legend) is relevant here.

"There once was a company that made the world's best drill bits. They were driven out of business by a company that makes lasers. What the customers wanted wasn't drill bits. What the customers wanted was holes."
Well it rather depends which of the values predominates for CG. In response to NG who said that anthropology involves finding out about one's self, and HW who said that it involves taking other people's ideas seriously, G answered that "I'm definitely not looking at Anthropology as a path for self-improvement except as it pertains to gaining meaningful employment". Hence my suggestion of the business school (or similar) as the best way to fulfill the idea of anthropology as a means to employment: providing he finds the school that has the biggest pull for employers, that is.
Mr. Wadle, Mr. Hart, Mr. McCreery;

I'm a Junior at NEIU in Chicago. My interest in Anthropology is as a background for journalism that would provide me with a deeper understanding of how to examine a community, a people, or a family--even an individual--with greater understanding. A broader understanding.

I think your discussions are wonderful and helpful, but I was wondering if any of you might consider answering the questions of my original inquiry?

Are you happy as an anthropologist?
Is your job boring?
Do you travel as much as you hoped?
Are you learning what you hoped to learn at the outset of your career?
What's a day like?
Do you make adequate money?
What skills do you wish you had developed more as an undergrad?
Is the industry friendly to second career graduates, people starting out at middle age?

Mucho;

G
Christopher Garlington said:
Mr. Wadle, Mr. Hart, Mr. McCreery
Q: Are you happy as an anthropologist?
A: Yes, but it's not the way I make my living.

Q: Is your job boring?
A: No. As a translator and copywriter, I learn a lot of interesting stuff and interact with interesting people.

Q: Do you travel as much as you hoped?
A: Yes. I live in Japan and have traveled a fair amount in Europe and East Asia. Just came back from a trip to Taiwan.

Q: Are you learning what you hoped to learn at the outset of your career?
A: I never imagined that I would live in Japan and work for over a decade for a Japanese advertising agency. There is always new stuff to learn, and anthropological training has made me pretty good at finding connections that other people haven't noticed. Very important that, if what you are trying to sell is understanding or creativity.

Q: What's a day like?
A: Varies. Just now business is slow, so I'm spending more time than I'd like piddling around. It's good to have time for my own research; but I miss the pressure and worry about the future.

Q: Do you make adequate money?
A: My first job in Japan, working for a small corporate communications company, paid twice what I was making as an assistant professor in the States. But that was the start of the 1980s, when Japan's economy was accelerating into the late 80s bubble. Things are not quite as good today; but unless it's a very bad year, the company my partner and I own and run will earn enough to support a comfortable life.

Q: What skills do you wish you had developed more as an undergrad?
A: I wish that I'd done some accounting and learned more in a practical way about statistical analysis. I feel like I'm playing catch up learning some of the basic languages of the modern economy and scientific method.

Q: Is the industry friendly to second career graduates, people starting out at middle age?
A: I couldn't say. Been doing the small business thing for nearly 13 years. My sense is that owning a small business with a network of happy customers now offers greater stability than any corporate gig where you'll always be worried about the pink slip. From what friends tell me, the advertising job market is really bad just now. A senior Japanese executive put it this way: "Think of the economy as a dog. Our business is a flea on the dog's tail. When the dog is happy, the tail goes way up. When the dog is unhappy, the tail goes way down." I'd say the critical question to ask about any potential employer is not a generic "Will they hire me?" but a pinpoint focused "What do they need?" and "How can I give it to them?"


For other, more useful advice, check out Seth Godin's blog.
Well you have us all bang to rights - we have not answered your questions, or at least not all of them:
Are you happy as an anthropologist?
Yes - for reasons above
Is your job boring?
All jobs are boring
Do you travel as much as you hoped?
not necessarily in the way I might have hoped
Are you learning what you hoped to learn at the outset of your career?
Yes
What's a day like?
Teaching, administration, research in some or other mix
Do you make adequate money?
Answered this one
What skills do you wish you had developed more as an undergrad?
A number of witty answers come to mind but nothing very helpful
Is the industry friendly to second career graduates, people starting out at middle age?
Anthropology is not an industry as per discussion, it is a way of approaching intellectual problems; but yes on the whole it is friendly to people starting later in life. In fact many famous anthropologists, Mary Douglas, Meyer Fortes and company started from somewhere else and relatively late in life.

Mucho;

G

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