I have a degree in Anthropology and a certification in Applied Business Anthropology (or just “business anthropology”), and I work for an internet marketing small business. Contrary to popular belief, anthropologists aren’t confined to dark museum corners or research labs. Business Anthropologists can and are working in a variety of fields, under a variety of position titles. The breadth of anthropology provides anthropologists with a variety of rare and desired skills, equipping them for the business world.
Let’s just get a few things out in the open so we’re both on the same page:
Anthropologist ARE NOT:
- Indiana Jones. He would be an Archaeologist/ historian at best. Archeology is not that glamourous and he breaks a lot of the rules.
- Dinosaur crazy, that’s Paleontology. Think Ross from Friends.
- People that live in the jungle or the woods and “go native”. While it’s been known to happen, anthropologists can work in a variety of settings from medical organizations, schools, law enforcement…the options are endless!
What is Applied (Business) Anthropology?
Anthropology is, “the study of humans, past and present”, and I would argue for future as well. Applied Anthropologists, “work to solve real world problems by using anthropological methods and ideas”.
Let me give you an example:
Let’s say Ford isn’t producing the amount of cars per day they want to. You, as a Business Anthropologist (though that might not be your official job title) meet with the board, maybe a few higher ups and the CEO, to figure out what their goals are and what they want to accomplish. But, you need to get the full picture so you can create and implement a solution. So, you’re next step is to talk to the employees and someone who can give you information about the workflow. You may find an important issue that the head management is unaware of. Your position allows you to be the arbitrator between the two groups and work on a solution that benefits everyone involved. Then you make sure everyone is educated and empowered on how to use and implement the new system you’ve created going forward.
Applied Anthropology is basically a fancy way of saying “problem solver with a degree”.
Desired Skills Set
Anthropologists are researchers by definition. I was that student that was excited to write those 30 page research papers. When you’re building your small business and trying to expand, you need a dedicated staff who are willing to dig deep into any obstacles and find solutions, or better yet, prevent the problem from occurring in the first place!
The only way you can do that is through in-depth research. Applied Anthropologists conduct research, crunch the numbers, and present it in an easy digestible manner. Quality research is how a small business gets to know their customers and their target audience, learn how to expand in their market and compete, and institute long term success plans.
And, you can’t have quality research without good writing. One of my main jobs is to write, edit, and publish useful content for my small business’ customers to access and read.
If your website has poor content and searchers aren’t able to find your website, you’re wasting money and losing money at the same time. Expert content is how you’ll be able to convert web searchers into leads for your small business. Good content and it’s active use equals business growth.
Comprehensive perspectives are another unique skill set of anthropologists. Since my first anthropology class, I was trained to look at a situation from several different points of view to better understand the event, it’s significance in the larger scheme, and how it affects everything else in the system. This is an extremely important skills to have in someone who’s part of your team, especially for small businesses.
Small businesses fight to stay relevant every. single. day. Having someone on staff who can help manage problems, plan for the long term, and have the ability to analyze a business deal, a redesign, or a new campaign from several different points of view will end up saving the small business valuable time and money in the long run.
The Value They Add
One of the aspects of anthropology I love the most is it’s openness. You can really do anything with an anthropology degree, or learn to do anything because you’re trained in research and writing.
I didn’t think I would be working in internet marketing when I graduated, but here I am. What I’m getting at is adaptability and versatility.
Anthropology is one of the only degrees you can have that is designed with change in mind. And in our tech driven world and job market where everything is updated, changed, and transformed frequently, anthropologists can embrace those changes easily. Having a steady and capable employee that possess that ability will help keep your small business relevant and strong.
Anthropologists can be leaders in learning and implementing new technologies and systems for your small business to other employees, and they can master changes in their careers and jobs that your industry brings.
Anthropologists also help to bring people together. If you’re looking to expand your company, your target audience, or your market, anthropologists have the tools to help you accomplish that. Applied Anthropologists can find new areas where your small business could succeed and where a need exists in a community. They can then go a step further and help you reach into that market and community to effectively target that new audience.
Don’t be afraid to hire an employee just because their degree title doesn’t specifically match your industry. Business anthropologists make some of the best employees because of the ambiguity of their degree.
Applied Business Anthropologists have valuable skills and knowledge to better your small business through research, writing, and analysis. They’re on-staff problem solvers that have the ability to search out specifics and see how they affect the whole. Hiring an anthropologist for your small business may be the best decision you’ll ever make!
Terrific piece, Olivia! It’s clear and useful. I learned a lot. Writing skills are important in many jobs, and those, in addition to training in research and presentation, are certainly crucial in yours.