Why Great Employees Are Also Great Archaeologists

Salesforce. Marketing automation. Certified public accountancy. Javascript. There are lots of skills these days that can look great on a job application. But there’s one skill that (while it won’t look good on a resume) will help you breeze through your first months at a company.

It’s a little something I call “business archaeology”.

Business archaeology is really simple as a concept, but it addresses a key need for both new employees and companies (old and new). Most companies have tons of history and tons of half-finished projects, old documents, and all kinds of useful assets that might be gathering dust for any number of reasons. And it just about takes a trained archaeologist to find and decipher it all.

If you’re a new employee, you need to get onboarded to your new job somehow. And whether you’re at a new company or a very large one, the odds are that the insight you’ll get from any kind of process will be limited.

Fortunately, many companies today share files liberally through services like Google Drive. With a little pluck, determination, and translation skill, you can get tons of context on your business and your own area of work in a fairly short amount of time, seeing what’s been done before, what has worked, what hasn’t, etc.*

Beyond that, you can provide a lot of value to your company if you can bring context to the table.

Maybe you can dig up things that will be useful again. That slide deck that Bob created 3 years ago is a damn good design template. Maybe you could repurpose it for the quarterly team review with the executives.

You can prevent duplication of work. Being able to know when some work has already been done (and might just need a little spit and polish) could save your team a lot of time. Maybe former employee Roger’s long-forgotten company brochure template has been gathering dust and could save Marsha a few days of new design effort.

Finally, you can quickly become something like the librarian of your team. If someone wants to know where something is and how to get it, you’ll know. And you’ll be able to make early efforts to make useful content and tools more easily findable for everyone else.

It may not be a glamorous job. It won’t involve anything Indiana Jones-esque (though you may awaken some ancient curses if you’re not careful).But it’s useful – for you and for your company. So take some time to dig into the past as you create your future at a new company.

*Key thing is to not try to get access to things you *shouldn’t* have access to. Obviously observe ethical sense and common sense when doing business archaeology. Be an Indiana Jones, not a Grail-hunting Nazi.


James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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