Early Career Archaeologists (ECA)

Maxime N. Brami (ECA Chairperson)

The Early Career Archaeologists Community (ECA) is a grassroots initiative of the European Association of Archaeologists (EAA), designed to hear, share, communicate, and act as advocates for the issues that affect early career archaeologists. We generally define ECAs as ‘professionals who have not yet held a position of responsibility or authority within their institution, often marked by tenure’ (ecarchaeologists.com), however we do not adhere too strictly to that definition, and we hold that, if you feel like an ECA, then you are one!

Initiated in 2020 by postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers as well as archaeologists working in the heritage and commercial sectors, the ECA has grown rapidly to become one of the largest communities sponsored by the EAA. Our guiding principle is that ECAs are professionals and should be treated accordingly, in line with the core values of the European Charter for Researchers. Education and training requirements may not be used, for instance, as a basis to disqualify ECAs from the right to publish or to have their contribution to science acknowledged.

In addition to running our own mentoring scheme (Preda-Bălănică, this issue), we organize career events such as the session ‘Becoming a published archaeologist’ at the EAA2022 Conference in Budapest (jointly hosted by European Journal of Archaeology). The useful links section on our website contains many career resources for those looking for jobs, fieldwork opportunities, events and conferences. We promote the work of our members through Spotlights on ECAs and publish interviews of tenured academics, with a view to making career paths more transparent for aspiring archaeologists.

The results of our 2021 international online survey of early career researchers in archaeology (419 respondents) are forthcoming (Brami et al. 2022). In short, we found that respondents were passionate about pursuing an academic career, but pessimistic about job and career prospects; 84.2% reported feeling stressed due to the lack of available career options . Over two thirds of respondents (68.0%) were female, highlighting the asymmetrical nature of the challenges faced. Workplace discrimination and bullying were recurrent topics in the over 180 open-ended comments received. A survey of ECAs in commercial and heritage sectors is currently under preparation.

The ECA Community is in the process of transitioning to an elected board. Three positions as ‘chairperson’ will be up for election in October 2022. The call for candidates remains open until 15 August, 2022. More information is available on our community page. The new elected board will be in charge of the overall strategy of the Community. Future actions under consideration include additional support mechanisms for early career archaeologists, such as one-day workshops on professionally-relevant topics (e.g. how to write grant applications) and fundraising events to draw attention to common problems experienced by ECAs, including, for example, professional recognition of ECAs in the commercial and heritage sectors.

EAA members can subscribe to the ECA Community by ticking the relevant box in their EAA membership profile. The ECA Community has an active social media presence and can be contacted via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Any enquiries should be sent to ecataskforce@outlook.com.


  • Brami et al (2022) Brami, M., Emra, S., Muller, A., Preda-Bălănică, B., Irvine, B., Milić, B., Malagó, A., Meheux, K., Fernández-Götz, M. A precarious future: Reflections from a survey of early career researchers in archaeology, manuscript submitted.

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Join the Mentoring Program of the Early Career Archaeologists Community!

Bianca Preda-Bălănică (University of Helsinki)

The Early Career Archaeologists (ECA) Community was founded in 2020 as a response to the challenges early career archaeologists face, such as growing employment precarity, imposed mobility, a lack of research freedom, independence and results ownership. Naturally, over the past two years, these professional restrictions have been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic . The initiators of the ECA Community strongly believe that support systems have to develop in tandem with the transformations taking place in the field of archaeology. For this reason, creating a mentoring program as an appropriate tool to address the above-mentioned challenges has been one of the aims of the community from its inception. Studies from other disciplines have shown that positive mentoring experiences can improve aspects of job-related well-being, self-esteem and self-efficacy even within relatively short periods of time (e.g. from six months to one year; Dutta et al, 2011, p. 7; Carmel and Paul, 2015).

What is mentoring?

A very simple definition of mentoring describes it as the act or process of helping and giving advice to a younger or less experienced colleague . In the Professional Charter for Coaching and Mentoring (2011, p. 4) mentoring is described as “a developmental process which may involve a transfer of skill or knowledge from a more experienced to a less experienced person through learning dialogue and role modelling, and may also be a learning partnership between peers”. Bozeman and Feeney (2007, p. 731) define mentoring as a process for the informal transmission of knowledge, social capital, and psychosocial support perceived by the recipient as relevant to work, career, or professional development; mentoring entails informal communication, usually face-to-face and during a sustained period of time, between a person who is perceived to have greater relevant knowledge, wisdom, or experience (the mentor) and a person who is perceived to have less (the protégé).

What are our aims?

The ECA Community’s mentoring program is designed as a support mechanism to help early career archaeologists navigate different aspects of the archaeological field, irrespective of mentees age, gender, ethnicity, sexual identity, socio-economic background and so on (Brown, 2018). Our aims are to contribute to levelling differences in support available to early career researchers, to create a safe environment in which people can seek guidance, support and feedback regarding professional development. Furthermore, we would like our mentees to gain a set of useful skills and knowledge to help them pursue longer-term career plans and be more prepared for the job market. In the end, our goal is to create a community based on empathy and intergenerational solidarity.

Who can get involved?

The program is available to postgraduate students (MA or PhD), postdoctoral and independent researchers who want to pursue a career in archaeology. The mentors that we identify tend to be at least one stage ahead in their careers. Thus, postdoctoral researchers are mentoring PhDs, full-time professors are mentoring postdoctoral researchers, and so on. Our program is based on volunteer action, therefore, mentors should be persons who are motivated and willing to engage in the mentoring process, supporting other researchers to build a career or sharing their own experience and insights into the academic world in general and archaeology in particular. Although planned as a tool to support early career researchers who enrol as mentees, mentoring also gives mentors the opportunity to stay connected to the current realities of the field, as well as to offer something back to the community. In addition, mentors also gain further experience and skills as part of continuous career development.

How does it work?

The matchmaking system, pairing mentees and mentors, takes its starting point in the needs and expectations of the mentees. Mentees are asked to fill out a standardized form which addresses issues such as the kind of support they expect from the mentor, what their research goals are, and the skills they feel they need to progress. The questions are formulated in such a way as to encourage respondents to use some keywords and criteria that can help us clearly identify their needs, such as high-profile publications, writing grant applications and obtaining funding, pursuing alternative career paths, or even just support and general mentoring. Another standard form is sent to the mentors to fill, in which they can present their area of expertise, knowledge and/or experience with relation to what they feel they could bring to the mentoring process. Participants are then presented with options based on needs and expectations on the mentees’ side and skills and research experience on the mentors’ side. We should mention here that both mentees and mentors have the possibility to accept or decline our suggestions, in which case we continue searching in order to come up with options that are more suitable. We trust that giving both mentees and mentors the agency to choose to work together enables them to be more engaged in the mentoring process.

Are there any other things you should know before starting?

Prior to the beginning of the mentoring process, both mentees and mentors have to acknowledge and commit to a code of conduct prepared by the ECA Community which is meant to set the foundations for a positive mentoring experience. In a nutshell, this code of conduct states that the relationship between mentees and mentors should be based on trust and open dialogue, and that participants should cultivate healthy interactions with their mentoring peers and also respect their privacy and personal boundaries. Both mentees and mentors are expected to maintain strict confidentiality on all information shared, both during and after the mentoring process, as well as to disclose to the ECA any issue encountered during the mentoring process or any potential conflict of interest whenever arising. Mentees are expected to be proactive, to take the initiative, and to clearly express what their needs and expectations are. Mentors are kindly asked to show empathy and understanding to their mentees, and be available for support and guidance.

The scope of the mentoring relationship is to be agreed between the mentors and the mentees. The goal of the program is to create transnational support networks for early career archaeologists and, for this reason, the pairs of mentors and mentees are often comprised of persons working in different countries. We encourage the participants to organise the practicalities of the mentoring process as it suits them best (how and when they keep in contact, be it via email exchange, online meetings or phone conversations, and meeting regularly or only when necessary, and so on).

Once the mentoring relationship has been established, the involvement of the ECA Community is limited, as we believe that a proactive approach on the part of both mentors and mentees is crucial for the success of the mentoring program. However, we do keep in touch with the participants on a regular basis, send surveys to monitor how the mentoring process is going and can be reached for support throughout the mentoring relationship in case it becomes necessary.

How to join?

The program has already been running for a year. Surprisingly, more mentors than mentees have enrolled. Therefore, we currently still have mentors that are waiting to offer their support and guidance to early career archaeologists.

If you want to join the mentoring program, either as a mentee or mentor, you can contact the ECA Community either by emailing us at ecataskforce@outlook.com, or by sending a message using the contact form on our community’s website (https://ecarchaeologists.com/contact/).

We welcome both mentees and mentors to join our efforts to create a better environment for early career archaeologists!


I would like to thank colleagues Maxime Brami, Jan Kolář and Laura Coltofean-Arizancu for their constant feedback and support in designing the mentoring program.


  • Bozeman, B., Feeney, M. (2007) Toward a Useful Theory of Mentoring. A conceptual Analysis and Critique, Administration & Society, volume 39, number 6, p. 719-739.
  • Brami et al (2022) Brami, M., Emra, S., Muller, A., Preda-Bălănică, B., Irvine, B., Milić, B., Malagó, A., Meheux, K., Fernández-Götz, M. A precarious future: Reflections from a survey of early career researchers in archaeology, manuscript submitted.
  • Brown, K.M. (2018) Gender, Race, and Mentorship: A Perspective from California Archaeology, California Archaeology, 10:2, 187-209, DOI:10.1080/1947461X.2018.1535814.
  • Carmel, R., Paul, M. (2015) Mentoring and coaching in academia: Reflections on a mentoring/coaching relationship, Policy Futures in Education, vol 13 (4), p. 479-491. Dutta et al. (2011)
  • Dutta, R., Hawkes, S. L., Kulpers, E., Guest, D., Fear, N. T., Iversen, A., One year outcomes of a mentoring scheme for female academics: a pilot study at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, BMC Medical Education, 2011, 11:13.

Sources that inspired our code of conduct

  • The Professional Charter for Coaching and Mentoring - https://www.eesc.europa.eu/resources/docs/142-private-act--2.pdf C
  • ode of Conduct. Mentoring Programme – MSF Mentoring & Coaching Hub - https://mentoring-coaching.msf.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/code-of-conduct-mentoring.pdf


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