Friday, February 8, 2013

Business Anthropology Jobs

Anthropology and Job Market (I am sorry for some displaying problems that I cannot solve)
Anthropologists are in the people business. Any occupation that requires understanding people, such as studying human behavior, assessing people’s opinions, beliefs, or needs, etc., can use anthropology graduates. The American Anthropological Association finds that anthropology graduates are well-qualified for modern government work and are increasingly recognized as valuable in the fields of management and international business. For a long time, anthropological skills have been sought in the health and social services fields. Anthropology provides the tools for understanding the multicultural, international, and global issues that are basic to our continued existence. [i]

            The job market for graduates with an anthropology major is based on the need  for research skills. However, as John Van Willigen indicates, the market is not well aware of the value of the skills anthropologists possess, creating a limited market for anthropology graduates. Moreover, although many opportunities exist, few are designed strictly for anthropologists. This circumstance is not limited to anthro­pology but is typical of many of the social sciences and humanities. [ii]
Most of the professional anthropological organizations have career guides on the web that describe how to become a professional anthropologist. They often include information about how to combine anthropology with other fields to improve your strengths in the job market.  The section of Careers in Anthropology in the website of the American Anthropological Association is a good general guide (see AAA website for detailed information).   Anthropologists at Work, prepared by the National Association for the Practice of Anthropology, (although needing updating),  answers your questions about how to use anthropology in the workplace  (see NAPA website for detailed information).  NAPA also has a video available for your reference.

As mentioned in other articles, the prevalence of applied anthropology has increased in recent decades, because of a shrinking academic job market, coupled with federal legislation requiring environmental impact studies and historical preservation, more professionally trained anthropologists are employed in nonacademic positions than in colleges and universities. Nonacademic jobs, employment opportunities for those with or without a Ph.D. are increasing. Today people with training in cultural anthropology are employed both in the public (government) and private (business) sectors of the economy.[iii]
            Possible roles for anthropologists in the non-academic fields include administrators, managers, consultants, project directors, community service coordinators, and program planners among others. Willis Sibley notes that approximately 50% of anthropologists with their Ph.D. degree find employment outside of academia. [iv]  We can assume that the great majority of anthropologists with master degrees and almost all anthropologists with bachelor degree will be employed in non-academic fields.  Some may become involved with private sector consulting (some ceasing to identify themselves as anthropologists, preferring new titles such as “management consultant”).  Private practice anthropology has thus grown as academic anthropology has either shrunk or remained stable.
Ferraro argues that a B.A. in cultural anthropology is a liberal arts degree that provides no professional certification.  An undergraduate degree, however, is a stepping stone to graduate school where the advanced training needed to become a business anthropologist can be acquired.[v]
The globalization of the world economy has brought anthropology and business together.  In recent decades, especially in North America, anthropology has become increasingly focused on  international concerns.  But as Gordon notes, the knowledge gained in researching international issues was not adequately introduced to business by advances in consulting theory and practice.  Management consultants have, from time to time been ill-equipped to deal with issues of internationalization and cultures outside the business itself.[vi]
The term anthropologist or cross-cultural expert is not a standard job classification. In recent decades, however, a number of jobs in both government and industry have developed that focus on certain cross-cultural issues and involve working with people from different cultural and sub-cultural backgrounds. As discussed, anthropological skills can be applied to a number of different professional areas. For example, anthropological skills and insights have helped architects design appropriate housing for sub-cultural groups, develop a highly successful reforestation program in Haiti, shed light on the public health aspects of the AIDS epidemic, and provide courts with culturally relevant information for the resolution of legal cases.[vii]
            The anthropologist seeking work must be ready to deal with employers who are unfamiliar with their unique abilities and may harbor prejudices against qualitative research methods.  Meeting these challenges may require educating the potential employer, and presenting actual skills and how they can be useful to an organization.[viii]
Ferraro stresses that anthropology graduates are better equipped in certain areas than  those graduating with other liberal arts degrees. First, anthropology graduates are well acquainted with cross-cultural differences and similarities, an area of expertise of particular importance in multicultural societies. This means that anthropology graduates have the ability to “size up” unfamiliar social and professional situations, appreciate the wide range of cultural behavior in the world, and learn how to behave toward people from other cultures with sensitivity, flexibility, and understanding. Second, training in anthropology provides interviewing skills, experience with survey research, observational sharpness, and a holistic perspective. Third, anthropology graduates should have other skills and assets that can be useful to potential employers, such as experience with statistical methods, computer skills, foreign language fluency, and communication abilities.  
Once students have a clear understanding of their skills, they are in a good position to tailor their resumes as particular job announcements are found, as all job seekers need to gain information about the organization offering the job as well as a clear appreciation of what why their skills are appropriate.[ix] 
Below are some examples of job advertising we collected from National Association for the practice of anthropology’ homepage ( that might be interesting to graduates of anthropology:

Senior Market Research Associate
The SMRA will design and manage agency and client research projects. Have knowledge of commonly used concepts as well as ability to keep abreast of new technologies and methodologies. Will gather and analyze primary and secondary data pertaining to current and potential clients and their business categories. Must be versed in qualitative and quantitative methodologies. It's pretty generic, but should help. I think one of the most important aspects is knowing the African American market (this person does not need to be African American - EOO).

User Experience Strategist, Atlanta, GA   The User Experience group within’s Product Management department is responsible for promoting a clear understanding of our customers and for identifying experiences that meet or exceed customer needs. They work closely with Product Management to help define the next generation of products and services that will appear on
The User Experience-Strategy team within User Experience is at the forefront of these efforts, developing a deep understanding of our customers through research and communicating it to product managers, user experience designers, and the product development team.
A User Experience Strategist conducts user research, analyses primary and secondary research, and communicates findings and recommendations to the organization. Personas, scenarios, documents, presentations and one-on-one conversations are used to communicate the value of customer needs throughout the organization. Competitive analyses and best practices are also used to communicate the current environment.
At, the User Experience Strategist:
• Designs and conducts user research studies
• Collaboratively analyzes the results of those studies to identify customer needs and business opportunities
• Works closely with our Product Management team to identify new product opportunities and influence the future direction of existing products
• Ensures that the voice of the customer is represented at all phases of product development
• Creates and maintains customer personas, scenarios and mental models
• Researches and documents both competitive assessments and best practices
• Clearly documents all research findings, customer profiles, and recommendations
• Communicates the value of customer needs to the organization
The ideal candidate:
• Has knowledge and experience with current user research methodologies
• Has thorough knowledge of best practices for information architecture, interaction design, usability, and web design (both e-commerce and informational)
• Has knowledge and hands-on experience with user interface evaluation techniques
• Has expertise in gathering, analyzing and synthesizing primary and secondary research
• Is well-versed in user centered design principles and processes
• Has experience in aligning customer needs with business objectives
• Has excellent oral, written, and presentation communication skills
• Can work collaboratively with cross-functional teams
• Four or more years experience in user experience and web-based products required
• Additional experience in anthropology or ethnographic research a plus
• College or university degree required in HCI, Cognitive Psychology, Anthropology, Design, or related field (advanced degrees preferred)
• Ability to travel up to 20%, created in 1997 and headquartered in Atlanta, GA, is the Internet's leading auto classifieds marketplace and consumer information website. delivers more than 3 million vehicle listings – updated daily - attracting more than 11 million unique visitors a month.

Location: Toronto       Basis: Contract
Idea Couture is seeking an anthropologist or other social scientist to join our qualitative research team in Toronto on a contract basis with an option leading to a full-time position. The successful candidate will have a real passion for fieldwork, the ability to identify and clearly communicate customer insights to internal teams and clients, and the nimbleness required to juggle academic theory, various research methods, and creative design thinking with business needs.
·         Designing, conducting & reporting on qualitative field studies
·         Translating field insights into future products, services & experiences
·         Participating in & contributing to internal & client ideation sessions
·         Collaborating with designers, strategists, technologists & others
·         Traveling the globe on a frequent basis
  • Advanced social science degree
  • Specialization in health, technology, social media or design
  • Proven experience conducting ethnographic research projects
  • A keen eye for observation
  • Experience conducting 1-on-1 and group interviews
  • Strong writing and editing skills
  • Scholarly or other publishing record
  • Strong understanding of and passion for 'digital culture'
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Office
  • Basic film editing software (ie. iMovie) skills an asset
  • User-centered design & research experience an asset
  • Previous applied/business experience an asset
  • Second language an asset
Commensurate with experience


Business Consulting Firms and Business Anthropologists
With an undergraduate degree in Anthropology one can find jobs in areas such as law, public health, social services, and cultural or natural resource management.  Graduate level study allows students to pursue more specialized careers in Anthropology, as well as to continue on to Ph.D. programs. This section focuses on business anthropologists in the private sector by providing an overview of a number of consulting firms in the field.   

1. Unity 4 Humanity, Inc: Unity 4 Humanity, Inc. (U4H) is a Saint James based business consulting firm in the state of New York.  Much of the firm’s research explores the culture and climate of the World Wide Web on a multitude of levels; topics such as international business failures, cross cultural universals, age/economic/education/demographic evaluations, and technology are explored. 
Unity 4 Humanity, Inc. claims that the firm has developed its own effective business anthropological procedures that can be customized and adapted as required.  Their business anthropological procedures are conducted in collaboration with non-anthropologists who are experts in specific fields or part of a corporation.  All business anthropological teams are customized and typically consist of one business anthropologist or a corporate executive with anthropological training, and four experts capable of assisting in complementary ways. (See U4H homepage for more information)

2. Trend Influence: Trend Influence is an Atlanta based marketing strategy firm that works with clients to help them develop sustainable sources of revenue.  Established in 2000, Trend Influence focuses on strategies involving branding.  Their team focuses on marketing and product innovation via a unique process that utilizes modular insight and strategy techniques. The firm addresses the union of consumer needs and cultural trends to identify opportunities.  They have helped global leaders like Levi Strauss & Co, Volkswagen and The Coca-Cola Company to create strategies for their internationally known brands and products.
The main consultants at the firm apply observational methods, emphasizing these skills as a competitive edge. Their team members have two common threads – they are experts in consumer understanding, market intelligence, and strategic planning. By applying anthropological methodologies Trend Influence is able to identify trends and their macro social drivers to help their clients understand opportunities. The knowledge gained often leads to innovating new products, brands or communications strategies.
The firm has hired professional ethnographers to conduct consumer research projects.  Ethnographers are intensively involved in the development and execution of the Trend Influence Insight service. The Ethnographer is responsible for making sure each project is designed with the most appropriate scope of insight and strategy tools to achieve the desired project outcome. This individual must understand non-traditional as well as traditional insight and strategy development tools, as well as provide actionable recommendations. (See Trend Influence homepage for more information)

3. Context-Based Research Group: Context-Based Research Group (CBRG) was established in 1999 by business anthropologist Robbie Blinkoff who has a Ph. D. degree in anthropology.  The firm combines the qualitative research skills of cultural anthropologists, the communications and business strategy of marketing experts to provide consulting services. 
Building upon cultural anthropology, Context ethnographers go into people’s homes, work environments, and so forth to conduct ethnographic research to gain strategic insights for its clients. The principal consultants are professionally trained in anthropology and context ethnography that allows clients to understand their customers in intimate ways.
Their ethnographic research includes a variety of methods and reporting options. Their clients include product design teams; Fortune 500 companies; large marketing and communications agencies; strategic consultants and research companies. In each case, they tailor ethnographic research to client needs to help them strategically develop stronger customer relationships. Below are some representative projects they have been involved with:

Consumer Insights   Context Consumer Insights provides a lens into consumer behavior based on their ethnographic research. When looking for a deep insight into the lives, attitudes and behaviors of customers, a Consumer Insight Deep Dive Study may provide useful information. These custom studies delve into the lives of consumers, targeting the specific areas of behavior and attitude that align with the organization’s needs.  The results of these studies come in many different forms, including consumer segmentations and detailed maps of consumer behaviors and attitudes.

Unmet Product Needs (Product Development):  The best new products are those that fill a particular void in people’s lives. Unfortunately, people often can’t articulate their needs, or do not even realize what they are. Context’s Unmet Needs Studies examine people’s behaviors in certain categories, looking for any gaps between what people have and what they need. Unmet Needs Studies typically collaborate with product design firms. Product designers accompany Context anthropologists and enter into people’s homes and workplaces, to help develop new product.  At the end of these studies, the consultants at Context work with the design firm to deliver an ethnographic model showing consumer needs and product concept sketches designed to meet those needs.

Segmentation Deep Dive   Segmenting customers is a critical first step in marketing efforts to identify core target markets. Context consultants conduct ethnographic studies to discover how market segment(s) impact how and why people actually behave the way they do.

Marketing & Communications Deep Dive   In order to create meaningful promotional campaigns, marketers must understand how their products and services fit into their customers’ lives and contribute to it.  Context ethnography seeks to capture unarticulated feelings around brands and what they represent to your customers. These studies provide clients with the information needed to accurately position their products in the marketplace and create messages that retain loyal customers and attract new market share by understanding how products fit into the lives of consumers.  The result of this type of study is a more holistic understanding of existing and potential target markets.

Product Testing   The best way to evaluate a new product is to study people using it in a real life situation. Context’s Product Testing seeks to develop an understanding of consumers and their behaviors. Consumers use the products being studied for an extended period of time, asking informants to keep a visual and written record of their use of the product.  Direct observations are made periodically.  The product of this research is detailed feedback about how people use and feel about the product, and recommendations for improvements, marketing, and even complementary products.

Big Picture/Visioneering   To plan for the future, business managers must evaluate the present. Context’s ethnographers observe customer’s current behaviors, looking for clues regarding unmet needs. This observation in combination with an in-depth interview or projective interviewing technique enables clients to make projections about how their product or service will resonate with consumers.

Ethnographic Panels   Context anthropologists meet with a select group of participants multiple times over an extended timeframe. Between meetings, the participants keep written accounts. Because these studies are conducted over a long period of time, the study objectives often evolve. Context researchers and the client work closely on these studies to monitor the findings, and to keep the research design relevant and up to date. The findings of these studies are delivered at periodic intervals, culminating in a final summary at the end of the study and in the future.

Customer Insight Trend Assessment   Businesses often need to gain insight into customers quickly and inexpensively. The Consumer Insight ETA can be completed in only a few weeks, is economical, and offers broad, vibrant insight into a specific group of people or into people’s feelings and behaviors around a certain subject. These studies result in a collection of photographic and interview evidence from the participant group, along with longer interview, observation reports and a summary. These studies are ideal for gathering information for new business pitches, or when conducting exploratory research that precedes a larger research project.

Industry Trendspotting   The Trendspotting ETA studies a particular industry or segment of the population to discover “what’s hot.” Context anthropologists conduct a combination of observation and interviewing around a subject with an eye towards what is new. The end result of these studies is a collection of photographs and quotations from the population studied, along with a list of trends that need to be monitored.

Organizational Development Studies    Understanding the employee experience is increasingly important, as organizations constantly evolve to keep up with the marketplace. Unfortunately, honest and candid feedback from employees is often hard to acquire. Organizational Development Studies use ethnography to uncover employees’ true behaviors, attitudes and emotions about the workplace. These studies vary greatly in focus from organization-wide to a small targeted group. The objectives range from very broad, to gauge how people feel, to very specific, focusing on a particular issue. The results vary depending on the scope of the study itself.

[i] See American Anthropological Association homepage for more information:

Please contact me for the rest reference notes.


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