May 27, 2013

Reflections from the Post-Grad Job Hunt!

It’s been a year since I graduated and I know many architecture students have reached the day that kinda diminishes the intensity of late nights, all-nighters, among the other stressors you would normally expect as a student of architecture.  The job hunt after graduation is probably one of the most stressful experiences I have had and if it was not for my experiences of falling behind as a student I do not believe I would have been able cope as resiliently as I did. If failure did anything, it was an exercise and training in persistence. As a recurring theme in my blogs, true passion and persistence is a necessary trait in a highly competitive, extremely demanding and poor low-wage field like architecture.

I am also thinking about my recent post on Talentegg earlier this month and I think about the things that I went through this year before ending my job search. To fellow architecture graduates of today and of the past, as well as those students that did not perform as great, here are some things to realize as you enter out of the womb of academia and look for work:
Your grades do not matter
Do not take this to the extreme, but my grades did not reflect my capabilities as a designer or team player for a firm.  Those GPA’s did not determine who gets an interviewed and hired. I have seen some students with low grades that were able to get jobs right after graduation.  It’s about how well you are able to insert yourself into a design team and run. Joblessness and unemployment does not discriminate talent, and most especially grades. 

Your professors won't always be there 
It’s great if you were able to have a professor for a job reference or work in their office. That’s what makes architecture school different from other programs offered in college – it’s a close knit community. Realize after graduation that it will be harder to get some time for advice on your portfolio work. Honestly, I had to figure out my portfolio and job references on my own (if you recall from my last post - out of the 4 professors I emailed I managed to get a response from 3 and eventually was able to meet with 1 in person after graduation). As an underdog architecture student, I wanted to show my readers that school does not have to define your career after convocation. I had the chance to stand on my own, but I opted to stick to my employers from my previous drafting and architecture work and i think that speaks volumes of one’s willingness to not let your setbacks define you after college. 

You determine how long and when you want to search for work. 
I have attended workshops from my school and consulted with career counsellors to check out my steps as I began to look for work. Those were helpful and I learned a lot of valuable things ranging from cover letter, resume writing, LinkedIn profiles and cold calling. But most importantly, I had to get my butt in gear to work my portfolio – don’t delay! start right now! 

Email versus hand-in printed applications. 
I trekked through cold and rain and snow from print shop to firms! I spent hundreds on printing sample applications and yielded no results from those firms. Now, for some of my friends, the in-person job application landed their job and for me and many of my friends it was by an unsolicited email with our cover letter, resume, and design work attached.  I don’t regret the mistake; it taught me that even if you spend lots of money with applications, it does not mean that you will get the interview, let alone a job. Even expensive portfolios stay on file to dust. Talent, capability, and if you can work well that firm is what is being looked at. 

Firm-specific applications yield better results some responses (good...and mostly bad).  
It’s a grunt work to research specifically about each firm you are interested in but it is worth it in the end. A friend and I took two different approaches and principles to the job hunt. One was just getting the foot in the door – crank out the applications en masse and work. My approach was from those career workshops I got from school: cater your application specifically to each firm and that means dedicating the time to research, find out who to write your cover letter to, and choosing the right sample work to show that you can do the work they do.  When you compare apples to apples, I found that I was getting more emails in comparison to the amount from using a uniform cover letter (sorry we’re not hiring but thank you for your interest) even if it was more rejections, I was happy to know that my email was actually opened, considered and stirred a reaction whether a rejection or interview. 

The rules of other industries for job hunting do not necessarily work in Architecture. 
I remember some of the tips and advice I had from career workshops in school. Though very helpful, there are so many different things you have to consider. Some firms love cold calling and in-person applications and a lot of firms will blacklist you if you do so. It is why ignored a reason from a career counsellor to look at job hunting sites and calling past the receptionist (he did not have an understanding of how busy architects were). Having a stellar LinkedIn profile does not mean employers have the time to search for you. I have yet to find out a friend who has found work through merely boasting themselves with a Linkedin profile. Linkedin is good for networking, but if you just focus on that in your job hunt, you've done only 5% of the job hunt. 

Stop the moaning and desperation and do something about it. 
I have talked to many recent graduates. At the end of the day we’re rookies and the ball is in the court of the employer. I have seen some horrible behaviour of grads in front of employers criticizing the tough job market, the lack of stewardship in the profession, and the lack of jobs, or blatantly showing a state of desperation and asking for work. It’s inevitable that our generation will face some of the most craptacular job market conditions, but ultimately you have to be willing to persist to get where you want to be. I could have signed up to become a retail or fast food worker after graduation, and I could have easily used my family connections to go to work in non-design fields to draft. I decided to move back home and focus on my portfolio. I stuck it out knowing that I wanted this realizing I stood through 6 years of architecture school to not settle for anything short.  Stop mopping around and unleash the inner fighter in you to get to your destination. 

It’s a bit of luck and timing 
My employer was telling me this. Firms will be looking for people to hire any time. You just got to keep updated and alert for when a job opening pops up, and be constantly applying to firms at the same time. Some of the places that I have applied to were my second time applying to them.  So realize that you will find your job – it’s a little bit of luck, a little bit of timing, and a lot of effort to crank out the job applications to the firms you like. Hence, always be ready to have a base-portfolio while you are applying for work to be ready to get to an interview the second an employer calls.
Portfolios: Some advice from a recent grad (Part I)
Move Forward: Tips on the (Architecture) Job Hunt
Post-Grad Phase: Keep Busy & Persist!

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