Times are tough, part 1

I’ve been without full-time employment for almost a year. I had a few freelance and commissioned projects to keep me occupied during that time, which was good but I wanted to return to full-time work.

The job hunt was exhausting and discouraging. Even though there were opportunities listed in the classifieds, there were few call backs. The lack of response after I had submitted my resume was discouraging especially when the position I applied for was re-listed weeks later.

It is an employer’s market. The search for the right candidate has to not only be experienced with specific project types but they must be proficient with many computer software skills especially as it pertains to 3D modeling and BIM. Employers were also seeking candidates who did not require assistance or training.

I went on a few interviews that did not result in job offers. One interview turned out to be a freelance position with the possibility to become full-time even though the position was advertised as a full-time position. When I asked, he did not give me a duration of when the position would be offered as FT. Instead, the architect told me it would be a quick decision because it was about how people got on with each other. That made no sense to me and I had a feeling the architect was not being honest about the employment situation. The architect who i interviewed with explained he had joined the architectural practice (I was interviewing at), and was bringing in retail projects. There was a potential project that was coming in that he needed help with. What appealed to me about this position was the opportunity to work on diverse projects, which included new construction.

My last unsuccessful interview took place in the summer. The position was for a project architect that was experienced in hospitality, retail, and residential – particularly in new construction. The architect who I interviewed with seemed pleasant and sincere but the conversation that took place was discouraging. In fact, it was discouraging from the start when he sent me an email to set up an interview four months after i originally submitted my resume.

The architect explained why he was hiring and his expectations. He had relieved his project architect who he had hired three months ago. The architect claimed it wad a mutual agreement. He further explained the project architect could not handle the demands and stress of the job.

I was still interested in the opportunity after he explained the position and his expectations, and despite the conversation having turned into putting doubts in my head about what I wanted to pursue with my architectural career. I had vented about this on Twitter, and I appreciated those who paid attention and share their thoughts.

Two things annoyed me about that particular interview. I did not appreciate the architect making assumptions about my architectural career. Or rather, he did not appreciate some of my project accomplishments and career decisions. And although we discussed my professional history, and explained I wasn’t where I wanted to be career wise because of circumstances that were not in my control – canceled projects.

I also did not appreciate how he handled our conversation when it turned to salary requirements. I am aware that we are in an economic slump and the value of money is not the same. He even explained that clients are not paying architectural fees for the same services provided a few years ago. Fees are getting smaller but the amount of work is the same and it needed to be done in less billable time. I was prepared to take a salary reduction if the right opportunity came along. And although this architect had informed me he could not pay my salary request, he was not prepared with a figure of what he would be able to offer. It made me wonder if he had any intentions of offering me the position.

These are difficult times, and it doesn’t seem to be getting better any time soon. Just recently, a friend who is an engineer was made redundant. It’s not a good sign that people continue getting laid off let alone not being able to find employment in this terrible economy. Many recent grads are also having trouble finding work, too. In this market, we are over saturated with architects of various experiences.

It seems landing a job has more to do with chance, luck, and skill – in that order. You have to imagine that employers who list a position to fill are inundated with resumes in their emails. They have to print them and read through them. Sometimes they don’t even bother. When they do single out the few to interview, it’s because something in the resume caught their attention.

I was fortunate enough to have grabbed an architect’s attention.

…to be continued…

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5 thoughts on “Times are tough, part 1

  1. I can completely understand your situation. I spent 13 months on the job hunt with a few contract jobs in between. Similarly, I had several interviews that for one reason or another didn’t pan out. (Timing was off, Discrepancies between job as advertised and job as it was in reality, low-ball offers, etc.). I think the process really opened my eyes to just how many people make excuses for low pay and long hours, which is part of the reason we have problems in the profession. I found the most disturbing trend to be the idea that a down economy translates to unfair wages. I was offered a salary position with a firm I was excited about, but the owner decided to ‘check around with his colleagues’ to see what my experience range was fetching (salary-wise) – a sure sign that he was only going to offer what other people were comfortable paying regardless of my personal qualifications or his ability to pay. He came back with an offer so low, it was insulting. It was 25% lower than what I was making straight out of school, and didn’t account for almost 4 years of added experience. Thankfully I had another offer (which actually met my salary expectations, pays annual bonuses and raises, and is a great place to work). It was obvious that the first offer was meant to take advantage of me. I hope you have the luxury of turning down offers that seek to exploit, and wish you the best.

    • Thanks Brinn for your comment. I understand that clients may not be willing to pay architectural fees as previously before we ended up in this economic mess but architects need to take a stand that things cost $$$. Our economy has gone done but it doesn’t mean things have gotten cheaper. People seem to have failed to realize this fact!

      What also annoyed me about one of the interviews was that the architect seemed bothered that I was doing freelance work and asked if I could terminate my work obligation. The was the architect who claimed he couldn’t meet my salary. I explained I would fulfill my freelance work after business hours. He was not satisfied that I was not willing to abandon my freelance responsibilities. This suggested that I would be working long hours.

      Don’t get me wrong, I have and will put in the time if necessary but if it’s part of the work culture; no thanks.

  2. I’m hoping things swing in a positive direction for you quite soon! It sounds like you’ve been doing everything possible to keep going after open positions. Good luck and keep up the hard work of searching for the scant few openings.

  3. I come from Australia and can honestly say ther situation is no better here unless you can somehow get an entry into the mining sector, as the pay is better and you are treated better, perhaps designing mining villages or becoming a project manager. There are so many Architects here that we are just undervalued and taken advantage of, some companies are great but they do not have the work or the money, some larger firms have some work but will expect blood and you may have to put up with managers with little man management ability.

    The whole Architectural community is undergoing huge changes which may mean you gravitate to other areas that can use and value your skills. We have to keep positive and not give up as “it is what it is” and we will not be allowed to change things, we can only change our attitudes and try to make the best of a bad situation.

  4. Canadian situation not much better – the problem at the ase however is Architects themselves, we constantly under bid each other in order to win contracts even if we know the reality is that we will struggle, with the slim hope of reocccuring business, often exploiting individuals who are multi skilled. We also do not help each other by accepting such low wages, and we do because we think we have to, because the “employer architects” will convince you that you do not know anything, that you will cost them plenty of money and that you will only become valuable after years of experience, meanwhile they don’t even know how to combine documents in Adobe professional… They do it because they can, and we constantly accept it for the sake of experience. Certain tasks demand higher salaries, but they will only look at how long you have been in the business and ensure to pay you as low as can be. They will also tell you not to disclose how much you make, this is only to their advantage, because informed employees have more power. They do not want you to have the knowledge to use other individuals as comparatives. They will also give you the wonderful “with large salaries comes high expectations…” this is my favorite, because the truth is they still have high expectations with low salaries… The worse pat is that you will be told while you are in school to expect and accept low wages – the brainwashing starts early…and we buy into it, because “we have no experience” yet have far more tool knowledges that are often self taught – school does not necessarily teach you all the tools, they certainly do not have any Office project tutorials, or classes where a project is solely designed based on budgets, construction management experience, full coordination of engineering drawings with the design intent (engineers get paid far more, but we still have to correct them and often tell them their calcs are wrong, there is not enough air here).

    We are our worse enemies here.

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