The future is bright

Some of you may know I’ve been unsatisfied with my current job, and I’ve been seeking an opportunity where I’d be challenged, and my experience and skills as a project architect/PM lite would be utilized to its full capacity. The ideal position I was seeking is long term with growth, structured, and supportive of my professional endeavors.

18 months later, I am happy to report that I am resigning and joining a reputable architecture practice. They specialize in high-end residences. Their work is quality and of high standards. The finished projects are beautiful. They have a great attitude towards compensating and rewarding employees for their hard work and contributions. I am ecstatic to be part of their team!

Upon receiving the job offer, my whole being lit up. I felt the heavy shackles break and drop to the rotting wood floor. I was freed! The dark cloud that has been hovering over me for the last 18 months dissipated like the sun appearing after a storm. In fact, I think the afternoon sun was shining over the building across from our office and into my corner when I read the good news. I could see the path to my future again, and it is bright!

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Things to take with you when you exit…

Here is a lesson that I learned and I want to share. As I mentioned in my previous post I had resigned from the now 9 person firm about a month ago. In some firms there is a thing that you are asked to do before you leave, which is the “exit interview“. This request usually occurs in larger and/or corporate firms, especially firms that have a human resource staff or department. At these exit interviews, office issues are discussed and are usually kept confidential. The information obtained from the exit interview are used to improve the work environment and staff productivity. The exit interview is also an opportunity to discuss how benefits are handled such as healthcare, retirement plans, and any vacation or sick days that have accrued and have not been used.

The previous firm was small and thus there wasn’t a human resource staff member to conduct the exit interview and handle employee benefits.

By law, your former employer must offer you the option to continue with the health care benefits as offered by your former employer whether you decided to resign or if they terminated your employment. Should you decide to accept the continued health care, this is called COBRA.

I wasn’t worried about the health care benefits as it was going to be taken care of at the next firm. As part of my negotiations with the new firm, I asked for health coverage upon starting as opposed to waiting the standard 3 months.

Most health care benefits kick in three months after you get hired which to me doesn’t make sense especially in the field of architecture and construction when at any given moment, you can get hurt at a job site.

I was interested in the vacation days I had accrued since the beginning of 2008. I hadn’t taken any time off since the start of the year. As far as I am concerned, I am owed 5 vacation days.

I didn’t have an exit interview after I announced that I was resigning, and perhaps I should have requested it in retrospect because when I got my final paycheck, they did not include a check with my vacation days. I was a bit annoyed. I inquired about it with one of the partners and he said that he’d get back to me about it. I waited a couple of days and when I didn’t hear from him, I sent an email to inquire. He said that they would pay me but didn’t say when. I left it alone with the hope that they will issue a check in a week. A week went by and nothing. I inquired again via email and said that I will be paid and be patient. I was annoyed but what can I do? I can’t get too upset because they are being kind for paying me my vacation time that I didn’t use. Although when I read their “Office Manual” i thought that they pay vacation time when not used should the employee leave. In actuality, they pay vacation time to employees to those who were laid off due to lack of work. They don’t pay vacation time if you’re dismissed for being a bad employee. And apparently, they don’t pay you should you leave on your own accord. Had I known, I would have taken my vacation time and then resigned…

Most offices will have an “Office Manual” which outlines the rules, regulations, and conduct guidelines. The “Office Manual” also explains their benefits programs as well including vacation time. Each company has their own “manual” and may differ from company to company. So, when you get to a new office, read through their “Office Manual”, and if they don’t have one, ask for it, and if they do not have something formal, find out as much as you can about their policies and conduct, etc. And if anything, it’s better to take you vacation time before you resign…if you’re planning to resign.

So, here are the things to remember when you exit:

1. When you have formally informed your employers that you are resigning, make sure that you understand the office’s policy about resignation especially as it pertains to vacation time. In one of the firms I worked at, they automatically paid my vacation time that I didn’t take.

2. You have the option to participate in COBRA, which provides you with health care coverage but you have to pay the full amount each month to your former employer.

3. Collect your personal belongings and copies projects you’ve worked on – it’ll become part of your portfolio for future interviews.

4. Make sure you find out when you will get your final paycheck,and how they will get it to you. Most likely they will mail it to you.

A new chapter…

I recently resigned from a firm where I’ve been working for more than 4 years but less than 5. In most work places, the 5 year milestone has one employee perk and that is after working at a firm for 5 years, you are entitled to 3 weeks or rather 15 days of vacation time off as opposed to the standard 2 weeks (10 days) vacation time off. Woo-hoo!! But hold on there, before you make any plans, please note that most employers would prefer that you do not take 15 days off consecutively.

I enjoyed working there, and miss the people who I’ve gotten to know. “There” was a small firm, a total of 10 people (and the number included me, too). The firm although capable of handling various sorts of project really excelled in private residences in the tri-state area, commercial interiors; which included but not limited to building lobbies, building cores, (restrooms and corridors), and pre-builds; and some institutional projects.

And although I had a good run at the 9 person firm, it was time to move on. To be honest, there were a couple of factors that contributed to the decision, which I will disclose in another post. I had some concerns about being able to find a new firm to join as the economy was not looking good, and at first, it seemed almost hopeless. I wasn’t getting call backs. Was I not qualified? Too qualified?

It wasn’t until mid Spring when i began to get interests and calls to meet with prospective employers. There were three that I really liked, which eventually got narrowed down to two. Both firms expressed interest in bringing me on board to their firm however no official offers were made. I wasn’t worried about the offers. I was worried about getting both offers. Of the two, I was torn as to which one to accept. Both were small firms, smaller then the 9 person firm. I liked them both and I could see myself doing really well in either but I was in a quandry as to which path to follow. One firm specialized in high end contemporary residences, while other firm specialized in high end residential and hospitality development projects.

Despite great interest from both, only one came back to me with a formal offer letter. I took a couple days to decide and also to give a little bit more time for the other firm to come to me with an offer letter. In the end, the decision was made for me, and I accepted the position at the firm with high end residential and hospitality development projects.

I start Monday, June 23rd.