Architecture & Design, Finding Work

Job Search Stats

This week is a total write-off in terms of applications for me. Something that's got me down is the relative unavailability of firms who specialize in my field. At the same time I fear that I'm in such a rare niche with my experience in urban space and landscape architecture that regular architects won't want to hire me. 

This depresses me: To the left, an image of North American landscape / urban / public space projects as submitted and marked out on Landezine. To the right, the same kind of projects mapped out in Europe.

For sure there are many projects that are unmapped, but square mile for square kilometer, the general trend in North America is not on high-quality public space, goddammit. It brings me to a question:

In this economy, do you apply everywhere and take what you can get? Or do you apply selectively and risk not finding work immediately? Or network network network and hope someone will mention you to the right person?

I feel like I did the second approach in Berlin and it worked out alright for me. I didn't take a lot of time to look into the projects of each firm I applied to, I just needed a job... fast. Luckily I ended up working in a place that did decent work and allowed me to develop some of the skills I wanted to work on. But maybe that's just random chance.

Jed and I are going to be house-sitting for 2 months here in Toronto. That relieves a lot of anxiety about how we're going to pay rent and gives us a bit of time to work the networking avenue. If I'm going to be in Canada for a while, I have a few demands. Are you listening?

1. Firms that see employees as people and not their personal design slaves

I want to work in a firm where my coworkers actually have lives outside of work. No big name sweatshops for me: I don't mind grinding out extra hours to finish off a project now and then, but when that style of working becomes the norm and your boss begins counting on you to stay a little longer each night so you can tease out a CAD drawing from an indecipherable sketch? Not cool. Also shows a total lack of respect on the partners' part. If they lack respect for their employees, how can I trust them to be environmentally and socially responsible designers? Bringing me to...

2. Firms that see resilience, sustainability, and community involvement as a basis for design rather than a hindrance / checklist

Somewhat paradoxically, have a problem with firms that only hire people who have been trained in LEED. Resilience is a way of thinking about projects based on climate, location, materials, and long term community needs and you don't really need certification to think that way. LEED is so commercial; like "Sustainability BY LEED ACCREDITED PROFESSIONALS!" which is really uncool. Anyways.

Problem is, projects are paid for by clients who may not have these goals. It's important for me to be involved with a firm where the partners are true leaders and try to guide clients to see the benefits of resilient design, not just as a greenwash to boost your street cred.

3. working environment that promotes education, growth, and mentorship within the office and doesn't pigeon-hole people based on skill-sets

0 years ago it was CAD monkeys. Now it's Revit monkeys, 3D monkeys and Photoshop monkeys. It seems like the more computer skills you have, the more likely it is for you to be stuck doing one thing. I may be fast and efficient in certain programs right now, but a good firm will see the benefit of training employees in all aspects of design development and construction management. I read an article that said the best employers are those who train desirable employees. Your value as a company, your reputation, goes way up if employees who come from your office are known to be excellent. And that starts with strong mentorship.

ey! What gives you the right, as an intern-level architect to make these demands?

I read another article last week in the Globe & Mail that said recent grads who are searching for work are seen as unprofessional. To expand on that, employers said that potential employees demanded more from their employers than just a job (like my above list), dress less professionally, expect more benefits and ask for more money. My response to that?

Get used to it.

I've seen the deadening effect long-term office hierarchy BS has on people and I (at least in my mind) am not standing for it. We're a generation of people who have been told from infancy that to get a good job we need university level education. We've invested 4-8 years of our adult lives to post-secondary education and worked shitty jobs serving beer/coffee/hamburgers to support ourselves in the intermediate summers. We're in thousands of dollars of student debt, all because you need at least a master's degree to be considered qualified to cook vegan meals.

Now you want to tell us that we should be satisfied with minimum wage?

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