Sunday, June 22, 2008

Looking for work in all the wrong places

Recently, I've been helping a former Design Associates employee, Mikhail, get his cover letter and resume in shape for looking for jobs. Looking for jobs in this economy is hard, but especially in my field it can be brutal for interns with only a couple years' experience. Simply put and with all due respect, interns are pretty easy to come by. Now, good interns? Those are harder to find. Mikhail has enthusiasm, drive, initiative...and not a lot of good experience. I mean, he had some good experiences, but he kept getting paired with bad managers, folks who either didn't want to or just weren't able to give him the teaching and directing he needed. So, when things got slow, he was gone from DA.

I had to help him clean up his resume and cover letter, mostly of my own initiative. I don't think our youth have been taught how to really put one of these together. First of all, he's barely in his mid-twenties, and he has a two page resume. Um, no. Unless you've been to the moon, cured cancer, and caught Saddam Hussein, you shouldn't have a two-page resume when you're 25. I gave his some tips on how to edit his pre-DA experience so that it would all fit and be concise and interesting/eye-catching.

Next, I had to clean up his cover letter. In its one paragraph, he tells the prospective client what he's looking for: experience in yadda yadda so on and so forth. Again, umm, no. In a shitty economy, you are not calling the shots, they are. You have to tell them how you can help them, why they should hire you over all the other schmoes sending them letters. Be direct and confident, but again, you're selling your services, not buying a place to get experience (even though that's what you do).

Finally, I had to clarify for him both on the phone and in my return email to him that you never, never, never work for free. In his cover letter, he asked to come tour an office even if the company wasn't hiring, but I'm of the opinion that you're only sending your resume to firms that have posted somewhere that they're looking for help. Otherwise, don't bug them. Furthermore, don't list in your email, cover letter, anywhere that you're willing to work for free for a while. If being unemployed is driving you that crazy, then get a job at Starbucks or REI or something. But don't ever, ever, ever give away your skills for free to a for-profit firm. It's not just about how you went to school for a long-ass time to do what you're doing, but it's also about the culture of non-payment and underpayment that inhabits architecture. We have a long history of undercharging for our services, and it does no one in our profession any good to play the starving artist card. It's bullshit. Get paid to do what you do. If the prostitutes on Colfax Avenue won't do it for free, neither should you.


ms. kitty said...

That's good advice for anyone looking for work, isn't it? Thanks, Pixie, for your contribution to the unemployed seeker! I'm glad I'm not looking for a job right now; it's brutal out there for most folks.

Miss Kitty said...

been to the moon, cured cancer, and caught Saddam Hussein...

OK, that's just hilarious. As is If the prostitutes on Colfax Avenue won't do it for free, neither should you. Ho-fax, baby! Hell yeah!

BaxtersMum said...

I love that - "unless you've cured cancer..."

keep it up. When unemployed, you do get desperate. Perhaps he can get a job doing construction - at least its a good story for the filler time between jobs...

"And I took the time to get experience in the actual construction industry while I continued on my search for architectural heaven."


Amy B said...

Hi Pixie - I agree with you on the never working for free comment, however, Mikhail going in for a tour/meet and greet with a firm that may not be actively hiring? That's just good marketing on his part.

It gets him face time with no pressure on the firm's or his part. Rather than an active interview, he may be more relaxed and could possibly come across more calm and, well, relaxed (for lack of better vocabulary). And the chance is that whomever he meets will remember him. If not, it's good to have the interview 'practice'.

just a thought.