How To Stay Motivated With The Architecture Job Search
Whether it is your first or 50th time looking for a job in architecture, one thing can often be overwhelming: the motivation to keep it up. Whatever the reason for your job search the process can be long and filled with ups and downs. So how to stay motivated?
Whether you want to leave current position, are a recent graduate or unemployed, I will discuss how to stay engaged throughout your search.
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Setting goals can really help to keep you motivated through the process. Many candidates I meet with just set one goal: GET A JOB.
However, it can become overwhelming when this goal isn't met immediately or even months later. I recommend setting mini milestone goals throughout the process. Divide your job search into manageable pieces. This way you are less likely to become overwhelmed and by "checking that box" you are more likely to stay motivated and continue onto the next goal. For example for one week you may divide your goals up as:
- Create resume draft
- Finish resume
- Start portfolio layout
- Collect project images
- Finish two page portfolio
- Write email cover letter
- Write bullet points for portfolio
- Finish portfolio layout
When you break down all of the tasks it creates a schedule for you to stick with, making it more likely you will follow through. Once you get that one task out of the way you can confidently move onto the next step.
Build your skills
During your job search you need to make yourself an even more valuable candidate by building your skill set. This can be done any number of ways depending on the time and funding you have available. If you are early in your architecture career the best thing you can do is start the path to licensure. Use this time to enroll in the IDP and start logging past and present experience.
You could also start taking the ARE's and/or use this time for studying. This may be difficult financially if you are unemployed as the costs of study materials and tests can add up. Try checking with friends, colleagues, former colleagues, EBay and Craigslist for discounted study materials. I sold my ARE study materials on EBay for 40% of what I paid for them new.
Try to think about the long term financial benefits of licensure vs the short term costs. The earnings increase over a 40+ year career will easily exceed hundreds of thousands of dollars. Not a bad return on your initial investment of a few thousand.
For a quicker boost to your skills you could take the LEED exams. The tests and study materials are quite affordable and is a credential that is becoming more and more desirable in the marketplace. Some firms like to market that 100% of staff are LEED certified.
Revit skills are becoming more and more essential in many positions, all the way from internships to senior level roles. Keeping up to date on all of your essential software is key to staying relevant in your job search. There are many options out there when it comes to training including free tutorials on the Autodesk website, YouTube and paid classes. You can decide what works best for you and your budget.
This brings up and important point when it comes to putting your software skills on a resume. Just because you can "use" Revit doesn't mean you can use it in the context of an office environment. Be careful overselling your skills, using Revit in an academic setting is completely different than in an architecture firm. Internal and external consultant model collaboration and construction detailing, for example.
Freelance work is a great way to keep one foot in the job market while you are looking for that full time gig. Who knows, this could even turn into a full time job. The office or architect you are contracting for could lead to a full time position or you could continue to work as a consultant for multiple firms, essentially working for yourself.
The latter option can be a great way to build job security, working 8 hours per week for five firms can be more stable. If you lose one of the five you still have the others to pick up the gap. In that context, with a traditional job you are really putting all your eggs in one basket.
Try to think about all of your skills and how they could be applied to freelance work like graphic design, rendering, and CAD production. Your architecture experience can be applied to a multitude of employers to fill in gaps of employment or to create additional income.
Being unemployed for even a short time can be very discouraging. One of the best ways to stay motivated involves getting out from behind the computer and going for a run or walk. While this may actually sound counterproductive it can be extremely beneficial. This should also help you sleep and be more "in the moment" when you are working on your application materials.
Try joining some team sports, there are a lot of architecture softball leagues and other events that might even help you make a job connection. Win, win.
Many employers are willing to wait for the right candidate to come along so it can take time. When applying, make sure to keep in touch every week or two, but be careful not to bother them. Many architecture offices are flooded with applications so just reminding them that you're still interested can be beneficial to keeping your name in mind.
There is not a set of rules on how long a job search can take. There are so many factors in play that it is impossible to generalize. It depends on your level of experience, the current job market and the needs of the firm at that time.
Water off a duck's back
Unfortunately rejection is a part of life and an even bigger part of the job search. Dealing with rejection, being ignored or being told no comes with the territory. Try to get some feedback from potential employers if you are rejected. Often it is not your skills or qualifications but rather they may not have a need for additional staff at that moment.
Treat it as a full time job
This is more for those of you that are not currently employed. You need to treat the job search as a typical 9-5 job. So that means no sleeping in till noon, no working till 2am, and no binge watching Netflix. Most people are productive during the day so working late (or telling yourself you are going to work late) is rarely effective.
I typically recommend taking the weekends off from applications. Use this time for other important tasks such as building your network, meeting with advisors or mentors and exercising.
I have used this carrot approach throughout my career to motivate myself to complete goals. The size of the "treat" usually depends on the size of the goal completed. When I completed my architecture exams, for example, I took a two week vacation.
On the other end of the spectrum when you finish an application and send it off, you deserve something for your hard work! If you are on a tight budget it may just be taking a couple of days off from the job search. If things are better financially a dinner out might be more appropriate.
Regardless of the reward, keeping a list of goals and the corresponding perks can be a fun and productive way to stay on track with your job search.
I don't mean this in the literal sense of a firm giving you a signing bonus but rather in you create your own as a means of staying motivated.
If you are unemployed and are trying to land a $50k salary, try rephrasing it: "I will get $50k if I complete these applications this month." The same formula can be applied for a job change. Most applicants see at least a 10% pay increase when they switch jobs. By rephrasing this as we did above, "I will get $5,000 for finishing these applications".
This may sound obvious but giving yourself tangible numbers can help keep you on track. In the most basic sense the entire job search is trading our time now for the chance of future monetary reward.
Since we all love vacations here is another "signing bonus" motivation technique. If you currently have a job, "I am going to take three weeks off between jobs to travel". Sounds good to me! So get to work on those applications!
For further reading on applications, interview preparation and questions see The Complete Package below:
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Brandon Hubbard, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP BD+C
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