Monday, August 1, 2011

Lulu's Mailbag: Should I use a headhunter to find a job?

Intern 101 reader C. writes:

Might it be usual/helpful for job-searching intern architects to use headhunters? And do you know if there any that cater towards architecture in the US? (I've only been able to find ones in the UK!)

Good question, C.  The short answers to the two questions posed here are, unfortunately, no and kinda.  Headhunters in general are professionals who find other hard-to-get professionals for companies that have a specific need--a hospital administrator who used to work in Canada, a software designer who has used certain types of software and can speak Chinese, a geologist who has worked in the oil and mining industry, and so on.  Architectural interns in the U.S., especially those with less than four or so years of experience, are not that hard to find--there are literally thousands, if not over 10,000, to choose from.  Therefore a headhunter is of no use to an architecture firm when it comes to finding interns. You're better off looking for jobs through local AIA job boards, looking at firm websites, and asking your friends if they know of anyone who's hiring.

I should confess that I was once called by a headhunter about seven or so years ago when I was an intern with about three-and-a-half or four years under my belt.  The headhunter was looking for someone with a lot of healthcare experience to fill a position at another firm somewhere in the West.  Turns out that this headhunter had received my name from an architect who used to work at my firm, which is the firm at which I'm still working in 2011.  (Guess the architect thought I might be ready to get out of there.  He guessed wrong.)

That leads me to C.'s second question.  Headhunters do exist in the architecture/ engineering/ construction industry.  They mostly look for people with a special skill set, such as experience in certain building types (e.g., healthcare, correctional, stadiums) or with unusual situations and experiences (e.g., have worked on buildings in New York or California or Alaska, have built projects for the BLM or Corps of Engineers).  Since I've been licensed, I've received a couple of calls from headhunters, but the jobs for which they're seeking candidates are usually out of state.  (Those poor guys--it's hard as hell to find someone willing to move out of Colorado.  Once they've lived here for a little over a year, most people don't want to leave.)  I usually send these people along, maybe with a couple of names.  I like where I am and so far don't have a reason to leave.

Since the economy took a dive in 2008, the headhunter's calls have been rarer, to be sure.  Just like with interns, there are now so many architects and engineers in the pool of talent that you don't need a lot of help finding a good candidate.  Your best bets for finding a job in this economy are to peruse job boards, ask your friends, and be willing to move.  Mobility is something many interns have over architects.  You're less likely to have spouses and kids to uproot, so it's easier to get you to move to the next city or state, or even several states (I moved from Florida to Colorado in 2000 for my job, the one I still have today).

Got a question you'd like to ask?  Let me know in the comments or via email in the sidebar.  And thanks--remember that this site works best when you contribute!

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