Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Three good things: the secret to dealing with everyone, Part 2

Last time we talked about how remembering three good things about everyone you deal with will help when dealing with and confronting them about less-than-stellar behavior. This generally works with folks, but sometimes people can be a little obstinate when others call them on their behavior, or they even get a little snarky or passive-aggressive back at you. While this sort of pushback is understandable--no one likes to be called out--it's still unacceptable. There are a few things you can do to stop cruddy behavior towards you. The first and main thing to remember about bad behavior is that it only works when two people engage in it. If one person is being defensive and passive-aggressive and immature, and the other person isn't falling for it, then the first person isn't going to get very far, are they?

Let's say your project is in Revit, and you need the mechanical engineer's model on Thursday, and it's Tuesday now. Getting models out of this guy has been like getting blood from a turnip, and he generally acts like he woke up on the wrong side of the bed every day since August of 1993. Asking for cooperation can be a great way to disarm cranky people. The first step is to stay polite and positive, focused on the request:

You: Hi, Mac. I'm calling because we're compiling the model to show the client on Friday, so we need your model by 2pm on Thursday.
Mac: Yeah, well, that's not happening.
You: For what reason?
Mac: [annoyed sigh] Cuz it's not done.
You: Well, we're only partway through DDs, so I understand that it's not all completely done. However, we need as much as you can get by Thursday at 2 so we can compile the models and show the client what kind of magic we're working with this software.
Mac: Yeah, well, it ain't gonna be a lot.
You: Every bit that you can do by Thursday afternoon will be really helpful, Mac. These 3D models really help our client understand what we're doing and how we solve problems before they get built, y'know?

The next step is to ask for cooperation through problem solving.

Mac: Yeah, well...we'll see.
You: [politely] Is your model is kinda incomplete or really incomplete, or...?
Mac: Well...[annoyed sigh] you guys keep sending us a new model every week and I can't just remodel this stuff that fast.
You: Ah. So, what's involved in modeling ductwork when it changes, say like in that north end of the lobby where we moved those soffits around?
Mac: Well, [more annoyed sighing] it's just a lot to do, and to change.
You: I imagine it is a lot to change. The reason I ask is that maybe we can prioritize what ducts really need to be modeled by Thursday afternoon, and maybe that's more doable than trying to do everything.

Finally, you can be a little more blunt about asking for cooperation if need be.

Mac: [yet another annoyed sigh] Well, maybe. Look, you can't just call up and ask me to drop everything and get you a model in two days.
You: Mac, I can understand your frustration. It seems like when I call you with a deadline or if I need something, it's really hard for you to get it done. I want to make sure that whenever I call you with a change or a deadline, you have what you need to make that work. So tell me what you need to make deadlines, whether it's this Thursday at 2pm or whenever--what would help you?

Mac would have to be a real schmoe to decide to play hardball with you at this point. You're flat out asking for what would help him, which I bet no one asks him very often. And speaking of hardball, you can use polite hardball when someone is making cranky comments under their breath or acting really immaturely.

"Mac, it sounds like you don't like my idea--what is it about it that you think won't work?"
"Wow, Mac, that sounded like a dig at me--did you mean it that way?"
"Y'know, Mac, it seems like the morning of every major deadline we've had so far, you're out of the office until a couple of hours before the time it's due. What's going on? Is everything okay?"

Today's communication skills were adapted from the book Civilized Assertiveness For Women: Communication With Backbone...Not Bite by Judith McClure, Ph.D. It's a great book, and though it's aimed at women, the communication skills Dr. McClure (an educational psychologist) developed and writes about are perfectly good for both genders to use, and it's on Amazon and Barnes & Noble's website as well. I'm still working on a couple of deadlines right now, so there may be a gap in posting for the next few days. In the meantime, if you have a question you'd like to ask or a topic you'd like to see discussed here, feel free to post it in the comments or to email me in the sidebar. Thanks!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Three good things: the secret to dealing with everyone, Part 1 else

You've just been put on a project team with that guy who surfs the web all day; great, there goes your weekends, because you know you'll be having to do all of your redlines and half of his, too. You've been assigned to help your boss put together a presentation for a project interview; pass the Advil, because that gal cannot stop changing her mind twenty times a day about the font and cannot resist micromanaging your Photoshop work. You pass on word to your consultants that the deadline for CDs will be moved three days earlier; oh boy, here comes the complaining and struggling to get drawings from one of the consultants, who's been a pain from day one. How are you supposed to get anything done with these people around you? How can you possibly confront them about their cruddy behavior when a) they don't seem to be aware of it or disturbed by it, regardless of how it affects you?

Confrontation is inevitable in the workplace, but it doesn't have to be confrontational. What binds us all more than our race, gender, generation, political outlook, or anything else is our species--our humanity. We all want to be liked and respected, we all want to belong and to get along, and we all want our efforts to be appreciated. It seems that appreciation and respect are frequently missing in the workplace, especially in this economic climate. It's easier to look for flaws and then use those flaws as a way of thinning the herd--of colleagues, employees, consultants and vendors, etc. Appreciation and respect feel like afterthoughts, or even signs of weakness. But consider the power of showing that respect to others. Consider the power of acknowledging someone's contributions. And consider the power asking for cooperation rather than taking someone to task. Rethinking that power--power to, but not power over--is the least frustrating way to get things done not just on a project but in life in general.

The first step to finding this power is to think of three good things about everyone you deal with. This can be hard at first, especially when dealing with the really difficult people in your office or on your team. Sometimes, you may have to ask someone else to help you come up with someone's good traits. Sometimes, one of those traits ends up being "s/he showers regularly and comes to work dressed like an adult." Fair enough--as long as it's a positive characteristic that you can honestly say applies to that person, then it counts.

There are two reasons to come up with three positive traits: one, it helps to ground and remind you that you're dealing with a person and not an evil demon from the third ring of Purgatory; and two, it gives you a way of balancing what you need to change with someone with what you like and depend upon in this person. Some communication experts call it the Compliment Sandwich: "Kelly, it's really helpful that you get your redlines done so quickly--it really makes this project go faster. However, there have been some mistakes in your work recently. Give yourself a chance to check through them once more before you reprint your sheets, and I know that it'll ultimately make you and the project even faster." Whatever you call it, it gives you a way of connecting with Kelly (or whoever), presenting the situation as something that's solvable, and then showing how it will help them and you (or the team) once it's corrected.

I'm working on a couple of deadlines at the same time, but the next post will talk more about using three good things to deal with others as well as how to ask for cooperation and to play polite hardball with really obnoxious people. In the meantime, if you have a question you'd like to ask or a topic you'd like to see discussed here, feel free to post it in the comments or to email me in the sidebar. Thanks!

Friday, January 22, 2010

A visual break

Folks, I appreciate the emails and comments I've been getting lately. Remember that this site is built on your input, so keep 'em coming!

In the meantime, I wanted to share a neat little site with you. As I'm working towards a couple of deadlines right now, posting may be a little short here for a week or so, but I'm enjoying the Photo Bludger, a photo-a-day blog from a pretty talented fellow here in Denver, my adopted hometown. What makes the images even more interesting is that he explains how he takes the photos (camera, settings, software tools, etc.).

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Lulu's Mailbag: Are layoffs just about business?

Yes, another heapin' helpin' of the Mailbag this week, coming from A, an engineering intern who has some observations that are relevant to architects as well:

Hi Lulu,

I was just reading your article - "It's better to be laid off than laid on" and I feel you have done a great job in explaining lay offs. I could relate to may things that you said in that article, although I am an engineering student -- not an architect.

I have done 3 internships so far. My first internship was an experience that I will cherish always. My second internship was at a very well reputed firm, under a very high profile boss. That internship was the worst experience I have ever had in my career and it really shattered my confidence. I don't know if it was 'less than awesome' performance from me or whether it was poor management on part of my boss or both, but at the end of my internship I was given negative feedback and told that I won't be given another chance to either intern or work in that company. That, after having been told that they are considering employing me full time (one month before the feedback) and that I'm doing a fantastic job(10 days before my feedback was given). I don't know if I somehow managed to irritate my boss in the last ten days or whether it was genuinely due to performance reasons ( I know that I did my best, but I didn't have the skills necessary to do an awesome job). I moved on and did an internship in another company in another specialization and was given good feedback on my work, but I still can not get over what happened to me in my second internship. I am looking out for jobs now and I find it hard to get myself to study or talk about what I worked on in my second internship though it is crucial that I study it. I also find it hard to be enthusiastic about working under a lady, because it was a lady who was so ruthless with me on that internship.

I don't know why I am writing to you, but your blog helped me understand that I shouldn't take things personally and that everything is about business. I know that is very sensible advice, but my experience has made me realize that it is not very easy to follow.


Hi A!

Thanks so much for dropping me a line. You make a really good point about layoffs. The people that go in the early rounds are often the ones that, in the eyes of management, don't "fit" with the culture of the firm. It's very possible that some folks at your office thought you were doing great, but the people in charge of hiring and firing thought otherwise. I have to wonder if your boss' management of you (and other interns and staff in general) was to blame, especially if you have little experience in architecture. I have personally witnessed this phenomenon: an intern who would benefit from good teaching and guidance gets paired with a manager who is a poor teacher (they need well-trained staff because their poor people skills make it tough for those new to the field to relate and feel comfortable asking questions). Then, the intern gets laid off or fired in great part because someone who isn't a very patient manager says "this person is slow and terrible!" It's a really unfair situation, and I'm betting there's at least some of that in your situation (though to be fair, I don't know all the details).

You're absolutely right; layoffs aren't personal (and you're also right that it's hard to accept that, especially when we put so much of ourselves into our professions and our work). Layoffs are partly a personality/culture decision, but they're mostly a financial decision. And working for women can sometimes (but I assure you not always) be difficult--some women aren't comfortable with a leadership role, and they either choose being a steamroller or a doormat as their management style, when there's no need for either kind of behavior. When asked about your second internship, it's best if you can find any technical or other experience that you gained and then highlight that. If asked why you were let go, your best response is "My understanding is that it was a financial decision" and leave it at that. Let that firm have its bad karma all for itself--don't go spreading it around. After your coworkers at you new firm get to know you better, then you can be a little more honest.

My best to you in your job search. Keep looking--we need good, bright people in architecture and engineering to make sure our professions stay solid, relevant, and excellent.

Take care,

Monday, January 18, 2010

Lulu's Mailbag: Should I go back to grad school?

AI101 reader Q from the East Coast shared the following with me:

Dear Lulu:
I have a well paying job doing non-architecture work even thought I got my pre-professional degree in architecture last May. I applied to or inquired to over 120 arch firms in the DC metro area and no offers, about 3 interviews. So I took this job which I'm sure pays more than anything that architecture would offer me. Do you think it would be wise to go back to grad school or to even leave my good paying job for a most likely 20% pay cut to persue architecture? I live in a state that requires a professional degree to get licensed, but I also went out of state for my first degree, so now I have major student loan bills. (On the plus side, my present job, though boring, allows me to really pay down those loans. That job will also pay up to a certain amount for me to go back to school.) I've read some depressing articles about the profession and one article said it was the most hurt job in 2009. I only know two graduates who found architecture work after graduation. Everyone else is working a random job or grad school or nothing. I have a good paying job, but its boring and I would like to do architecture. (I have found a local architect to do some contract work with--basic CAD drawings, but it's good experience.) But I don't want to regret leaving this job to work long hours making $30k or go through grad school to still end up struggling to find a job. It really seems like this is the worst time to graduate.

Hi Q!

Your question is a good one. First, if you haven't found them already, I have two posts on whether to go to grad school: Here and Here. I generally advise folks to go to grad school in order to meet the requirements for any state they end up moving to or end up trying to get a license in, as some states are moving towards not allowing anyone to be licensed except for folks with a B.Arch or an M.Arch. But let's examine your situation a little more.

Architecture is indeed on the bleeding edge/front line of the economy. When the economy is good, architecture is really good, and when it's bad...well, you know the story. The AIA estimated that architecture firms suffered a 15% unemployment rate, though that seems really low to me. You graduated undergrad during the worst recession since the Great Depression (though to be fair, the Great D had 33% overall unemployment, so it really was a lot greater than what we're enduring now), so I'm not surprised that you had a hard time finding a job in your field. But you have a job now, which is a small miracle, and it sounds like it pays decently, so that's a great relief. Another great relief is that you're working with an architect on the side and getting some kind of experience in your field; should you need to get a job during college, you're now more marketable to firms. Be sure you get this person to sign off on your experience so that you can count it towards IDP or whatever you use to document your time.

While it appears that grad school is inevitable, assuming that you remain in the state you're in now and will need that professional degree to sit for the ARE, here's the bigger picture regarding grad school: if you start a 2-year grad school program now, the economy will likely be very different for you when you graduate in 2012 (or thereabouts). During my junior year of undergrad (which was 1997, back before iPods and text messaging :-p ), our professors advised us to go straight into grad school because the economy still wasn't so hot. I did indeed go straight to grad school (which had been my plan all along), and by the time I graduated with my M.Arch in the summer of 2000, firms were hiring like crazy. It was then that I got the job that I still have to this day. (Well, I'm licensed now and I have more/different responsibilities, but I'm still with the same firm.) So grad school can be a good place to weather an economic storm.

Something else to keep in mind: many folks work while going to grad school. Depending on what grad school you attended, you could work at the place you are now but with a part time schedule, or you could work somewhere in the town of your grad school. Some of my grad school colleagues were RAs in the dorms so that they could live cheaply on campus, while others worked as TAs in undergrad studios to help pay for grad school (one of them now teaches at Boston Architectural College--score!), and still others worked at architecture firms or other places of employment. There is an intern at my office who is presently going to grad school, so she works a limited schedule as well. However you choose to do this, having some financial backing from your present employer plus finding ways to supplement your tuition, perhaps through being a TA or research assistant, you can come out of grad school with less of a financial burden than most.

About three or four years ago, I sat in on an intern's pay and performance review, and apparently she was getting a raise: she would be making about $18/hour. If you got that right now as a starting salary, you'd be making a little over $37K/year before taxes, 401(k), etc. But by the time you graduated in 2012, $18/hr would be the very minimum, I'd say. And that $18/hr is here in Denver--I'm sure it would be more in a larger market like DC.

And alas, Q, here's the final thing: People say that life is short, but when you hate what you do and how you spend your time, life is damn long. If you really want to do architecture, as a profession, please please please do so. Make the most of your contract work with the small architecture firm--ask to meet occasionally and ask him/her/them questions, or take a day off from your usual gig and spend some time just seeing what goes on in that architect's office. Ask to learn more about the rest of his/her/their work--can you help with shop drawings or specs? You don't mention what you're doing now for a living, but if architecture is really what you want, you can make it happen. Maybe not right smack-dab now, but you can make it happen. And heck, depending on what your living situation is right now,it sounds like you're in a good place to save up some cashola to help you make it through grad school with fewer debts when you get out (and paying down on those existing student loans is very helpful!). You may work long hours, but you won't do it all the time. you might get paid less than what you're doing right now, but you might enjoy it more.

You have the time to figure out what you want to do, so do a little digging. But if you want to be an architect, I'd love to have you in this profession. We need curious, motivated, energetic, thoughtful people in this profession, and I'd love for you to see this profession--my profession--when things are good. A friend of mine who works at a chemical dependency treatment center was talking about what are the worse drugs to come through his doors, and I told him, "Those don't hold a candle to architecture. That's a profession, a drug, a love affair, a life...meth wouldn't stand a chance against what I do for a living!"

I hope I've helped in some way here. I may have just given you more questions than answers. Feel free to email me anytime or post a comment on the blog. And take heart: this too shall pass.


Friday, January 15, 2010

Finding a job as an intern: knowing when to say when

I recently blogged here about getting a job as an intern in this economy, and in that post I alluded to the idea of asking your friends if their firm or another firm is hiring. Your friends are good contacts, and you can be a good contact for your friends as well. This is especially good when you have friends that are bright, motivated, and capable--good employees are in short supply, sometimes even in a bad economy when only the not-so-good people have been laid off and cast into the employment pool. Advocating for good new hires can also make you look good: like it or not, we are known by the company we keep, so being in (and bringing in) good company only improves your standing at work. An extreme example of this actually happened to me. Several years ago, I was the mentor for a high school student who worked at our office for high school credit. She later went to undergrad, then grad school, and then into the workforce. She dropped me a line a couple of years ago: she was looking for a change of firm and pace, and was my firm hiring? We met for lunch, and even after all those years she was still brilliant, talented, motivated, and a positive thinker. I mentioned her to our office manager, and I described how fantastic she had been as a high schooler and was even now. After four rounds of layoffs at our office, she--and I--are still employed. My colleagues rave to me about how fantastic she is to have on a project and thank me for working with her years ago and advocating for her hiring more recently. (I don't think I can actually take credit for her professional success in the least. She was sharp when she hit the doors, not because of anything I did.)

But if we are perceived favorably by bringing in good people, we can also be perceived unfavorably by bringing in not-so-good people. If a friend with a less-than-stellar work ethic, abilities, or attitude asks you to vouch for them, think twice. First of all, would you want to work with this person? If not, there's a good reason not to advocate for them. It's okay to give an alternate but legitimate excuse for not putting in a word for them: our office only goes by professional references and not personal ones; you and I didn't really work that closely together/work together that long so I'm not really the best person to give a reference for you, etc. If someone drops your name to a manager without your knowledge and you're asked about them, be honest but not rude. A good friend of mine once gave the following description to his boss about a friend of his that he went to school with and worked with for a year: "He's a good guy overall: he knows his stuff, and he knows how to put a building together, but he can be kinda flaky. He's a designer at heart, and he has a little of that kind of ego and attitude."

That's a pretty precise description of someone, providing both good and bad qualities (which we all have) and showing an honest assessment overall. And therein lies another pitfall of recommending a friend for a job: how honest are you about this person? How well can you see their qualities and flaws? If you find yourself saying something like "He's not so bad once you get to know him" or "She's kinda misunderstood but she means well," those should be red flags for you to reconsider recommending them for a job with you. Teams have to gel pretty quickly in the workplace in order to get things done, and if my colleagues have to "get to know you" so that we're not constantly "misunderstanding" you, that's just too much work.

I witnessed this scene a few years ago when a coworker recommended a friend of his for an intern position at the firm for which I work. My coworker was a bit prickly himself, but he knew his stuff. His friend, however, who had just been fired from another firm across town, was a different matter. No one knew if he knew his stuff because he rarely got much done. He was constantly taking smoke breaks or chatting with other coworkers or instant messaging someone on his work computer. He was fired after about six months, and my coworker was furious. He saw his friend as a victim, having been treated badly by one more person or entity in life. "He's a good guy, he's just kinda different! Not everybody gets him right away, y'know? They never gave him a chance!" Yes, they did give him a chance--they gave him six months, and that's enough. About a year later, my coworker was part of the first round of layoffs--while his output was still pretty decent, his attitude had soured because he couldn't see his friend's performance in the way that the business--and all his coworkers, including me--could see him.

Bringing in friends to help at your office can be rewarding and fun. Not only can you help someone get a job, but you can make your workplace more enjoyable and more efficient. Just be sure that you exercise caution and only advocate for people in whom you can really trust and in whose work you really believe.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Finding a job as an intern: more than just a pretty resume

January marks the beginning of spring semester, and for some this is their final semester before stepping into the work world. For others, a new year inspires a sense of renewed optimism: maybe this year the economy will finally get better and you'll either get a raise or move to a new firm where you can get more experience and do more interesting projects. No one really knows what the economy is going to do this year, though by most reports I've heard is that layoffs should stabilize this year and perhaps hiring will even begin again. I've blogged before about getting a job in a down economy, and that information is still good, but I wanted to share a few tips culled from some recent newspaper articles that I think would be useful.

First off, think hard about your skills when putting together your resume. Do you just have experience with Revit and Adobe Illustrator, or are you proficient in them? Do you have organizational skills gained from running your school's chapter of AIAS? Do you have construction experience due to being a major member of your church or synagogue's facility improvement committee? If you've already had an architectural job and are trying to get a new one, think about all the things you did at your past architectural jobs. Use active verbs as much as you can: instead of "Did construction documents," say "Involved in all aspects of construction documents on large hospital project." Figure out ways to let potential employers know about your skills, but at the same time, be honest.

Being honest is twofold here: one, don't exaggerate your skills, plump up your GPA (not that you even need to include it--if you graduated, you graduated, done deal), lie about your job experience, etc. When you're unlicensed, it can be pretty obvious to potential employers when you're lying about your job experience. Unless you worked at a really small firm, chances are pretty good that you never were a "project manager." Maybe a "job captain", but not a "project manager." That brings me to the second part of being honest on your resume: if you're unlicensed with less than ten years of experience, keep your resume to one page. Anything longer and people are going to think that you're padding.

When you're sending off your resume, remember that this is still a pretty craptastic job market, so don't take rejection personally. Use your unemployed time to do or learn other things, maybe even earn some IDP credits. And when you're sending off your resume, stay focused and be reasonable about positions for which you are a good fit. If the position wants at least five years' experience and you only have three, don't waste your time--there are plenty of unemployed five-year interns who will be considered first for that position. Also, if a job is advertised for which you are a good fit, but it's an hour commute each way, be realistic about it--will your old beater car really make it, or will you be able to take public transit there in a reasonable amount of time?

Finally, it's not just what you know, but alas, who you know. Networking face-to-face is still the best way to meet people, so try joining trade or industry groups or at least attending one or more of their functions. Ask around with your friends and see if their firms are hiring or if they know if anyone is hiring (you can even call former coworkers to find out if they've heard anything about hirings). Apparently, some recruiting companies are using LinkedIn to find good candidates, and you can use LinkedIn to find people who work at the company with whom you want to interview. Regardless of how you make contacts, be able to sell yourself in a minute or less--if you call a firm and get the very person you want to talk to, being articulate right off the bat can help get your foot in the door.

Some of the tips in this post have been culled from articles in the Denver Post (Page 1K & 8K, 11/8/09; and page 1D & 10D, 1/12/10). Next time, I'll talk about being on the other side of the equation: what if you're employed and you're trying to help a friend get a job? If you have questions or a topic you'd like to see discussed here, let me know in the comments or drop me a line via email from the sidebar. Thanks!

Monday, January 11, 2010

What networking programs do you use?

I've been seeing in job-hunting articles recently that more and more people are using LinkedIn as a way to make contacts and get jobs these days. Supposedly, job recruiters are using LinkedIn to find and measure job candidates, while the site can be used by job hunters to reach someone already working at a company they want to join. I can't decide how I feel about this. On the one hand, how in the world would some social networking website make anyone feel confident that they're making good hiring and recruitment decisions? On the other hand, how many complete wackos in the history of white-collar employment have been hired after presenting a great resume and acing an interview? I suppose it's no worse a way to connect job seekers and the jobs they seek.

So what about all of you out there? What are you doing? Facebook? LinkedIn? MySpace? (or is that for the kids these days?) Twitter? What else is there?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Contract work: a viable option in a bad economy?

I recently got an email from an Intern 101 reader regarding contract work. Our reader, R, had an informal interview with a firm, and R was asked if he would start his own "drafting company" and work as a contract employee. Some firms are using contract employees because it allows them to meet deadlines and client demands but still save money. By hiring you as a contract employee, the firm doesn't have to pay you health and retirement benefits, and it can also save them on Social Security, employee taxes, and unemployment payments. Working as a contract employee can help you get or stay employed in a bad economy, padding your bank account and helping you gain more IDP credits. However, there are a few things to consider when engaging in contract work for a firm.

What are the rules for making your own business? You'll need to check with your state's chamber of commerce or department of licensing and permits to see what the rules are for creating your own business. For example, in the state of Colorado (where I live), you would need to have an architectural consulting business; since you're not licensed, you can't be an architect but you can be a consultant. These governmental agencies should also be able to tell you about your tax responsibilities, which brings me to my second concern.

What are your newfound expenses? Your employer may not be paying taxes on you, but the government will still want its share of your income. It also may require that you withhold your own unemployment insurance. Also, will you be able to do all your printing on the firm's dime (or be reimbursed for it), or will you have to absorb that cost? You'll want to make sure that whatever you're being paid by the firm will cover those additional costs. Take whatever your hourly rate or salary would usually be (without working for them conventionally) and work forward using the information you collect from your state's business/commerce department.

Are you covered under their liability insurance? When you work conventionally for a firm, the fee they charge an owner for your work includes enough to pay for their liability insurance. This is the insurance that protects them if they're ever found negligent on a project. The question you want to ask is if you're covered under their liability insurance. If you're not, it's possible (however unlikely) that the firm could come after you if they get sued for a project that you worked on. If you're not covered, I'd be a little suspicious.

Can you use your experience for IDP? First, the good news is that IDP allows interns to work as independent contractors as long as they're working for a licensed architect. (Check here for the acceptable work settings in which you can accrue IDP credits.) You'll want to make sure that you keep good records on your time working for this firm to make sure that you can use the credits for your IDP. In R's case, he'll be working in a foreign country for an architecture firm. If the architect he's working for is not licensed in the U.S., then he can't use the hours for IDP. But in R's case, the experience of working in a foreign country may be worth not being able to count the hours. After all, you can still put the experience on your resume, and that's always good.

Questions? Concerns? Comments? Issues? Enemies list? A topic you'd like to see covered on this blog? Feel free to leave it in the comments or email me at the address in the sidebar. Thanks!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Getting (re)started in 2010

I've been out of the office for a few weeks taking some much-needed (though some of it forced) R&R. It just hit me this past weekend that I have to start work today and get back into the swing of things. Fortunately, I've been checking my work email a couple of times each week while I've been gone. I say "fortunately" because email eats much of our time in the modern workplace, and regularly emptying out my inbox has prevented overload. I was able to reply to a surprise email from a client who wanted to restart a project that went on hold last year, and I was able to pass on a few misdirected emails and questions. Just as importantly, I deleted all the "the copier is down" and "there's cookies in the break room" type of emails as well as emails from various companies and non-profit/professional organizations. When I walk in and sit down at my desk for the first time in three weeks, it will be easier to think.

If you've been off for a while and are able to remotely access your work email from home, I highly recommend it. If you're only off for a couple of days, it's not such a big deal, but a four-day weekend or more will leave you eyeball-deep in a few work emails surrounded by junk. After you've settled the email stuff, then you can get back to bigger tasks, like asking yourself "What was I doing last week, anyway?"

I don't make New Year's resolutions--I've found that real change doesn't depend on the purchase of a new calendar. However, I really appreciate all the feedback and questions I've received from my readers so far, and I really need you to keep it coming! Any question or comment, no matter how minor, is important to me. I like knowing what's important to interns, because it's you who will inherit this profession, and I want it to be strong and relevant. So whether you email me at my address in the sidebar or leave a comment on this or another blog post, drop me a line. Here's to a great 2010 (which hopefully will be better than the previous two years)!