Wednesday, March 31, 2010

And now for my next trick...

Forgive the absence of posts--it's been a pretty busy week.

I have several projects at work that have all gotten really active at the same time (and all their deadlines are next week), plus I've been getting ready for a couple of presentations regarding the work I do here at Intern 101. I recently had someone ask me about good sources for written communication advice. I've found the best communication skills in "Civilized Assertiveness For Women" by Judith McClure, PhD. Technically, it's aimed at women but the skills are equally usable by and with both genders. If you're looking for written communication in general, I'll have to look a little more and poll my college professor friends about some sources. In the meantime, I'm getting started on turning this blog into a book with a fair amount of practical advice, especially on communication.

I'm going to go collapse for a moment, but I'll post when I can over the next week as I slough off each of my deadlines. I've had several good questions recently that deserve some reflection and response. As always, though, keep the questions and comments coming, either through the post comments or through my email in the sidebar. Thanks!

Monday, March 29, 2010

A year of Intern 101

Well, hot dog!

It just occurred to me that I've been running this blog for a year now! (Well, a year ago tomorrow, really.) It all started with this post, which I wrote initially as a semi-lark because I was so furious at what this economy was doing to intern architects and just needed to vent. I realized as I was writing it that I wanted to do something more. I wanted to help the future of my profession in some way because I feared that all the really good sharp talent was going to leave. And I couldn't let that happen without some kind of fight.

A grad school friend was visiting me this weekend, and we had several good conversations/debates/discussions about what makes a good architect, what kind of interns are firms looking for, and so on. He made the point that my redlining of resumes may mean that I'm applying my very-practical viewpoint (gained from working at a more production-oriented firm) to resumes that aren't meant to ever go to firms like mine. Through my super-practical filter, I might be inadvertently squelching some good thinking and creativity when it comes to someone's resume. I countered that by having a resume be too specific or too artsy or too straight-ahead in a bad economy, an intern might talk someone out of hiring them, when the experience of working for that firm might be good for both intern and firm. Ultimately, though, I'd like to think that my readers are sharp enough to know if a redline I've made is simply not going to work for them. After all, what I'm providing is advice, not Gospel.

And I provide that advice because it feels like for at least some of you, there's no one else available to provide this info. When I started this blog and told a colleague about it at dinner one evening, he practically blew the paper napkin off the table when he sniffed in disdain: "You're babying these interns, Lu--they need to suck it up and ask someone at their office, not come whining to you, and you're gonna keep that from happening." I didn't counter his argument, as he was making this proclamation after a few margaritas, and I know better than to argue with drunk architects. But my counterargument, had he been sober enough to hear it, would be this: in order for interns to ask questions, people have to be available to ask. And just being at the same office as people with knowledge isn't enough--those fellow experienced architects must be physically or technologically available, and they must also be verbally, emotionally, and mentally available. I once worked for an architect who was always busy, and while she was very helpful and knowledgeable, it took me a long time to figure that out. Every time I would ask her, "do you have a moment for a question?" her immediate response was "No." She meant it as a form of commiseration--oh, we're all so busy!--but I took it as her way of blowing me off.

So, as I thank you all for checking in and commenting, I'd like to start this new year of Intern 101 with a couple of questions for you:
  • how did you find this blog?
  • who do you ask for professional advice?
Thanks again for visiting, and remember that this site works (if it works at all) based on your questions and comments, so keep 'em coming!

All the very best,

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Redlined Resumes: fun with formatting or, "please touch!"

Ah, yes, another resume! Same rules as last time: I've printed the resumes and hand-marked them in red. I've scanned all the documents in black and white for a two reasons: one, you can see my red marks better on a black-and-white page; and two, your beautiful color resume may end up getting printed by someone with a crappy, B&W-only printer (I know, you'd think everyone's caught up by now) or faxed (and fax machines generally only print in B&W--horrors!) I've marked out names and addresses as well as places you've worked, but I left schools in. To read the JPGs of the resumes, double-click on them and they'll open in a separate window at a larger size.

Today's resume come from C.K., who's graduating in June but has a job lined up right after graduation--rock on! That's very good news, especially in this economy. I presume that this resume got C.K. a job, so it's entirely possible that all my notes and comments are moot, but that's never stopped me from opening my mouth before.

C.K.'s resume is a pretty gutsy one--it's a double-sided all-color image, 6" x 10" in its folded form, and only for hard copy mailing. C.K. emailed me that his goal is to get in at a design firm, not just an architecture firm, so his goal is to use this as a type of teaser document. What I'm showing in the images here is the front and back of C.K.'s CV document. What I love about this is that it's got a lot of creativity in it, and if you're a design firm looking for someone who's got a little edge to them, then this will definitely catch their eye. I also love that the Point of Contact, shown on the inside/information side, is the first thing you see. It must be first or last and really set apart so that an interested party can see how to find you. Also, C.K.'s format doesn't make the reader work hard to understand what he's about--here's my schooling, my work experience, and my skills. Buh-BAM! The font is clear, and there's breathing room in between the different sections. In these sections, I've advised him to make his sentences a little shorter, such as under the "D____ Group" work experience. I also mention under the "Z____ Group" work experience that he consider his choice of words: did he compose or produce the schematic drawings? Compose sounds like he placed images on sheets or boards; produced sounds like he did the drawings and put them on sheets or boards. And like some of the other resumes we've covered here, I suggested that he mention whether he's familiar or proficient in the various software types that he's listed. I also suggest mentioning the total number of hours required for IDP when he talks about how far along he is--remember that many of the people doing the interviewing didn't have IDP and don't know a whole lot about it. Therefore, giving them the total ("I have 2800 out of 5600 hours completed") tells them how far along and how awesome you are.

I recommend eliminating the "Objective" and "Personal Interests" sections. You can discuss personal interests in the interview--let that be a delightful surprise that they get to discover when you walk through the door, otherwise you run the risk of sounding like an internet blind date. Also, bear in mind that C.K.'s resume clearly shows that he's still an intern and he's about to graduate or just graduated from college--his objective is ultimately to find a job that allows him to get his hours and take and pass the ARE. He can use the interview to find out more about the firm and see if it's a good fit for him (and he for them). If this were ten years ago when firms couldn't find enough interns to do the work and everyone was hiring like crazy, I might recommend keeping in something about looking for a design-focused firm. But right now, being too selective means that he could talk himself out of a pretty good job that could be a great learning experience as well. I also have to say that including the word "fun" in an Objective could be the kiss of death for a lot of firms--there is a generation bias against interns in some circles already, as some see interns as a bunch of darn kids who feel entitled and don't care and blah blah blah and get off my lawn! Hence, including the word "fun" (even if it's true and it should be a part of your work day) might knock you out of the running for a firm that may have been a great fit and actually would be fun to work in.

The other part that would concern me as a potential employer is the relevant experience part. I love the fact that this is included, as it's a good snapshot of all the other things C.K. can do. However, "Architectural Project Research" is a bit broad--did this involve product research? Code research and studies? Zoning board involvement? Defining this a little more gives me a good idea of what C.K. has been doing. Also, the part that says "Project Management Experience" throws up a flag--interns generally don't manage projects, and C.K.'s above-described activities at the two firms doesn't necessarily indicate project management tasks. Again, a further explanation of what he means is in order here ("Conducted user group/client meetings"? Coordinated with contractor and consultants on 50,000 sf project"?), lest someone think he's padding his resume.

In addition to the mailable resume, I would also encourage C.K. to produce a matching document that reads and prints well as an 8.5"x11" PDF in black & white and color. If a really good firm requires that he submit he resume electronically, his excellent graphic design skills will work in his favor, and he can blow a firm away in two formats--well done!

If you have an architectural/design profession resume that you'd like for me to review and post on the blog, or any question or topic you'd like to see covered here, feel free to mention it in the comments or email me at the address in the sidebar. Thanks!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Redlined Resumes: coming back to architecture

Okay, folks, time for another resume. Same rules apply as before: I've printed the resumes and hand-marked them in red. I've scanned all the documents in black and white for a two reasons: one, you can see my red marks better on a black-and-white page; and two, your beautiful color resume may end up getting printed by someone with a crappy, B&W-only printer (I know, you'd think everyone's caught up by now) or faxed (and fax machines generally only print in B&W--horrors!) I've marked out names and addresses as well as places you've worked, but I left schools in. To read the JPGs of the resumes, double-click on them and they'll open in a separate window at a larger size.

Today's resume comes to us from A.H., who stepped away from architecture for a while and is now going back to architecture school and has renewed his commitment to the profession. While A.H. sent me resumes for going after a variety of positions, I'm going to focus on the most architectural of them and edit it as if he's going after a position as an intern with an architecture firm.

The first thing I loved about this resume is that it's not vertical--that jumped out at me because it was unusual but didn't give me any problems in opening, reading, and/or faxing and printing it. Also, this format allows A.H. to fill the page with his experience and education while also making sure it's legible. There's something nice about the quote at the top of the page with his name--almost graphic layout/magazine-like. I also like his Summary of Qualifications section--in lieu of the old "Objective" on a resume, this allows his resume to be sent around without (or separate from) his cover letter, and he can customize this for every firm to which he sends it. In the redlines, I'm suggesting that when he rework his Summary of Qualifications, that he sample a bit out of it to use as his enlarged quote above. Rather, below--move the Summary to the top of the first column and then move the quote to the bottom.

A.H.'s software skills are good to include, but as I mentioned on the previous resume, it's best to explain if you're familiar or proficient with the types of software. What I failed to realize until now is that A.H. would also do well to describe what kinds of web designing software he is familiar/proficient with, as web design is described as one of his skills in the second column. I suggested that he set that skill and task apart from the rest in that second column under where he worked for the AIA. Also, I've tweaked a few words there: "focused" isn't nearly as active of a word as "coordinated", and "trouble-shooting" is one of those words that's iffy when you put it into past tense. (I checked with a college English professor on that word, and she recommended "performed trouble-shooting" in order to get around the iffyness). As for the last job, which was clothing retail, I realize I didn't say much about it. Perhaps a better way to describe those tasks may be: "Understood current promotions and all product features" and then "Clearly communicated features and product options to customers to aid in their product selections". The phrase "influenced buying decisions" may strike some potential employers as a little manipulative. Save the discussion of reading verbal and non-verbal cues as something for an interview--it can sound scheme-ish in written form but a brilliant skill in psychological understanding when explained in person.

A.H.'s resume has a lot of good things going for it in terms of formatting, and even the content has a lot to offer. If A.H. went after a job at a firm that did a lot of government buildings, he could boldface the part about being Criminal Database Certified, and if he went after a position in a small firm and found that they had a crappy website, he could accentuate his web experience.

Next post: another resume! In the meantime, if you have an architectural/design profession resume that you'd like for me to review and post on the blog, or any question or topic you'd like to see covered here, feel free to mention it in the comments or email me at the address in the sidebar. Thanks!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Redlined Resumes: a good example to start

Okay, time to start the cavalcade of redlined resumes. For starters, since I have a crappy version of Adobe here at home, I've printed the resumes and hand-marked them in red. I've scanned all the documents in black and white for a two reasons: one, you can see my red marks better on a black-and-white page; and two, your beautiful color resume may end up getting printed by someone with a crappy, B&W-only printer (I know, you'd think everyone's caught up by now) or faxed (and fax machines generally only print in B&W--horrors!) I've marked out names and addresses as well as places you've worked, but I left schools in. To read the JPGs of the resumes, double-click on them and they'll open in a separate window at a larger size.

(Also, I should note here that I'm only reviewing resumes for people in the architecture/landscape/interior design professions--if you are in any field but those, please do not send me a resume.)

Here's our first resume, a really good one from A.R. A.R.'s resume has a lot going for it. First, the formatting: despite all of her honors and activities, it's at one page. Second, she's using a good clear font and using font size as well as regular, bold, and italic type to set up and prioritize the information. The tinted rectangles that surround her section headings ("Education", "Skillset", etc.) further prioritize and organize the information.

The format of the text and info in the first entry under "Community" has a nice feel to it; the way the experience description flows after the location is almost newspaper-like. It can also save her a couple of lines if she starts to run out of room. Also useful is how certain items on the resume are in bold, such as certain awards, experiences, and her skillset. Bolding bits of content in your resume can make those items jump out at a potential interviewer.

Let's look at content for a bit. Bear in mind that A.R. only graduated from college a year ago, but this resume looks really impressive. She's included and summed up her work experience and included community and professional organization activities and honors. What's great about including this info is that it provides a fuller picture of this job applicant, and it does so in a way that is more professional and relevant than the old "Hobbies and Interests" section on 20th-century resumes. Not only does she tell someone what she's into in her free time (leading tutorials on rendering, raising recycling awareness, initiates a materials library), she provides personal information that can be used positively in a professional setting (wow, she can get stuff started and keep it going, lots of experience at working with others and keeping things organized). She's filled things about a bit with her Skillset section, which is a great place to show what she knows and how much she knows it. This section can be really important--remember, there are a lot of you out there right now looking for a small number of jobs, so if you're really good at certain types of software or languages or whatever, highlight them to set yourself apart from the pack.

Most of what I see in A.R.'s resume are words and phrases that could be nudged or changed a little bit as well as some grammar and punctuation changes. I also am not sure what a couple of the items were under Awards and Organizations, so if there's a way for A.R. to describe those a little more clearly, then more power to her.

A.R.'s resume was in black text with some red on it in a few places, but overall it's a simple document. Some of your friends or colleagues may have amazing documents that are feats of elegant graphic design, but don't let that give you stage fright when it comes to designing your own resume. Simple and straight-shooting can be just as effective as some graphic work--think of your resume as a design problem that may not best be solved with an actual drawing. now, if you put some graphic design work into your resume, don't sweat that either. Just make sure that whatever you're designing will read clearly if photocopied in black and white as well as in the color(s) you've printed and that the graphic work doesn't overwhelm (but rather support) the content.

Next post: another resume! In the meantime, if you have an architectural/design profession resume that you'd like for me to review and post on the blog, or any question or topic you'd like to see covered here, feel free to mention it in the comments or email me at the address in the sidebar. Thanks!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A survey for interns: your chance to be heard!

I was recently contacted by two architects who are conducting a survey regarding the experiences of intern architects, and in order to get the most responses possible, they've asked me to post the following and put a link to their survey here in Intern 101. And of course, I'm happy to oblige. The point of their survey is to find out what kind of experiences all of you are having, and then go explain that at a conference of licensed architects. I'll let them explain in their own words:

A pair of architects are working on a presentation to an architecture convention about ways of working with and describing the experiences of Architectural Interns. We have been operating with several assumptions, but we hope to have accurate information based on responses from current interns.

Are you interested in sharing your experience in an architectural internship? Follow this link to an architectural internship survey: (Interns are defined as those working in the field who are not yet licensed architects.)

We very much appreciate your sincere responses. No specific or individual information will be shared instead we will process a summary of the survey results to guide the presentation. At the end, you can enter your e-mail address for a drawing to win an $80.00 gift certificate to a national bookstore.

The survey should take approximately 12 minutes.

I asked them about that second to last paragraph, and what they mean about "no specific or individual information will be shared" is that no one will be able to tell from the survey that So-and-So from XYZ Design Firm said that their present internship experience is a dumpster fire tumbling over a cliff. Therefore, please feel free to answer the questions honestly. And please forward the survey on to all of your friends in your firm and in other firms and even to friends that may have been laid off. The more responses these architects get, the better their data will be.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Coming soon: redlined resumes!

My out-of-town company has left, and I've had a chance to sit down and mark up the resumes I've received so far. I'll be posting them tomorrow and the rest of the week as a JPG so that you can double-click on the resume and open it in a separate window to see the resume better. I'll also include comments as to why I wrote what I wrote on them, but I also will include notes on what's working in these resumes. So far, the batch I have show some really creative thinking and some neat ideas in terms of formatting and presenting information.

In the meantime, check out this link on Ten Online Resources for Job Seekers. I clicked through a few of the links and found some good tips, but the most basic tips remain the best: no spelling or grammatical errors, include plenty of contact info (more than just one phone number--gimme an email address as well, at the very least), and remember that your formatting makes a difference (breathing room around the info on the sheet as well as a legible font).

One article I read said to include a customized "Objective" on each resume, targeted to the job for which you're sending the resume. I've recently heard from the folks at the firm at which I work that an "Objective" is redundant and could possibly bite you in the backside. Your objective should be to work for the exact job I'm advertising, and if your printed "Objective" varies from what I'm advertising or what my firm is about, your resume goes straight into the big blue recycling bin. Using your cover letter to target and highlight your experience instead of an objective on the resume is becoming an acceptable way of getting a job (and is how I got my gig back in 2000, before sticky Toyota accelerators and the iPod). However, one of the upcoming resumes includes a section that brilliantly accomplishes what the objective cannot.

Meanwhile, I must also say this: your resumes inspire me to fix and tune up my own. I need to anyway--you should update your resume once a year--but this batch really gives me some great ideas and represents some solid but creative thinking.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Working overseas: a passport to a better career (and life)

I'm still working on the resumes I've been sent after running a gauntlet of a day of meetings. What's caught my eye from these resumes as well as some of the emails I received recently is how many of you are considering or even angling for working abroad. Perhaps you attended school overseas as part of your college curriculum, or perhaps it's something you've always wanted to do. Regardless, it can provide you with a great life and career experience. Some principles of putting together a building and working in a firm are universal-- e.g., keep water and weather out of the building, make sure you use your time wisely your work--but there will be things you learn at a foreign firm that you won't get at a U.S. firm. Also, you might be able to use your experience as marketing when you work in the States again--imagine being able to get foreign work or teaming with an overseas firm because you have experience working in that country!

If you want to count the time you spend at a foreign firm towards your IDP, you'll need to work for an architect who is licensed to practice in the U.S. However, it's not the end of the world if you can't count the hours--the experience is still invaluable. According to a 2009 study by INSEAD and the Kellogg School of Management, people who have lived abroad tend to be more creative and better negotiators than those who have not. Having said that, I found a few websites that might help someone looking into working and living abroad. Culture Crossing provides information of various etiquette rules of other countries. If you want to figure out what it will cost to live in another country, check out Xpatulator.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Resume review: enable your PDFs

As I'm trying to park up some of the PDF resumes I've been sent, I'm finding that I'm not able to mark them up digitally. If you send me a PDF, please be sure to enable the document so that I can make comments on it. (Now, it's entirely possible that there's something wrong with this version of Adobe Acrobat that I have. I go to Tools --> Customize Toolbars --> and I check to activate "Comment and Markup Toolbar", but the window also indicates that that particular toolbar is only available if the document rights are enabled. Any ideas to fix this, or do I just have a crappy version of Adobe on my laptop?)

Thanks for your patience--I've got a day full of meetings tomorrow, so it may be later in the week before I get the first of the resumes up.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Resume review: hang on, I'm doing it...

Okay, so I've been having such an awesome time with my out-of-town company that I haven't had a chance to really review the resumes that have come in. I'll have something up this week--my apologies.

In the meantime, I read in Sunday's Wall Street Journal supplement to the Denver Post that asking for time off is an alternate way to be rewarded when there aren't any raises or bonuses to go around. The article suggested a few ways to do this, the first of which is to ask to use vacation/personal time before you've accrued it. Some employers, they noted, aren't keen on this, because if the employee must be laid off (or leaves) before they've earned that time off, it has to be garnished out of severance or due wages. An alternate way to ask for time off is to present your business case for taking the time--will you have all your work done by the time you leave? Who will handle your duties while you're out? Will it allow you to serve the community/profession/family? If all else fails, you can ask for time off without pay: "I'd like X amount of time off for Y--I'm not asking you to pay me while I'm gone, but I want to make sure that I have a job when I get back."

I'm of two minds about this. On the one hand, time off instead of a pay raise might be just the perk that could benefit you and your employer in tough times. On the other hand, I'm hesitant to recommend being gone a whole lot--if the company realizes that they do quite well without you, guess who might be out of a job? Thoughts?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Resume review: I called, you answered.

Thanks to all who have sent resumes to review! I'm going to do two this weekend (hopefully--don't quote me on that; I have out of town company coming for eight days) and post the results next week. In the meantime, I'm curious if anyone had any resume help available at their schools, perhaps as part of a student job/leadership/success center-ish thing? I think I attended a one-hour workshop/lecture that was hosted by someone from the student success center at my undergrad school, but then I also recall buying or borrowing a book on writing good resumes back in the late 1990s as I reached the end of my grad school career.

Some schools will offer a workshop with several architects available to look at and critique student resumes; if you have a chance to participate in that, it's a good source of feedback, and sometimes you can even land a job that way. Otherwise, a good book is better than nothing. Other than that, using common sense is key--checking for spelling and grammatical errors is absolutely required, and make sure that you keep your resume to one page. If you have less than five years' experience, and you haven't cured cancer or won the Virgin Galactic prize for creating the Space Elevator, you don't have enough worth talking about to make two pages. Keep it short, simple, and strong--especially good to do in a competitive labor market like the one we're in now.

Have a great weekend, and I'll post some redlined resumes next week!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Resume review: a call for submissions

I recently received a resume from an intern asking me to review it and provide any comments. I'll be reviewing it and marking it up shortly, and I've gotten permission from the intern to post my comments (with identifying info removed) here on Intern 101. If anyone else is willing to have their resume shared on the site, feel free to email it to me. When you send it, be sure to let me know what you're going after with this resume--summer internship, full-time position, any job whatsoever, etc.

Email your resume to me (preferably as a Word document) in my email address in the sidebar. And as always, if you have another topic you'd like to see covered or a question you'd like to have answered, you can email me at the same address.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Paying interns: it's not just a good idea, it's the law

Occasionally, an intern will email me to ask if they should offer to work for a firm for no pay as part of a trial period in order to get a paying job. My answer is always no; the AIA has explicit rules of ethics that dictate that interns must be paid, especially if they do work from which the firm benefits. Turns out that there are legal rules from the Department of Labor that say the same thing. According to the website and an article in the Denver Post edition of the Wall Street Journal Sunday (2/14/10), an unpaid intern:
  • must not do work from which the company will directly benefit
  • must not displace a regular employee
  • must learn beneficial skills that would be similar to what's taught in a vocational school
  • must understand that the unpaid internship does not guarantee a job
There are exceptions for those who get school credit for their work; for example, your pay is through school credit but is not monetary, though some firms pay college students a wage that's in addition to the school credits they're supposed to receive. Also, interns must receive overtime pay for any hours worked over 40. (This doesn't count if you're supposed to only work 20 hours a week and you work 25--overtime only happens if you work over 40 hours in a pay period.)

Even if it wasn't a matter of the DOL's say-so and the AIA's ethics, working for free doesn't jive with my own personal ethics. When you work for free, you tell a firm just how much you're worth and just how much you can be bought for. It's the same as asking for less than your equally-qualified colleagues when you all start at the same job. As time passes, you miss out on more and more pay as you work year after year. When you work for less--or for free--you start from behind and will stay behind for the rest of your career. And in a line of work that's notorious for being underpaid, I'm begging all of you not to sell yourselves short.