Monday, August 30, 2010

Lulu's Mailbag: What's in a name?

During my recent haphazard attempts to recuperate from a busy winter, spring, and summer, I got the following email from Julian:

My main question is what job title should recent graduates apply for. For example, what is the exact difference between an internship (non-summer) and a junior designer position?

Also, when firms list X amount of years of experience does this include summer internships? In my opinion, I believe summer internships really do not qualify as substantial work experience but then again I'm eager to hear your opinion.

There are two great questions in here, and I'm really glad Julian asked about the importance (or non-importance) of what your job position or experience is named. Let's address the first question about non-summer internship vs. junior designer. I suppose a firm might decide internally that there's a difference between the two, but it's unlikely. If a firm advertises for an "internship", that to me sounds like the position is for an unlicensed person and is available with a definite start and end date (6 months, 12 months, etc.). It would be worth applying for the position, and if you were to get an interview, I would definitely ask what this "internship" involves: is it a set amount of time for a specific project?

The word "junior" in "junior designer" implies (to me, anyway) that the position is for an unlicensed person with an architectural degree or experience. It's the word "designer" in the title that strikes me as interesting, though. Some firms don't like to use the word "intern" to describe an unlicensed person with an architecture degree who is actively working towards licensure. They will find other names for that position and that person, such as "coordinator" or "designer". On the one hand, using a name other than "intern" for that position feels like someone's blowing sunshine up my skirt. On the other hand, having lived through the Monica Lewinsky trials of 1999, being called an "intern" makes me feel like someone has other plans for my skirt, possibly involving more than sunshine. (Every few years, the AIA debates changing what we call "interns", and I really wish they would change the name. Every other profession uses the word "intern" to refer to someone working as a high school or partway-through-college employee who's working part time and just barely learning the ropes. The "interns" I know in architecture do a helluva lot more than that.)

Speaking of interns and summer/holiday internships, let's address the second half of Julian's email. Should you count your summer jobs in architecture as "experience"? My short answer is yes--you've seen a work environment and have been around architectish people while they were doing architecty things, which puts you ahead of where I was before June of 2000. The longer answer is this: whether you include your summer job at a firm in your experience is based on a) if you worked there after your junior year of undergrad and b) what you actually did there. Did you stamp big stacks of drawings, take drawings to the city, make copies of documents, and pick up bagels for the morning meeting? Then including this job as "architectural work experience" might be kind of a stretch. But what if you did redlines, took as-built measurements, walked a job site, and/or did a little product or code research? Then the job is worth mentioning, especially if you list with a couple of bullet points the kind of things you did during that time. The after-your-junior-year thing means that you had a couple of years in school to understand design issues and even take a couple of architectural history and means-and-methods classes. Having three years of design school under your belt before entering the workforce, even for only a couple of months at a time, implies (rightfully or not) that you kinda know something about the job before you start doing it for real.

Thanks again for the question, Julian. If any of you have a question or comment or would like to see something discussed here, let me know if the comments or email me at my email address in the sidebar.

No comments:

Post a Comment