Monday, October 31, 2011

Lulu's Mailbag: How do I follow my heart and my profession cross country?

I got the following question/conundrum from B.G., who I'm sure isn't the Lone Ranger with this problem:

I am an intern architect with four years of full-time experience, presently employed at locally reputable, 20 person office on the East coast. I am also a LEED AP BD+C and am starting to study for the ARE. My boyfriend moved to the West coast last year to attend a 5 year phd program. We have made it long distance for a year and I am now in the process of the looking for work out West near where my boyfriend goes to school. Previously, I went to grad school out West, but not in the same city so I have no connections. I have been applying to jobs for a month now and am worried I won't find anything (my boyfriend reapplied to schools this year, but was unable to get in anywhere else). Additionally as a young intern architect, I can't financially afford to move out there without a job. Recently, I have been peer reviewing my job application documents with a more experienced colleague which I believe has been an improvement, but overall I am worried and the situation is causing me massive anxiety. Do you have any advice for my job search?

Ah, yes, the moving-cross-country for love and work problem.  In our modern, heavily-mobile society, it's a big problem for folks of all professions and frankly of all ages.  First, let's assess the economy: you had been looking for a job for a month when you wrote me this question back in the summer (and I apologize for not getting back to you sooner).  In this abject economy (and even now), I would have been amazed if you had been able to find something in just one month.  There's a lot of competition for jobs right now, so don't be surprised if you're having a hard time finding something.  Having someone review your resume and help you punch it up a bit is a good thing.  It's always good to have a fresh set of eyes on a document that you've slaved over, and it's especially helpful if those eyes have hired people before--they know what to look for and what can catch someone's eye (or make them drop you into File 13).

Now, let's look at your job search from a couple of different angles.  First off, you lament that you have no connections in your BF's new hometown.  Bummer.  Wait, aren't you working at a firm now?  Do they know of anyone even remotely in that area?  For that matter, would anyone at a local networking event full of architects know someone on the West Coast looking for a sharp soon-to-be-licensed architect?  Here's where you work this the way the social site LinkedIn is supposed to work: you go meet people and talk to people, and they know people who are where you want to be, and they connect you with those people.  Yes, it's a bit of a stretch, but it just might work.  You'll need to get yourself in front of those people, so find the next AIA wine and cheese event being touted, put on a good suit, and get thee to it.

Next, you mention that you cannot move unless you have a job in place.  Fair enough, and it's good planning as well.  But must it be a straight-up architecture job?  I don't mean you should get hired at Starbucks and then move, but perhaps you could work for a contractor or even for an architectural product company.  I recently met a sharp young woman who graduated from school as an electrical engineer just as the economy tanked, so she started working as a product rep/consultant/designer for a lighting fixture company.  The job held her over for a couple of years, and in the course of her job she met dozens of great engineering firms, one of which was eventually able to hire her full the state to which her fiance had just moved.  What I'm saying is that your experience may allow you to branch out to work in more than just straight-up-vanilla architecture for the time being, which could give you the moolah needed to move to be with your sweetie.

(Bear in mind that no matter how you find a potential job out West, chances are good that you'll need to fly there for a face-to face interview, unless they'll settle for some hot Skype-on-Skype action.  Make sure you've budgeted for that trip, or trips if need be.)

Got a question you'd like answered or a topic you'd like to see discussed on Intern 101?  Let me know in the comments or via email in the sidebar.  Thanks!

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