Monday, January 30, 2012

Redlined Resumes: nice and clean

Yes indeed, Redlined Resumes is back after a very long hiatus.  I have a few resumes to share, all of them with good points and ideas and formats.  Our first is from CP (double click on the image to open larger in a separate window): 

CP has a clean non-serif font and a simple graphic strategy--a dark bar with a reverse-contrast title printed in them.  CP also puts his/her software skills first, before his/her work experience.  This is an interesting tactic, but for CP it makes sense: if the work experience isn't so strong, lead with the software skills, which are very strong and may be all a firm needs to decide to interview CP.

CP does have a couple of misspelled words in this resume, and there are a few abbreviations that may need to be spelled out so that a potential firm can understand their importance.  I would also remove the objective at the top in order to give that space to a better description of the work experience.  The work experience is a little thin, but when CP puts in things like "supervised building events", that's a big responsibility that I as a project manager would like to know about.  Meanwhile, the "studios of note" is the section that can be thinned or deleted depending on the kind of firm at which CP applies.  If they're design-heavy, it might be worth keeping, but if they're more of a production firm this section can be thinned.

More Redlined Resumes to come in the next few weeks--if you would like your resume critiqued and featured here, please send it to me via email in the sidebar.  And feel free to send me any other questions as well, and I'll do my best to address them here.  Thanks!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Lulu Brown's basic guide to resumes

With the economy slowly recovering, and a rash of new Redlined Resumes to post (I know, it's been forever!), I wanted to post (or even repost) about my basic rules for architectural intern resumes.  First, a caveat: this advice is based on my professional experience plus the experience of some of my colleagues; while it's based in hiring and recruiting realities, it's not set in stone.  You may get the perfect job by breaking one or more of my rules, so there are no promises here.  However, it's never a bad idea to have someone who's already in the business to look over your resume and find misspellings, flaws, graphic issues, etc.  That's what I'm here for.

And so, my basic rules:

  1. If you're unlicensed, keep your resume to one page. I've caught some heat for this in the past, but I think if you ignore every other Lulu Brown Resume Rule, stick with this one.  I advise the one page rule for two reasons: it keeps you honest and it makes you more visible.  If you aren't licensed yet and are less than ten years out of college, you truly haven't done enough to warrant two pages for a resume.  If you do have tons of cool projects and awards and activities, you need to edit them to be the most relevant for the firm(s) to which you're applying.  Also, if you are unlicensed with less than ten years' experience and you give me two pages to muck through while looking for a potential new employee, you're making me work too hard to see why I should hire you.  It's a resume, not a thesis. (Note: the only way I might give you two pages is if you were in the military and did some pretty badass stuff while you were there.)
  2. Get rid of anything from high school.  Working at various high school jobs definitely builds character and teaches you the value of an honest day's work.  However, if you've graduated from college, high school is now moot.  I realize that also means deleting that fact that you were in the Governor's Honors program for art, or that you made Eagle Scout--too bad.  That was then, and this is now.  Save it for the interview.  I promise that if you went to 4-6 years of college, you're way more interesting now.
  3. Delete the "Objective" and the "Hobbies/Interests" from your resume.  Your objective is clear: you want the job I'm advertising on or the AIA job board.  If you want me to know how you're the right fit for the job I'm advertising, use your cover letter.  Hobbies and interests are superfluous for a resume and are taking up valuable space where I can find out about your recent work experience (architectural or not), your education, and your skills.
  4. Check your spelling and grammar.  This is a given.  You're about to go into a field where the big picture and the details are all important, so focus on both.  If you can't be bothered to spell correctly on your resume, I can't be bothered to look at it when I'm trying to hire someone.
  5. Think about your resume as a design problem...  In a sense, your resume is a design project that you won't be able to present to the jury.  It has to speak for itself.  All text and pictures have to read well in a variety of media-does it look good on any computer screen?  Does it print well in black and white as well as color?  Does it take special knowledge of Adobe Acrobat or some other graphics program to get it to print the way it should look?  How will it look on 8.5" x 11" paper instead of the cool format you made in InDesign?  Are the pictures and graphics big enough to read?  Is there enough white/negative space on the page so that your words and images can breathe?
  6. ...but don't overthink it.  Because your resume is a project that you can't present in person, we sometimes think that we really need to go all out and make it unbelievably amazing.  But look again at the questions in Rule #5: if you have a negative answer to any of those questions, then you may have overworked your resume.  Just as in a Studio project, you don't have to use all your good ideas in one resume.
Coming in the next few weeks--the triumphant return of Redlined Resumes!  For those of you new to Intern 101, I take resumes that have been sent to me for review and critique (with the person's permission, of course), I blank out identifying details and information, and I redline it.  I make notes on what's great, what works well, and what could be tweaked and improved.  Then, I post it here for everyone to learn from.  I've received a few resumes over the past year or so, and it's finally time to post them in their redlined glory.  If you'd like for me to include your resume in Redlined Resumes, feel free to email it to me via email in the sidebar.  Stay tuned!

Monday, January 16, 2012

On the other side of burnout

I posted at the end of 2010 about burnout, which was rampant during the recession and I'm sure is still happening in many workplaces, regardless of their field (architecture, construction, dentistry, accounting, what have you).  America is slowly coming out of the recession, but the recovery is happening unevenly.  The firm for which I work, for example, has managed to score some decent-sized projects and has a few in the pipeline (some we're sure about, some we're not), so we've been able to hire some new help in the past year.  (Not all firms in Colorado, where I live, have been so lucky, and some are still struggling.)  Some of the people we hired had been laid off in 2008 and 2009, and some are new people that were laid off from other firms.  Having said that, we're still not hiring by leaps and bounds.  

Some of the hesitation is due to trepidation: we're not sure that these projects are all going to come through and therefore be able to support a bunch of new staff; and if we did hire all those people and come up short, we're going to have to lay people off again, which gives our firm a bad reputation in town and just feels mean.  There's also the ulterior motive of getting back to solvency--the Great Recession was/is a lot bigger than anyone thought, so many firms went through all their savings and have even taken out loans to stay afloat.  As the work comes back, firms are trying to restock the coffers and pay off the loans, which sometimes means keeping staff levels the same and making the existing staff work more.  Sadly, some firms are using the economy as a reason/excuse not to give raises or bonuses even though the firm is clearly very busy and productive.  This reeks of Grade A Bullshit to me, and firms that do this will have to watch their best talent bounce on out the door once the economy recovers a little more (in 3-9 more months).  Good luck with that.

My own burnout has improved since fall of 2010, when I originally posted on the topic.  Because of the lack of staff, I ended up managing the largest project of my life.  I was able to use that experience to negotiate for a better raise along with my promotion.  (I have 11 1/2 years experience, licensed for 5, but i you're an intern with more than three years' experience and you've been doing lots of work above your experience level and pay grade for the past 6-12 months--and you've been doing it well--then I encourage you to negotiate for a raise.)  My promotion also means I finally get help--that is, staff--to help me with getting drawings and research done.  And while I've probably been working about 45 hrs/week this month, I'm working on things I really like and enjoy (though the deadlines have been hellish).  Working on the things I enjoy (and am good at) and having help with my tasks have helped with my burnout, for sure.  

So I'm curious about my Intern 101 readers--how are your energy levels?  How are things going now in 2012?  Let me know in the comments or via email in the sidebar.  And as always, let me know of questions or topics you'd like to see covered here on Intern 101.  

Monday, January 9, 2012

The 2011 AIA Compensation Report: What are the job descriptions?

A commentor last week asked what are the different intern descriptions for the AIA Compensation Report.  Good question:

Intern 1: Full-time entry-level intern on the path to licensure with fewer than two years of experience; develops design or technical solutions under the supervision of an architect.

Intern 2: Full-time intern on the path to licensure with two to three years of experience; works from the design of others under supervision, and performs routine and limited architectural assignments.  Performs specific/limited portions of assignments using prescribed methods.  Under general supervision, works from the design of others and performs routine architectural assignments.  Limited judgment is required on work details.  Assignments may include higher-level work for training/development purposes.

Intern 3: Full-time intern on the path to licensure with three to six years of experience; works under direction of others, responsible for projects' technical design, provides planning/design/coordination consultation on large projects; reviews/approves conceptual designs.  Responsible for specific technical design aspects of an assigned project including investigation, evaluation, and recommendation of design solutions.  Performs assignments under direction with limited responsibility for design.  Provides professional architectural consultation in the planning, design, and coordination of large, complex projects.  Independently makes decisions on significant architectural design problems and methods.  Reviews and approves conceptual designs.  Carries out complex or novel assignments requiring the development of new or improved techniques and procedures.

From here, we get into architects and design staff.  For example, an Architect 1 is licensed and has 5+ years experience and "exercises independent judgment in evaluation, selection, and use of standard techniques, solves problems when encountered, and receives guidance on complex projects."  The description in the Compensation Report then says that an Unlicensed Architecture/Design Staff 1 is the same definition as Architect 1, just unlicensed.  Architect 2 has 8+ years of experience and has more knowledge, more responsibilities, etc., and is licensed; Design Staff 2 does the same stuff but isn't licensed.  Architect 3 has 10+ years of experience and even more responsibilities; Design Staff 3 is the same but unlicensed.

Just before I got licensed, I was more of a Design Staff 1: I was definitely exercising independent judgment on standard questions and techniques and asking for direction on more complex questions.  Getting licensed gave me a boost in pay along with a little less supervision--I didn't have to clear every single thing I did with my boss, just the larger stuff.  Nowadays, I'm an Architect 3.  

Knowing these job descriptions is helpful because these can be used to gauge how much responsibility you're taking on versus how many years of experience you have.  It allows you to standardize (or at least begin to define) your job description even if your boss or firm has not done so.  It also allows you to compare apples to apples better, either within your firm or between you and another firm.  

Monday, January 2, 2012

Knowing your worth: the 2011 AIA Compensation Report

First of all, Happy New Year to all my readers.  I've received some good questions and post topics from some of you in the past month, and I hope to get those topics/questions posted on and answered in the next couple of months here.  

I wanted to kick the year off with a little something on the 2011 AIA Compensation Report, which was finally released for purchase in mid-December 2011.  It's available for purchase here for $249 if you're not a member and $195 if you are a member.  (A summary of the nationwide averages is here, if you're interested.)  As usual, I'm frustrated with AIA that the report is so ungodly expensive, especially for a document that is only available via emailed PDF.  By charging so much for the report, interns end up being excluded from having access to an arguably vital piece of information for our profession--the going rate for our specific experience level in our specific state or city.  

My husband and I bought it and split the cost, which I recommend all of you doing.  By doing so, we found out that my husband was on par with his colleagues and I was underpaid.  I used the information to bargain for (and receive) a good raise that put me level with others at my experience level in my geographical area.  This report could be worth having, especially if the cost is shared among a group of recent graduates or interns with little experience.  If you're looking to move to a different state or city, it's good to know what to ask for in those new locales and at your experience level.  (Regional reports are also available for $50 less than the full national report price, but I say spring for the whole shebang.)