Monday, February 27, 2012

Why time doesn't equal promotion

I was recently given a promotion at my firm.  While it came with a boost in pay, I was just as excited about my new job responsibilities: I'm now doing the things in architecture that I always liked to do: programming, planning, and helping a client assess their space needs compared to their budget.  It's a long way from what I was doing 11 or so years ago fresh out of grad school--redlines, stamping drawings for a partner to sign,  more redlines, digging through old paper files for drawings from 1971, and did I mention redlines?  When I was given my promotion, one of my bosses commented that there were people in the office that had more years of experience and.or had spent more time at my firm than I had, yet they didn't get this same promotion.  

I have my own reasons for believing why I got a promotion that others didn't.  (I'm sure the owners of the firm have their reasons for promoting me as well.)  I have noticed in the past when, all things being equal, I would be given an opportunity over my colleagues.  If you read the results from various sociological and management studies over the past several years, it wouldn't seem possible: I'm short (when tall people are supposed to be favored in the white-collar world) and I'm female (when men should be favored in a field like construction). Up until the past couple of years, I looked younger than my age (a fact I bring up due to the nature of architecture, where age and experience are what confer respect more so than even gender).  For whatever reasons, I was given opportunities to succeed by my managers, and I seized and made something of those opportunities.  Doing this enough times gave me a variety of small promotions until I finally got this big promotion.

To be sure, not everyone wants to climb the ranks at a company or in their profession, and that's okay. However, it gets a little uncomfortable when people at a firm see someone being promoted and being given more perks, better projects, more leeway, etc. when that someone has less experience at a firm or in that profession.  Of course, there are instances of injustice--a member of the design staff becomes privileged because they get along with just the right person, or they're protected because their dad or uncle is part-owner in the company.  I've said before on this blog that experience in architecture is important; it takes a long time to know all the stuff we need to know, and part of that knowing is knowing what you don't know.  However, time spent in the profession isn't the be-all end-all.  Time spent working isn't enough on its own to earn a promotion.

So what does increase your chances of promotion?  There are as many factors, I suppose, as there are firms at which to get promoted.  Here are a few that I've found common to several firms (culled from discussions with friends at other firms as well as discussions with the people at my own firm):

  1. Not all experience is equal.  Five years working on strip malls isn't the same as five years working on prisons.  Three years working for fly-by-night developers isn't the same as three years working on government contracts.
  2. Do it right.  I'm not going to give you more complicated or interesting tasks if you can't or won't do the more basic tasks correctly more than once.  Skimming through your tasks and making mistakes shows me that you're not ready for bigger tasks.  And never let the following words pass your lips: "It doesn't matter."  If I'm paying you to do it, it matters.  And if it matters, it has to be done right.
  3. Don't just succeed, exceed.  You get a C for doing the job I asked you to do; you get an A for doing it really well, maybe even providing some extra that I didn't think I'd need but I do need.  The best way to succeed and exceed it to ask questions: who is this for? how will this be used? what will be done with this when it's complete? will we be changing this again after a meeting?
  4. Look the part.  Wear a shirt with a collar. Save the low-cut shirts and short skirts for the weekends.  Ditto for cargo shorts and flip-flops.  People who consistently look professional are people that can be sent to a meeting in a pinch or an emergency.
  5. Act the part. Be a professional and I can put you in professional situations. Even if you dress well, I'm hesitant to send you to a meeting alone or even to bring you with me to a meeting if you can't act professional.  Answer the phone like an adult ("Hi, this is Karen" instead of "Yeah?"), don't chew gum or suck on candy, don't sigh or roll your eyes when someone says something that means you're going to have to redo something or do some extra get the picture.
  6. Attitude is everything. Not every day will be magic, but please don't let that drag you down. Someone who can do even the most soul-draining of grunt work with a positive attitude, or at least an attitude of "well, at least it's something to do, and this too shall pass", can make all the difference. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Redlined Resumes: straightforward, clear, and sharp

CT's resume, our submission for today, is just...well done.  It's clear and well constructed, not just in terms of the format but also the content.  As usual, I advise that CT remove the Eagle Scouts awards and the Interests section, but my remaining comments are just small tweaks on a good thing.

Double-click image to see enlarged image in separate browser or tab.

My one graphic concern is CT's use of the yellow slash at each section--this is a nice feature, but it might not show up if this is printed in black and white.  If CT is looking for a warmer color (that's not red, which everyone seems to use), then maybe a more orangey-yellow or rust-color might be appropriate.  That would more likely show up as some shade of grey instead of barely a smudge, which I suspect might happen with the yellow. CT can emphasize his* ability to speak various languages (which could be very helpful depending on where the firm works) and his ability to coordinate meal prep for a large number of people (catering is a tough job, and it requires mental and physical fortitude as well as the ability to organize and coordinate lots of people and activities).

CT has also managed to do something that's difficult for even 25-year veterans of architecture: he's summarized his jobs and tasks into three sentences, each starting with an active verb.  "Created construction documents..."  "Prepared exhibit materials..."  "Manage hundreds of orders..."  Architects are taught, whether by school or starchitects' books or both or neither, that we need to be verbose and use $20 words throughout our writing.  However, using fairly simple writing and well-edited sentences allow our readers to be entertained and informed without having to work so damn hard to understand what's being written, and that's what CT's resume ultimately does here.  Everything is explained in 1-3 sentences, some of which have concrete examples ("...projects up to 40,000 square feet").  CT, my hat's off to you!

*I generally keep these resume reviews gender neutral--however, the fact that CT was an Eagle Scout pretty clearly makes him a "he".

If you have a resume you'd like to have edited for Redlined Resumes, or if you have a question you'd like to ask or a topic you'd like to see discussed here, let me know in the coments or via email in the sidebar.  Thanks!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Redlined Resumes: Cut it in half and you're there

Today's Redlined Resume comes from JB, who appears to have the same problem that I have every day--so much to say and not enough time and room.  Believe me, I hate the idea of trying to cram everything about myself into one page--it seems like something's going to get left out.  Well, that's true.  A lot gets left out of a resume, and your job in crafting your resume is to distill what is most important and then laying it out in a way that conveys all the intangibles for which you don't have room to articulate.  JB has two pages here--and when I received this resume, JB knew s/he had to thin it down to one page without me saying anything.  Indeed, JB's main issue here is editing and thinning: deleting the objective and limiting the non-architectural jobs to only two or three tasks each.

Double-click on each image to see the image/page enlarged in a separate browser or tab.

The other issue of concern is how JB is describing his/her titles at his/her various architectural jobs.  One of many problems I have with the architectural profession is that we don't do a good job of standardizing what our non-licensed and almost-close-to-licensed folks do.  For example, JB uses "Project Coordinator" to describe his/her position at one firm but "Job Captain" at the job before that one.  At some firms, "Coordinator" is the name for any unlicensed person, regardless of their experience or job tasks.  Firms also may have a wide range of what they consider a "Job Captain"--for example, at my firm I wasn't a "Job Captain" until I was licensed and running the CDs and CA on a project.  By listing the titles on his/her resume, JB looks like s/he's taken a step down from one firm to the next.  Titles can be troublesome, so sometimes it's more helpful to eliminate them completely.  If you describe what you did at each job, that tells a firm if you're capable of doing what they need you to do for their firm, regardless of what you were called at your old firm.  

Eliminating the fluff from the resume will give JB a clear, solid document with which any hiring manager would be impressed.  S/he has lots of great skills and experience doing a wide range of work at architecture firms, and s/he clearly has a good work ethic by finding other jobs during a bad economy, such as working at the driving range and as a notary public (both of which might really come in handy for a firm!).

Monday, February 6, 2012

Redlined Resumes: Nicely done!

Today's Redlined Resume comes from GPV, who combined a fantastic image of his/her work with a clear method for describing his/her experience and education.   Contact info is snugged up underneath an image of the work, while Skills are then set at the bottom of the page so they a) save space in the body of the resume for the Education and Experience as well as Honors, and b) they stand out to anyone who just wants to know "does this person have experience with X or Y software?" Also, by turning the date vertically and setting it off with a colored bar (that is bold/dark enough to show up well if the resume is printed in black and white), GPV saves space on the resume and allows more room for his/her experience and education to speak.

Double-click on the image to open it larger in another browser tab or window.

GPV has a few spelling and grammatical errors here, but overall this is a great resume that reads well graphically.  I would recommend deleting a few of the earliest studios, and I'd be a little wary of telling folks over and over that you had your work printed in the same publication.  If it's a school publication, that might not mean as much to someone who doesn't know much about that school.  At the very least, the publication needs to be defined early on in the resume.  

Overall, GPV has a resume that will really appeal to a firm that's looking to improve or continue its design-related strengths and focus, and the resume reads like someone who knows how to design well but not over-design.  Would that I were so sharp myself!