Monday, March 26, 2012

Redlined Resumes: tell me more, tell me more

Today's Redlined Resume comes from YH, who brings us a little international experience with his/her resume.


YH's resume is clean and easy to read, a definite plus.  I'm loving the note at the bottom regarding a physical portfolio as well as a website address to view his/her portfolio online.  (It seems like this is becoming more commonplace--is it easy to do? Making your own website was still kinda tough when I got out of grad school back in 2000, before the iPod and the Roomba.)  YH uses fonts (bold, italic, all caps, etc.) to an advantage, as a way of organizing information on the resume.

What YH's resume is lacking is details.  What kind of tower did s/he coordinate the engineering systems on? What exactly did s/he do at his/her various jobs listed under "Additional Experience"?  What does s/he mean by "working within the fabric of the city"?  While it might seem that all these things would be obvious to a potential firm, that's not necessarily so.  Phrases like "working within the fabric of the city" might mean different things to an architect versus an urban planner versus a construction manager (if that's the kind of firm you happen to be applying at) versus a regular ol' HR director.  Yes, sometimes the person who looks at resumes--if it's a person at all--isn't an architect, and that person (or computer program) needs to see certain words to know if you have the skills and experiences to possibly do the job for which the firm is advertising.  YH needs to add a few more details so that it's clear what s/he can do for a firm, which will make the firm call YH in for an interview.

Comments? Questions?  Gripes? Want to submit a resume for Redlined Resumes?  Feel free to let me know in the comments or via email in the sidebar.  Thanks!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Redlined Resumes: room to breathe

First of all, thank you all so much for sending a new spate of resumes for redlining.  I'll be posting a few more over the next few weeks and then take another break to post on various work-related issues, but for now...on with the resumes.  As usual, the same rules apply: this is one architect's opinion, and you're free to agree or disagree, use or ignore any of the comments I make on any resume.

Today's resume is from KS, who has a lot of good info and content that's a little overwhelming due to the size of his/her text.  It's an honest mistake, so take heart and take note: while I warn against making a resume that looks muddy when printed or faxed as a black and white document, bear in mind that not everyone will print your resume out, at least the first time they see it.  Your font can be at a 10-point or 11-point most of the time (unless it's a font that tends to be really big or small).  Another distraction on KS's resume are the various horizontal and vertical lines.  I can tell that KS is trying to divide up certain types of information, but if a couple of these lines are deleted (or extended), it can make the resume a little more legible.

As for content, I'll give KS the same advice I give everyone: take out personal activities or interests, unless they directly relate to the kind of firm to which you're applying.  Further, KS's relevant activities (not life experiences) tell a firm indirectly what his/her interests are, and it does this in a way that makes his/her interests relevant to a firm.  KS uses sentences instead of bullet points to talk about his/her work experience, which is unusual but if well-written can work in your favor.  I've tweaked a few of KS's sentences, and I've clouded some items to ask what s/he means by the words.  For example, what does "working...with everyday challenges and  opportunities, accomplishing goals while working with a team" mean to KS?  This is where a firm will need more specific information about what these challenges and opportunities are, and goals were be accomplished, and what exactly does teamwork entail at this particular job.  There's a lot to be learned (and a lot of skills to be gained) from working retail, and I want to make sure KS conveys how much s/he knows from having done this job.  It's respectable work, especially in a bad economy when architecture jobs were hard to find, and KS should get credit where credit is due.

More Redlined Resumes to come, but please send more questions and resumes along, and feel free to ask questions in the comments or via email in the sidebar.  Thanks!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Work versus school: Working long hours doubles depression risk

A recent study in the journal PLoS One indicated that people who work 11 or more hours a day are 2.4 times more likely to suffer from depression than those who work seven or eight hours a day.  (The survey is summarized here, and the original quote is here.)  One of the links takes readers to a article on ten careers with high rates of depression. The closest the article gets to architects is "artists, entertainers, and writers," but our profession didn't specifically make the list.  There is an urban legend that architects have the fifth highest suicide rate in the U.S., but there's no proof of that that I've been able to find.  (Although in a research project by Business Insider, urban planners supposedly had a higher-than-average suicide risk.)

What I took away from the PLoS One article is that the effect of long workdays wasn't as hard on people further up the food chain in a company. The inelegant but concise saying "shit flows downhill" explains this phenomenon, and it won't surprise interns who have been working long hours for an extended period of weeks or months. The researchers theorized that upper-level managers that work 11+ hour-long days have more control over their schedules, workloads, and tasksl.  Mid-level and lower-ranking workers have to do the work and tasks that their bosses hand them (i.e., shit flows downhill), so they work long hours on tasks over which they have no control.  

Lots of work + little to no control over your daily activities = depression.

Interns might greet the news of long workdays at a firm with a shrug: "What's the big deal? I'm already working a ton of hours in grad school," they might say.  But working 12-hour days in Studio is a different matter than spending 12-hour days in an office, doing plan details and cleaning up door and equipment schedules on a project that you might not get to see built.  The work you do in Studio is very directly yours and affects you instantly in every desk crit and review, but the work you do in an office can feel very divorced from you--it's for someone else, and you're no longer doing big sweeping design gestures but rather small weird details. Half the things you do in a firm will feel like the farthest thing from architecture.

In addition, your schedule sometimes isn't your own.  The client changes their mind right before a deadline, or your boss delays getting some information to the project team, or the contractor completes the SD pricing at the last minute and needs you to revise the entire exterior material to save money.  Guess who picks up the slack and fixes the drawing and stays late at night and on weekends?  The intern, natch.  Now and again, staying late and working overtime to save the day isn't so bad, and as the person who best knows how to use the drafting/modeling software, it's the intern's job to do this.  But if saving-the-day becomes the standard method of operation, a firm risks burning out its interns.  It will be up to the interns to set those boundaries early on in a firm (or as soon as they realize there's a problem) so that they won't be abused.

I got a letter from someone recently on this, and it will be the subject of an upcoming Lulu's Mailbag.  I also have some more fantastic Redlined Resumes coming, including one from a few interns with lots of experience.  In the meantime, keep your comments and questions coming.  This blog only works with your questions and input!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Lulu's Mailbag: Can I leave a firm when my options seem limited?

From S, who wrote a while back, but I just haven't had a chance to compose a coherent response until now:

As of today I was told they are cutting back on my hours because as a intern I don't have the same skill set as the other designer and architect; they have 5 or more years of experience. And because I don't have a car to run and get things. I am so frustrated. I was tops in my school when it came to technology and cad. I never got to use it and I know Revit. Is there something wrong with me?

From Lulu: 
Wow, sounds like your firm might be kinda schmucky.  How are you supposed to get more experience if they cut your hours? [facepalm]  What are your options for going to a new firm?

From S.:

Well, they are pretty limited.  Because everyone knows everyone in [large city redacted].  I have only been there a month.  the first two weeks I was basically cleaning and organizing areas.  Now I know that everyone has a different way of doing things.  They are as of right now a 3 person firm and more and more work is coming available.  they told me they shouldn't have to babysit me for certain things to be done.  I was shown how to do a red line once and wanted to make sure it got done correctly, and they kept making changes and making me add stuff to it.   I was shown their way of doing a purchase order and I did 4 perfectly and he told me to leave the other one alone he was going to do it.  Well he emailed it and it was wrong, but I got blamed for it.

There is a new architect that they both worked with when they had tons of interns and architects she has her license and everything.  She is very sweet, but she didn't know how to change from classic cad to 2010, I had to do it for her.  And on top of that they put me as contract, even though I don't have a business of my own.  Why do I keep getting firms like this?  they were so nice in the beginning.  

I am trying to get into a much larger firm... I am trying to make a go out of the $55,000 I spent on 2 degrees with everyone trying to make me feel not worthy enough to be in this field.  Even though I have proven myself time and time again.  Its really harder than I thought.  And if they didn't want me to learn from them, they should not have hired me for just cleaning and running errands.  I am trying to [do] some volunteer work at habitat for humanity and building my skills up.  Any advice?

Well, S., it still sounds like your firm is acting a little schmucky and it's time for you to make tracks out of there.  There are likely a few things at work here, based on your emails.  First, politics at work can be hell in even the best of situations, but they can be downright poisonous in a smaller firm. For whatever reason, your skills, personality, whatever aren't meshing at this firm, and it sounds like no one's being straight with you on this.  I presume you've attempted to defend yourself in performance reviews when you've been treated unfairly, and you're getting the "we don't have time to babysit you" line, which is a superficial way of saying "you're not doing things the way we want you to do them, but we don't have the time/don't want to spend the time to teach you how we want it".  (This is also a line that I feel is frankly bullshit coming from a smaller firm--if you're so busy that you need skilled help that doesn't need "babysitting", then don't hire a fresh intern.  If you don't want to spend time doing training, especially in a smaller firm where everyone has to be involved in training, then don't hire someone with less than two years' experience, end of story.)

To be clear, all firms are nice in the beginning, and it's a genuine niceness.  Everyone's hopeful that this arrangement will work out: you'll be a great employee, and they'll be a great employer.  Once expectations aren't met, things start to go sour.  Unfortunately, most companies (not just architectural ones) aren't very good at having tough conversations like "we really need you to step up your game, and here's what we need from you" or even tougher conversations like "we realize we weren't very clear with you when we told you what this job would entail" or even the toughest conversations like "we realize that we shoulda hired someone with more experience than you because we really don't have the time or patience to train you the way we need to and the way you deserve to be trained."  This leaves employees, especially the newest employees, in situations where they feel like they're not wanted at best and being mistreated at worst, but all they have are a vague feeling and a handful of anecdotes to go on.

This evaluation, compounded by the fact that there are so few folks in the office to help fill in the gaps for you, make it hard for you to bounce back from a less-than-awesome review and to improve your skills (or to at least understand what the hell they want).  A larger firm may be just the ticket for you, as there might be more people around upon which you can rely to fill in the blanks and show you how things need to be done at the firm.  Smaller firms, especially those that are getting busier and busier, truly may not be able to train and fill in the gaps for newer professionals--they need all hands on deck to be savvy ones (which again makes me question a  3-person operation for hiring you fresh or nearly-fresh out of college without thinking they might have to do some "babysitting", as they so ineloquently put it).

That being said, I'm betting your town isn't any smaller than Denver, where I've been living and working for the past 11+ years.  I wouldn't count out trying to work at a new firm at this point, especially a larger one.  People make the rounds in Denver, especially among larger firms as big jobs come and go and as firms lay off and staff up.  Ask the architect in your office whom you described as "sweet" if she would be comfortable being your reference if you decided to look elsewhere for employment.  (If she does ask why you'd leave your present firm, I would suggest saying that you feel like you need to be in a place where they have more capacity for training, and that your present firm really needs someone more experienced than you--you and the firm just aren't a good fit, given your present skill set.)  Go ahead and polish up your resume, get an okay from the gal you're working with now to use her as a reference, and start looking.  It's time for you to find a firm where you can get better guidance and training.

Got a question you'd like to ask or a topic you'd like to see covered here?  Feel free to ask me in the comments or via email in the sidebar.  Thanks!