Monday, September 24, 2012

...and now it's time for a station break.

As I write this, I'm preparing to go on a cross-country train trip across Canada with my husband for our birthday.  (Yes, we have the same birthday but different years.  And we're both architects.  Kinda sick, isn't it?)  Despite the fact that work has been relentless and my deadline have been almost-brutal, we decided back in the spring to take a week off around our birthday to celebrate and be together.  I won't be checking email, and everyone's going to have to survive without me for a week.  Wah.

An intern at my firm once said, "There's never a good time to take a vacation, so you might as well take one whenever you can."  That's good advice.  There will almost always be a deadline, a problem, a crisis looming that will deep-six even the best-laid plans.  Follow those plans anyway.  Leave the office.  Don't cancel the trip--go.  If you can't afford to leave town, tell everyone you're going camping in a remote area.  Then don't check your phone or email.  I've actually not checked my phone or email for a week, and it was immensely restorative.  My husband and I went to Yellowstone last year for an early birthday trip (the first week of September instead of the last week), and we watched no TV and checked no email.  It was some of the best sleep and rest I'd ever gotten in my life, and we're looking forward to unplugging on this trip as well.

I encourage all of you to take your vacation time, and really take it--unplug and don't be available. Everyone will miss you and be glad to have you back, but they won't die while you're gone. The work will be there when you get back.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Redlined Resumes: more info, please

This week's Redlined Resume comes from SE, whose format I strangely like.  S/He starts with Experience, then goes to Education, which puts the emphasis on SE's experience and work ethic--a subtle but important angle.  However, I need more information as to what experiences and tasks were included in that work experience because the jobs and roles have been overly-bulleted.  When SE was a woodworker or fabricator, what did s/he make and do every day?  When SE was a shop manager or designer, what did s/he design or do typically as part of that role?  By defining those roles and tasks, SE can indicate to a potential firm all the many skills that s/he has and can contribute to a firm.

SE will have room on the resume to add those things once s/he deletes the list of attributes under "Areas of Competency".  As I've stated in a previous post, seeking out new challenges and a willingness to learn are a given for any intern and don't need to be stated in a resume.  (Hobbies at the bottom of the resume can also be deleted--we can talk about hobbies during the interview.) I would also find a different phrase than "hard work" to describe the physical building and labor that SE has done.  All of architecture is hard work, even if someone isn't swinging a hammer.

By removing some extraneous info and adding more explanation to his/her various job descriptions, SE can illustrate a great blend of design knowledge and technical experience that would be an asset to any architecture firm.  Right on, SE!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Redlined Resumes: international resume with a flair for the dramatic

This week's Redlined Resume comes from NS, who lives in Sri Lanka.  NS's resume is dramatic in a couple of senses of the word: s/he has experience both acting in and working on plays and for theater companies, and s/he has done a lot of politically-charged work with design.  Like many resumes I review, it could use a little more air, perhaps by removing the info about the senior thesis and by editing some of the nonprofit work descriptions.  (For example, I don't think it's as vital to discuss how the various workshops and volunteer efforts were funded as much as it's important to know how you used your design skills to help the underserved or underprivileged workshop participants.  Were you a mentor for their academic and social growth?  Did you help them express their anger and sadness through art and drawings and building models?  Those are all good descriptions of your efforts.)

NS's resume also suffers a bit from what CE's resume suffered from last week: a mild identity crisis.  When I read this, I can't decide if NS wants to work in theater or be an architect.  I realize this could be a partial curse of a crappy economy--if you can't be with the one you love (architecture), then love the one you're with (theater, landscape/gardening, retail management, etc.).  However, NS will either need to tailor to whom s/he sends his/he resume (firms that do lots of theater work or politically and socially-charged work), or s/he will need to edit his/her resume a bit more to show that s/he does want to do architecture rather than theater.  It may be that NS needs to include a small paragraph on his/her resume to explain how architecture, theater, and social movements all work together and inform design...or something.  (There's something good there, but I haven't had enough coffee yet to come up with a good summary.)

NS has pretty good descriptions of his/her job duties, though I would replace the word "liase" with "worked with" or something similar. ("Liase" might require someone to use a dictionary--you'd be surprised how often your vocabulary surpasses that of a 45-year-old hiring manager at a firm.)  There are a few terms in this resume that need to be defined (such as "BOQ"), but otherwise we get a good picture of NS's architectural experience.  With a little tweaking to make clear what NS's intentions are for a position at a firm, this resume is well done.  Hats off, NS!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Redlined Resumes: strength in need of definition

This week's Redlined Resume comes from CE, who has taken an unusual but welcome approach by making his/her resume into a landscape format document instead of portrait.  A very quick glance at his/her resume shows me that it's clean and mostly easy to read, but it could use a little air.  For example, putting a little more space between the two columns would help it read a bit better.  CE has what appears to be a lot of experience in architecture as well as landscape architecture and gardening.  The experience is good--s/he has been able to find work in a bad economy. A hiring manager needs some explanation here, though, if that manager is to call CE in for an interview.

Phrases and titles mean different things to different people.  CE uses the title "Project Manager" for one of his/her jobs, which to some firms would imply that s/he is actually a licensed architect and was in charge of everything from the drawings to the consultant coordination to the budget.  Without further explanation of what his/her duties were as "project manager", a potential firm might see CE as exaggerating his/her qualifications (unless s/he in fact did do all these things, in which case CE is completely telling the truth). Phrases like "urban grow site" can be meaningless to an architect, so again some very brief definitions might be of use here.

I have to admit though that I can't tell what kind of job CE is applying for with this resume.  Perhaps this is a resume that CE will use to amend slightly depending on if s/he applies to a landscape architecture firm or a building architecture firm; as it is, I can't tell which is his/her strength or which one s/he really wants to do.  If CE wants to demonstrate that s/he understands how buildings and site work together, then that needs to be said as part of his/her job duties at one or more of the positions held ("Led design direction to incorporate site and interior spaces in XYZ Project").

A few minor formatting issues include skills and address. I only caught the physical address in the lower right corner after staring at and marking up the resume for three or four minutes, which is longer than a firm manager might look at it, so I would make that bolder, larger, or located in two places (upper left and lower right).  Also, I would bullet the skills a little to make it easy to see what kind of skills CE has.  Using paragraphs to describe one's job duties is conversational and pleasant, but reading a list of software names is easier done in a bulleted or partially-bulleted format.

Overall, nicely done, CE--just needs some definition of what you're looking for, what your job duties entailed, and a little breathing room.  Good luck!