Tips for architects job hunting

Published: 18 Dec 2009

For those of us languishing in schools of architecture, there is the impending drumbeat of final exams… and finding a job.

A large proportion of our peers who have already moved on are out of work or clinging on to their position in a struggling practice.

Given this demand for work, it may seem strange that our Facebook ‘feeds’ are not awash with job opportunities and the self-advertisement of the ‘available’.

The latest Building magazine survey (Searching online for work tops career survey) based statistic that only 5% of architectural students and graduates use online networks to find a job indicates a reluctance on the part of candidates and employers to use this as an advertising medium and perhaps more topically, a lack of vacancies.

Aside from an economic climate which has reduced the demand for new staff to a trickle, how else might we explain why these 21st century pinboards are not being exploited more frequently?

Dogmas and taboos

I have experienced a number of online job hunting and recruiting attempts. A friend of an acquaintance contacted me on a networking site out of the blue asking me to show her CV to the practice I worked for (the name of my firm was on my profile); I obliged but she ended up elsewhere.

A former studio buddy working for a tutor at my school of architecture send a group email advertising a position and I strongly recommended a friend who was suited to the practice resulting in her appointment. More recently a friend asked me on Facebook if I could advise a foreign architect on gaining employment in London. I advised against it (purely in relation to the current climate) but offered to look at their CV and match them to anyone I heard of who may be recruiting.

Candidates are fussy and employers always fastidious

This string of anecdotes illustrate that some people do use email and social networks to get work, but only in a relatively targeted manner. I also think that in a profession where skill, knowledge, talent and style all play a role, that there is a selectiveness evident amongst all of the players. Candidates are fussy about who they apply to (even in dire times), employers have their prejudices and specific requirements and those in caught in the middle protect their own credibility and reputation in whose details they forward to who.

Of course the idea of an established firm of architects using a social networking site to advertise job positions is not normal, just as it is not normal for a bank, law firm or the NHS - they have their own websites and recruitment agencies for such matters.

In fact, in many respects the prospect of widening a recruitment strategy would fill many employers with horror. A former director of mine who is now a partner in an international firm recently rang me to ask if I was available or could recommend somebody – he had too many CV/portfolio’s to look through and nobody ‘jumped out at him’. Again, personal recommendation seems to be the key.

The bottom line…

All this leads me to three hypotheses in response to an apparent lack of architectural recruiting presence on networking sites.

• Despite our love of innovation and pop-culture, architects are traditionalists at heart.
• Networking sites are a social phenomenon – but they are somewhat neutered by their universality.
• The architectural profession is a place to succeed with personality and initiative – social networks are just one of many other avenues of enquiry. Think post-digital people!

Given the informal, old-fashioned, personal approach to recruitment the architectural profession continues to adopt, the best course of action for those hoping to get a job is switch off your laptop and go for a drink with some people in gainful practice – they might even buy you a pint.

Adam Smith is an architecture student at the Royal College of Art.


 

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