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Working For Free

May 17 '11 23 Last Comment
wurdan freo
May 17, 11 9:43 am

I always thought working for free was about the worst thing you could do to yourself. However, when I look at our class of 45 from last year, the 7 students who remain unemployed do not have work experience and lower scholastic achievement.  I thought that this might be a situation, if someone is truly interested in Arch/Const career, that working for free for 3-6 months might be worth it in order to gain the experience and build a relationship. 

 

Personally I would argue that 3-6 months would be much better spent building a business. I've been able to accept the fact, however, that not everyone is an entrepreneur.  If you are looking to be an employee in the field, in order to gain that first experience, would it be worth it to work for free for 3-6 months? 

 

Stars + Stripes
May 17, 11 12:05 pm

My advice for a recent graduate would be to volunteer for two weeks at a firm and have the hours signed off and counted for IDP.  Stay a month max and see what the opportunities are.  If there are none then move on...It really depends on each individuals financial situation, but working for free is not a good idea.  People will take advantage. 
 

mespellrong
May 17, 11 12:41 pm

except you have to get paid and work at least fifteen weeks for it to count for IDP

Stars + Stripes
May 17, 11 12:47 pm

you do not have to work for 15 weeks to have your volunteer hours counted...the hours you spend volunteering doesn't even have to be related to the discipline.

http://www.ncarb.org/en/Experience-Through-Internships/Meeting-NCARB-Experience-Requirements/Professional-and-Community-Service.aspx

* i hope this helps guys...i know it's tough out there.

Donna SinkDonna Sink
May 17, 11 1:50 pm

Really?  "Volunteer" at a for-profit organization to get your IDP volunteer hours?  That's not right.

 

IDP specifically calls for the work to be pro-bono for an organization, not a firm.  And the whole point of IDP's volunteer service requirement is to get you out of the office and into a community environment where so much of our work is based.

 

For heaven's sake.  Don't work for free.  But if a firm you like is participating in a pro-bono service event (for example, here we have Canstruction, a building event using canned goods for the food bank), then see if you can volunteer for the firm for that event only.  That way you're networking, but not doing work for free on which the firm will profit.

da_la
May 17, 11 2:04 pm

These days it seems that to get into a good office as an entry level designer  you need to either work at least 3 months for free or have been a student of the office owner.

burningman
May 17, 11 2:06 pm

Unpaid internships is a form of slavery, it does not pay the rent, put food on the table, or pay your student loans. At least in slavery, someone else feeds you and put a roof over your head, and you didn't have to pay out your ass for five years to become a slave.

 

Oh, unpaid internships - the kind that generates revenue or saves a company money, is also ILLEGAL.

 

OP is one more reason why the architecture education needs to be reformed to include a little common business sense.

Stars + Stripes
May 17, 11 3:45 pm

the recent graduate can volunteer his/her time at a firm that does work for habitat for humanity, for example.  or an architectural firm that does charity work for organizations in non-for profit centers.  in sum get your IDP counted when you can - especially if you are considering working for the man.  I AGREE - DO NOT WORK FOR FREE FOR ANYONE.

elinor
May 17, 11 4:00 pm

volunteer work is only legal if it's done for a non-profit organization.  there is no way to legally 'volunteer' at a for-profit entity. not for three months, not for three days, not EVER.

 

free work at any traditional architecture firm (not  a non-profit) is against the law, and will not get you IDP credit. 

elinor
May 17, 11 4:04 pm

what about these firms that offer internships with a 'stipend'?  is the stipend usually above min. wage, or is it lunch money?

gibbost
May 17, 11 4:41 pm

Providing a service for free is a precedent you don't want to start unless it's for close family and friends--ie. helping someone move or mowing someone's lawn.  When you 'volunteer' to work for free, you are telling somebody that that's what you think you're worth--nothing.  Have some respect for yourself.  It will be hard to convince a future boss that you're worth $X later on, when you were willing to work for nothing.  You lose your negotiating leverage when you tell people you're willing to work for free . . .

 

(Note, this applies to relations with 'for-profit' types, not your local food bank or church group.)

mespellrong
May 18, 11 1:49 am

Actually, in an anthropological sense, working for free is a way of insulting or establishing dominance over someone.

jbushkey
May 19, 11 9:44 am

Part of the problem might be students are getting desperate.  I had this conversation the other day with a friend.  He was trying to find a volunteer position for the summer because he cannot find a paying job in this field.  I pointed out many of the things that have been said on architect about the subject.  I think he really is unsure how to get a job in this field.   The idea was some "real" experience on his resume might give him an advantage.  Was it always this bad or has the job shortage and large work force made it worse?

Part of the problem might be students are getting desperate.  I had this conversation the other day with a friend.  He was trying to find a volunteer position for the summer because he cannot find a paying job in this field.  I pointed out many of the things that have been said on architect about the subject.  I think he really is unsure how to get a job in this field.   The idea was some "real" experience on his resume might give him an advantage.

 

Parad0xx86
May 19, 11 10:55 am

"the 7 students who remain unemployed do not have work experience and lower scholastic achievement. "

 

Isn't that what internships are for? Working for a small stipend for a couple of months IN EXCHANGE OF college credits is the way to go in my opinion. That is, if you can't find a paying architecture/ construction job while in school.

gibbost
May 19, 11 1:32 pm

While slightly unsavory, I can find several postings on Craigslist any day of the week for laborers--be it construction, landscape, demolition, etc.  Is it glamorous, certainly not.  Is it what you thought you would be doing after getting a masters in architecture, probably not.  For those that are desperate, it's a better option that working for free.  The old adage that 'its easier to find a job when you already have a job' is very true.  Pushing a broom isn't fun, but if you're a hard worker, you'll end up meeting the right people and it may lead to an eventual job back into the architectural side of things.  At the very least, you're getting paid--even if its hourly and once a week.  Don't sell out and let someone else make money off of you because of these shitty times.  Any firm willing to exploit workers is not one that you want to make a future with.

Tectonic
May 19, 11 4:11 pm

Never - ever - never - ever - work for free! It fu@ks up everyone including your self!

Medusa
May 19, 11 9:48 pm

If you must work for free to get experience, there are many organizations where you can volunteer your time to a worthy cause, build your portfolio and learn many valuable skills that will serve you well in your career.  Try Architecture for Humanity, Project H, or Design Corps for starters.

 

Working for free at a for-profit firm devalues our profession and IT IS ILLEGAL. 

tbone
May 19, 11 10:22 pm

I started as an unpaid intern right after design school.  Within a day the company realized they couldn't legally do that since I was no longer in college.  They began paying me min. wage.  I was just happy to get experience.  After three months they put me on $25k salary  (In LA, this is absolutely nothing) with great benefits and told me it would go up in 3 months, hopefully.  It did not.  I was there for 16 months total with no raise before finding my current job.  The experience helped, but the salary has screwed me forever.  My new firm offered me considerably more, but I know if I'd had a reasonable salary at my first job, I would be making more now.

Moral of this story:  You accept to work for free because of the economy and needing experience, you get screwed up for future salaries...but you do get experience...

mantaray
May 19, 11 11:29 pm

He was trying to find a volunteer position for the summer because he cannot find a paying job in this field.

 

I will never understand this attitude.  Is there some rider attached to your degree that says this degree will become invalid if  holder ever takes a job that isn't in the field?  Why do people treat architecture degrees as some sort of sacrosanct grail that will cause them to self-destruct if they dare work a non-arch job?  If you can't find a paying job in the field, find a paying job outside of the field until you CAN find a paying job in the field.  Welcome to the real world - trust me, our friends with English majors, history majors, art history majors, hell art majors have been doing this for eons. 

 

You get the job you CAN, and then you look for connections to be made and opportunities to create for yourself and eventually you work yourself into exactly what you want to be doing.  And you know what?  You become a better, more well-rounded person in the process, AND I would argue you become a better architect in the process. Because you become an architect who knows what it's like to be the client.  Who knows what it's like to have to deal with corporate budgets and funding sources.  Who knows what it's like to work in a cubicle farm - so that the day you design one you know how to avoid all the idiotic mistakes that architects make when designing workspaces for the vast majority of people who do NOT work anything like the way we do. 

 

I find it so incredibly arrogant, and so ultimately short-sighted, this attitude that "oh, I absolutely must get a job as an architect" - as though to be anything else would be either demeaning or time-wasting. 

timothysadler®
May 19, 11 11:51 pm

Why do people treat architecture degrees as some sort of sacrosanct grail that will cause them to self-destruct if they dare work a non-arch job?

 

It's because people looking at resumes know how hard it is to get an architecture job, and know how much hustle and work and sacrifice is involved, and they look down on people who take other work just to get by.  There's the real attitude that "this person isn't committed, this person isn't talented, otherwise they wouldn't have settled for working at something else".  To people who are dyed-in-the-wool enough to be decisionmakers at hiring time, doing anything else *is* demeaning and timewasting - unless the activities of the candidate are spun into a really good overall story that supports some other interesting creative agenda.  Worked in retail?  Uncool.  Had your own clothing line or T-shirt business or something involving groovy graphics and entrepreneurship?  Cool.  Rented a chair as a hairdresser?  Uncool.  Rented a chair as a hairdresser, acted as the shop DJ, redesigned the place and had cool people over for free cuts and wine and cheese?  Cool. 

 

I agree with your position BTW, there's a real arrogance there and good people do slip through the cracks sometimes, but at the same time people want to be with other people who share the same kind of creative values, and it's hard to find that with someone who doesn't live the same kind of creative drive and moxie.  Architects have never been accused of creating a level playing field for anyone, especially for those who want to get in the game and play.

J. James R.J. James R.
May 20, 11 12:00 am

I find it so incredibly arrogant, and so ultimately short-sighted, this attitude that "oh, I absolutely must get a job as an architect" - as though to be anything else would be either demeaning or time-wasting.

 

And in combination with timothy's response, "To people who are dyed-in-the-wool enough to be decisionmakers at hiring time, doing anything else *is* demeaning and timewasting - unless the activities of the candidate are spun into a really good overall story that supports some other interesting creative agenda."

 

I've seen a lot of jobs advertisements on the office side of things (office manager, business manager, executive assistant) where one of the job descriptions tacked onto the end of the large list of tasks is "must be able to or have knowledge of human resources, the hiring process or fielding candidates."

 

And most of these jobs also have stipulations like "must have a degree, preferably in architecture or related field and/or have relevant experience in architecture, engineering, construction or other design-related fields."

 

Kind of wondering if having non-architecture office staff hurts or helps in this situation. Can or should non-architects hire architects? I know the office manager won't have any actual hiring authority but it might be interesting to see who ends up in the recommendation pile after being screened by "dumb eyes."

jbushkey
May 20, 11 10:03 am

I find it so incredibly arrogant, and so ultimately short-sighted, this attitude that "oh, I absolutely must get a job as an architect" - as though to be anything else would be either demeaning or time-wasting.

1.  After making significant, I would say life changing, investments of time and finances to study architecture why would you go work any where else, except as a last resort?

Many people I know returned to school to get away from their current job.  I don't disagree with the value of "outside perspective" but what if you already have years of it?

As bad as architecture pays there are jobs that pay worse than a first office job.

The belief is that once you break the ice and start that first job that you have begun your new career.

Tectonic
May 20, 11 11:12 am

If nothing else please read tbone's comment.  It is absolutely on point and the main reason why it is so bad for the profession.  It ultimately undermines your capability to earn good money which ultimately allows employers to keep everyone's wages low. After all why should they pay you more when the person standing next to you is willing to do the same work for less. 

wurdan freo
May 21, 11 11:17 am

Well based on these comments and some reflection, I told all my students to start their own businesses. Even if you are an employee, what is the goal?

 

Entry level

job captain,

Proj Arch

Sen Arch

VP = happiness?

 

I explained that as an employee you have one check coming in. As an employer you have multiple checks coming in. If you are an employee and you lose that check you suffer.  If you are an employer and lose a check or two, it is tough, but the other checks keep you going.  As an employer, you have much more control over your personal situation. I asked them to answer for themselves what position they would rather be in and challenged them all to start businesses this summer. 

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