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Starting out - after graduation - your bohemian stories

Feb 26 '13 42 Last Comment
observant
Feb 26, 13 9:59 pm

In the U.S., the "American Dream" (past tense) was to go to college, get a degree, get a job, and move out.  When I finished the M.Arch, I was broke.  My salary, the going rate at the time, would have not allowed me to pay for rent + replace a car into which it rained into its trunk + student loans.  So, for about 2 years, I moved back in with my parents.  I didn't want to canvas the city to find roommates and live like something out of "Animal House."  I moved to another city after that, and lived on my own, in my own apartment.  I was paying out more than what was coming in, by a small margin.  Finally, I licensed, and my third job (first one as a licensed architect) allowed my inflows to equal my outflows.  Still, luxury things such as gadgets or travel were highly restricted on that income.

When I hear of people who went to Penn State or UT-Austin, for example, finish their B.Archs., and then head to San Francisco or New York, and I've known some, I wonder how the hell they do it.  How do newly minted grads who head to America's most expensive cities make ends meet?  Roommates?  Credit cards?  Second jobs?  Everyone has a story.

 

IamGray
Feb 27, 13 10:19 am

Well, I can't speak for anyone else, but I'm guessing a lot of them (those who moved to large cities I mean) did it on borrowed money. Whether it be money from parents, credit card debit, or deferred student loans. 

toasteroven
Feb 27, 13 11:24 am

Recent immigrants somehow manage to survive in expensive cities making much less money than us.

Donna SinkDonna Sink
Feb 27, 13 11:37 am

My bohemian starting out story is this: In Philadelphia (which back then was a pretty affordable city) I worked full time in an architecture firm doing my IDP and getting great experience and just barely making ends meet.  When my then-live-in-boyfriend and I decided to get married, we both took on second jobs to make money for the wedding.  I did weekend hostessing at a popular restaurant for cash under the table, my now-husband took on several serving shifts.

Then I also did small freelance jobs to make grocery money for a few years.  I had a good friend who got up at 2am every Wednesday morning to drive her truck around the city delivery the local free alt-weekly.  I think she made a hundred a week doing so, so that helps, plus she got lots of good stories.

Rusty!
Feb 27, 13 11:57 am

My bohemian starting out story is just like Donna's: In Philadelphia (which back then was a pretty affordable city) I worked full time in an architecture firm doing my IDP and getting great experience and just barely making ends meet. When a couple of guys, they were up to no good, started making trouble in my neighborhood. I got in one little fight and my mom got scared and said "You're moving with your auntie and uncle in Bel-air".

So yea. Having a loaded family helps.

med.
Feb 27, 13 12:04 pm

I don't believe I've ever lef tthe "bohemian lifestyle."

I still count of free lunches from lunch and learns, free breakfasts from reps advertising their new products in our office, and free happy hours from the vendors.

observant
Feb 27, 13 1:01 pm

Interesting stories.  So, Philly was chosen as the bohemian surrogate to NYC by several of the posters.  Where do the bohemian income people live in Philly?  South Philly? Maybe.  Rittenhouse Square?  LOL...not.  Yeah, it USED to be cheap(er).

Wow.  I guess I was only "bohemian" in terms of my wallet, and not in lifestyle:

- lived in suburbs with the folks, to a garden apartment with pools that aged poorly because of the vertical single-wrap siding, and then into a small condo

- swapped out the American car, where I'd scoop water out of the trunk every Sat. morning during a-school,  for another American car

- the "lunch and learns" just made me feel like a coupon freak, which I do clip, and not so much a charity case - you need to get grabby to get the best sandwiches and not get the "veggie" option nobody wants

- my bohemian period was curtailed by being able to license in 3 years flat, the good OLD days

- and,  when I was walking fast from my FIRST job to transit in a (outlet cheap) khaki suit, the guy in the pay booth at the front of a multi-level parking deck, asked me "How'd stocks do today?"  I told him, with a half laugh, "I don't DO stocks ... not even close."  Nice guy.  He still said hello to me every day.

With the roommates I had in undergrad, and their "habits," I couldn't do that again.

Purpurina
Feb 27, 13 1:03 pm

Med. this sounds luxurious...

citizen
Feb 27, 13 1:21 pm

I actually went to Bohemia...

Xenakis
Feb 27, 13 1:25 pm

I never left it either - live in a small 300sf studio in a big house in Oakland near Berkeley - looks like arch studio with a bed in it - have to put a towel on the edge of the door to keep the pot smoke out otherwise I have weird dreams.

observant
Feb 27, 13 1:25 pm

^

sounds like a trip to Prague CZ, maybe through an exchange program or to celebrate graduation.

Donna SinkDonna Sink
Feb 27, 13 1:45 pm

Rusty, I got it, even if no one else did.  Because I'm old? I LOL'd.

citizen
Feb 27, 13 1:45 pm

Two words:

waiting tables.

This was the most fun possible for a kid just out of architecture school in 1980s southern California.  I worked at The Ivy and a couple of other overpriced Hollywood hunting-grounds for about four years.  It was great.  Paid in cash tips, a full-time salary in just 24 hours a week, and lots of celebrity elbow-rubbing (back when that mattered).  Working nights, days off (at the beach), I learned a lot about good wine and even better food.  All this alongside a small army of fun youngsters like myself-- they, aspiring actors; I, the aspiring architect. 

Finally, all that fun, sun, food, booze and drugs got a little stale...  and I decided I needed to go to work for a firm.  A good decision at the time.  But I'll never regret taking that time out from the field.

curtkram
Feb 27, 13 2:02 pm

observant, i believe rusty was was referring to west philadelphia, where he was or was not born and raised.  as i recall, on the playground is where he spent most of his days, chillin' out maxin' relaxin' all cool, and all shootin some b-ball outside of school

Lee RobertLee Robert
Feb 27, 13 2:43 pm

My fiancée and I graduated at the same time and had plans to move from Boston to NYC. She was heading to grad school and I was planning on working a bit before going back to school myself. Easier said than done, the way I ended up finally moving to NYC was:

1. I had a part-time job in Boston with a small firm I liked a lot. kept that job and worked three days a week. Every Wednesday night I would take the Fung Wah bus down to NYC to be with me wife until Sunday night, when I headed back to Boston.

2. I lived on my friend's screened in porch in Boston. It was summer/fall so it was fine.

3. It was 2009; so full-time jobs were tough to come by. I spent the 2 weekdays in NYC volunteering with a non-profit I thought was cool. This way I could say I was busy, and "working" in the city. I knew I could do this for up to 6 months before my student loans came due.

3. We shared a nice apartment on the uws with another couple to keep our rent down to like 600.00 each per month. I budgeted my ass off. Had no savings, and no money from family.

4. Worked temporarily for a firm who's work I loved, but without pay. That got old really quickly. Didn't feel like my work was worth anything, and the hours were nuts. Left after about 4 weeks.

5. Saw a job posting on archinect and dropped off my portfolio and resume in person to the guy. We hit it off and he offered me a job, but at a low salary. Worked as an independent contractor, no taxes withheld, hoping that when the year ended I would have enough saved to pay what was due. This bought me a little more runway so I could just about start to pay my students loans.

6. Finally got to stop taking the god awful Fung Wah bus 8 hours a week and move in with my wife permanently. 

7. I was hoping for a raise 6 months in but the firm couldn't afford it. Started freelancing and doing market research studies for extra cash.

8. I was doing a bunch of random stuff, but I saw a post on archinect for guest critics at an arch program in Brooklyn. I went, had a good time. The instructor that invited me just so happened to be responsible for hiring. Got a spot as an adjunct lecturer, teaching 1 class per week, making almost as much as I was making in the office. Loved my time teaching, and at that point I could finally feel a little comfortable, financially. 

9. After that I was in the clear. Kept working, switched jobs, pay increased to a decent rate, kept teaching on the side, picked up more side projects and was able to save up enough to make sure I can adapt to whatever comes my way next.

Had to hustle, but it was worth it. After a while all the uncertainty paid off. Having a good partner helped a lot emotionally, throughout the process.

So it is possible!

observant
Feb 27, 13 3:20 pm

I never left it either - live in a small 300sf studio in a big house in Oakland near Berkeley - looks like arch studio with a bed in it - have to put a towel on the edge of the door to keep the pot smoke out otherwise I have weird dreams.

Haha. That was my issue with the motley crew of undergraduate college roommates I got, which caused me to move out and break my housing contract, doing it in a simultaneously ethical yet underhanded manner to NOT make waves. 

I didn't like my clothes, books, nor even myself smelling like pot.

Jadzia
Feb 28, 13 4:46 am

Rusty + curtcram: So you were able to afford a TV - tsk!  How unbohemian of you.

Quentin PegramQuentin Pegram
Feb 28, 13 10:13 am

1. Graduated w/BS 2009

2. Worked at book store

3. Became a business analyst up until Oct 2012, quit b/c it was killing me slowly

4. Moved to Atlanta, w/no job, just dreams/hope

5. Searched and searched for jobs

6. Finally after 3.5 years of looking for an arch job got one, happiest kid ever

7. Let go yesterday, :( , saddest kid ever. I still don't know why. 6 month contract was cut short to 3 weeks. Made enough money for next 2-3 months rent. Now idk what to do. Hate job search. So draining.

8. FML. I feel like I've had the hardest path EVER when it comes to actually getting employment.

Apurimac
Feb 28, 13 10:22 am

I'm still in Bohemia.  I spent a year after graduation on my parent's couch, going from a grocery clerk to a warehouse laborer to an intern architect on contract.  I saved up enough money and thought things were stable enough to move out, got an apartment, then got laid off a couple of months later.  Georgia housing laws are hugely landlord biased, so there was no way to break lease unless I paid out the rest of the year in fees or forced an eviction.  Unemployment insurance was no help.

So I email spamed everbody I knew in the profession, most of whom I knew from my New York college days and got a small contract gig helping out an old college prof in Williamsburg.  I drove up the first year in my parentally insured but kid maintained and fueled Focus.  I spent the summer helping out my prof, crashing on a friend's floor in the Bronx and driving my girlfriend and her friend to different beaches.  I also found a trust worthy guy to sub-let the apartment in GA to.  After the summer I got an apartment with my credit and my girlfriend's savings and hooked up with my old boss freelancing on a job.  I scrimped and saved, and eventually picked up another client and between the two and they've kept me busy.  The car eventually had to go back home until I can garage it here, but I guess I'm here to stay for a loooong time.  Although I have no interest in becoming an RA now, and would like to take my small business somewhere else in the AEC / Real Estate industry.

Apurimac
Feb 28, 13 10:24 am

Quentin, try to get the hell out of ATL.  That's what I did.  Simply brutal down there.

Brian HenryBrian Henry
Feb 28, 13 10:34 am

Sounds like Rusty's life got flipped-turned upside down.

med.
Feb 28, 13 1:23 pm

Quentin, sorry about your luck.  I know how frustrating it can be.

observant
Feb 28, 13 2:04 pm

Quentin, try to get the hell out of ATL.  That's what I did.  Simply brutal down there.

Really?  Sorry to hear that.  Historically, ATL has been a job engine.  I understand that has changed more recently.  I lived there for a couple of years, but was doing different work before a-school.  I liked it but had more problem with the cultural adjustment.

I would expect SF, Seattle, NY, and Boston to be the hardest markets.  Am I right or am I wrong?

Quentin PegramQuentin Pegram
Feb 28, 13 2:13 pm

I just got to Atlanta in October. I use to live in Northern VA and worked in DC. As strong as that economy is up there still didn't have much luck with an arch job there. Just sucks all around.

observant
Feb 28, 13 2:44 pm

@Quentin:

Good luck to you.  You'll find something.  I'm sure many of the libraries, fire stations, and hospitals done anywhere in the S.E. are often done by an Atlanta firm.  In that chapter of my life, between u.g. and grad, I had temporarily based myself in a relative's metro NYC suburban home because I HAD to live in the tri-state NYC area, where I had lived as a kid.  I got cold feet because I had become accustomed to lower density, so I gave up the search.  Driving down to FL and onward to the West, I got an interview in ATL that resulted in a job, which required that I turn the car around.  This was a different time, though.

med.
Feb 28, 13 4:31 pm

Quentin, didn't you used to live in DC?

I'm as baffled and mystified as Adam on Mother's Day as to why you couldn't find a job here.....?  Right now, there is a reasonable amount of hiring happening.

Quentin PegramQuentin Pegram
Feb 28, 13 7:16 pm

Yes, see 3 post up. I applied to or sent resumes to over 400 positions in the DMV when I lived up there. Few interviews and only like 4 in actual arch offices. Luck never came my way.

Apurimac
Feb 28, 13 8:23 pm

In October of 2010 there were three, three, job postings on the AIA Georgia job board.  One was for an internship.  I applied for and got that internship out of a possible 150+ candidates, many of whom were RAs.  When I was laid off in June of 2011 there were still just two jobs posted on the AIA Georgia job board, none of which I was particularly qualified for.  ATL has a looooooong way to go before it will ever get to how it was in 2005.  

Meanwhile in NYC it seems anybody with a current or recent job on their resume can pick up work with a bit of motivation and some legwork.  Just be sure you have a local address.

sameolddoctor
Feb 28, 13 10:02 pm

toasteroven, in response to your  comment "Recent immigrants somehow manage to survive in expensive cities making much less money than us", I say your comment is stupid because you automatically assume that everyone on this forum is somehow not a "recent immigrant"

Maybe "recent immigrants"  work harder and smarter and faster than you?

Orhan AyyüceOrhan Ayyüce
Feb 28, 13 10:14 pm

When I was a real Bohemian I had some money. And when the money ran out I became an eccentric lower middle class bourgeois. Nowadays I am just a late morning riser who can afford to stay up very late and produce work.

toasteroven
Feb 28, 13 11:51 pm

no - my comment was stupid because "recent immigrants" implied low-wage workers without education or transferable professional skills - which is an even worse assumption than what you describe.

 

my poor choice of words was an attempt to point out that there are plenty of people who manage to live in expensive cities with far less resources, skills, or earning potential than the vast majority of people on this forum. And within the context of this thread, I was assuming that those who are participating have a degree (or will have a degree) in architecture - and have some experience working in the field.  I was definitely not implying recent immigrants with architect-ing skills.

 

observant is wondering how other people managed to start their careers in said "expensive cities" with limited funds:  live frugally and communally with many roommates and no car - you will need to do this for a few years.

observant
Mar 1, 13 12:14 am

observant is wondering how other people managed to start their careers in said "expensive cities" with limited funds:  live frugally and communally with many roommates and no car - you will need to do this for a few years.

Knowing only one person, a fellow alum, who did this because he HAD to live in San Francisco, that's sort of how he did it - a crappy apartment near Coit Tower (yes, it was crappy, yet near Telegraph Hill), a roommate, and no car.  I couldn't have done that.

He lasted a couple of years, or less, and moved back to his home state.

toasteroven
Mar 1, 13 12:55 am

I spent 3 years in an "urban commune" with anywhere between 6 and 10 roommates (all very interesting people - mostly grad students or transients looking for jobs in the tech industry).  those first 6 months I worked at a bookstore (back when they still existed) while I looked for architecture gigs.  also didn't have a car for 6 years - biked everywhere - took the bus for travel and either brought a tent or crashed on someone's couch.

 

life is pretty good now - own a house, couple cars, etc...

Snoopy316
Mar 1, 13 1:03 am

@ the OP,

I think unless those who were born with a silver spoon, we are all on the same boat. Those who are doing well and can afford to buy their own house not long after graduation either receive money as gifts or as a loan from their parents. 

toasteroven
Mar 1, 13 10:32 am

btw - it took me (and my spouse) 10+ years to build up credit and to save up enough for a modest down payment on a house - and I started with nothing.

observant
Mar 1, 13 1:16 pm

I think unless those who were born with a silver spoon, we are all on the same boat. Those who are doing well and can afford to buy their own house not long after graduation either receive money as gifts or as a loan from their parents

Agreed.  I notice that no one went "home" and commuted for a couple of years.  I am thus far the only one to have gone that route ... of those posting.  There is NO way I could have done it, because I lived on my own and had a car after u.g., but in something slightly higher paying.

snooker-doodle-dandy
Mar 1, 13 1:21 pm

I used to fly from Boston to Minnesota in the Middle of the Winter then hitch-hike from there to the Black Hills. Plane tickets from Bean Town to the Black Hills were way beyond my pocket money. I did have some interesting rides.  Once I was lucky enough to be picked up just outside of Minneapolis by a young guy who lived about five miles from my destination.

We stopped at my sisters along the way and had a big meal before the last 10 hour ride of our trip.

observant
Mar 1, 13 2:07 pm

3. Became a business analyst up until Oct 2012, quit b/c it was killing me slowly

Sir, you and I are on the SAME page.  I sort of did that type of work after undergrad.  It would have killed me eventually.  What it was doing is putting me to sleep, between the work being boring and the constant "meeting to discuss a meeting." The place was a ginormous employer, a backward thinking dinosaur, and NOTHING ever got accomplished.  If it was between that and driving a city bus, I would have gladly driven a city bus. So I went to M.Arch., not as an escape, but because I had wanted to do a B.Arch. before and thought "now or never."  Then, after that, it was "Hi, Mom and Dad" ... regressing, for two LONG years.

Snoopy316
Mar 1, 13 5:15 pm

^ yeah I did some boring ass temp work to get through graduation myself in my early years too. Data entry, office clark, archiving, even some factory hand stuff. Boring as hell but mind you the pay isn't that bad. Not something I would want to do for the rest of my life though.

gwharton
Mar 1, 13 9:42 pm

I got my Bohemian wandering out of my system before I went to university. After high school, I took off and lived abroad (Venezuela and Australia) for two years.

observant
Mar 1, 13 10:56 pm

^

Similar Bohemian experience:  because I didn't do any exchange programs in school, after passing the ARE, I headed to Europe for 1 and 1/2 months:  Italy, France, Spain and Portugal.  Unforgettable.  Relocated and had to figure out where to live/where to work upon returning.

Hiram RomanHiram Roman
Mar 7, 13 11:57 pm

I'm not sure if it matters at all but since you mentioned UT & Penn State do you think it could be the fact that both schools offer a 5 year B.Arch and not the 4 yr BS Arch other schools offer. 

I'm a recent grad from UT and after talking to many potential employers it seems like many of them want someone with a license or in the process of getting licensed. I'm not going to go around asking people what their salary is but is it possible that employers are willing to pay just a bit more to graduates they know can obtain licenses quickly?

Plus UT offers a 7 month residency program which turns into 7 months of valuable experience on top of any experience previously acquired. Many students end up getting full time offers from the firms they work with. It may not even have to do with the school but the candidate himself. 

As for my experience I came back to the Dallas suburb I grew up in but looking to get out. A large number of my peers did indeed move to the big cities and they seem to be doing just fine. 

observant
Mar 8, 13 12:29 am

I'm not sure if it matters at all but since you mentioned UT & Penn State do you think it could be the fact that both schools offer a 5 year B.Arch and not the 4 yr BS Arch other schools offer.

Complete coincidence, my friend.  I just tossed out those 2 because they offer B.Archs. and people may very well enter the workforce afterward, never returning to architecture school.  With Penn State, they have to move (it's rural).  With UT-Austin, I don't know if Austin can hold all the grads who want to stay there, not to mention the people who want to move there.

So, sure, some are going home.  At least temporarily ...

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