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Too experienced for Intern, too inexperienced for Junior

xuwei93

Hi Archinect,


I'm getting a bit desperate in my job search after some of my previous attempts have failed and I hope you can help me with your experience.

My background is as follows: I graduated in November 2018 with a Master's in a prestigious European university and I'm trying to find work in the US. Since then, I have been doing some freelance work (visualizations mostly, as well as the odd competition) to have a non-committed form of work so that I am readily available to start an office job, and so that I can be in the US for longer periods of time for interviews and such.

Since then, I have seen that most Junior offers ask for someone with 1-3 years of experience and experience in CD. Now, for the life of me I can't find a way to bridge that 0-to-1 year of experience gap and CD experience. Firms don't find that one year of Freelance experience relevant, because it's not at an office, and it doesn't involve CD. Added to that, I can't take an Internship, since they're for students and not Master's graduates. I can't find a way to become a relevant contender for those jobs.

I'm at my wit's end and I really hope some of you can share some insight on this.

 
Jun 25, 19 10:37 am
senjohnblutarsky

I think you're getting too hung up on the titles.  Look for someone offering a job with zero experience.  That's it.  Not trying to be a dick, but you don't have any experience (that they're asking for). 

Jun 25, 19 10:46 am
xuwei93

Nah you weren't being a dick, I'm aware of my lack of experience. I guess I'll have to set aside the title and focus on requirements and offering as much as I can.

Formerlyunknown

You also shouldn't assume that all internships are "for students and not Master's graduates".  Some internships are specifically for students, but until just 3 or 4 years ago "intern" was the official term used in the US by NCARB and AIA for any unlicensed person working toward completing IDP/AXP experience, so most recent grads with 0-3 years of experience - and sometimes many more years than that - were titled "interns".  A lot of firms are still using that terminology, so if a firm is advertising for an "intern" you should try to get more information:  if it's specifically for students only, and particularly if it's unpaid and for academic credit, then of course that's not going to work for you - but if what they mean is just an entry-level position and/or a short-term position, then by all means apply for that.

Jun 25, 19 11:09 am
xuwei93

Thanks for the advice. I see that the tendency is for large firms to offer student-only Internships, while smaller ones sometimes do or don't. It just makes it feel like the Internship is either a downgrade (theoretically I could be a Junior) or that the ship has sailed for me as a graduate. I'll keep an open mind regardless and apply if I qualify. Thanks again Formerlyunknown.

randomised

To avoid the issue altogether apply unsolicited with a solid portfolio and good resume, there are plenty of jobs out there.

Jun 25, 19 12:13 pm
Non Sequitur

Are you suggesting the OP try looking elsewhere than the main job sites and lazy googling?

randomised

I got offered a job today while picking up the kid at daycare, "elsewhere" is where it's at!

xuwei93

Non Sequitur, I don't know your background, so I don't know whether you've ever struggled with finding work or not. Your assumption of me doing easy searches or looking in main sites is as lazy as the googling you claim I do. I know you like to roast people around here but at least be creative.

xuwei93

randomised, thank you for the advice. I've sent 30 unsolicited, way fewer than I thought I had, so I'm still working on that. I didn't really believe in them but I'll keep trying.

Non Sequitur

Xuwei, was response was tongue-in-cheek and directed to Rando, an active member here. Many people come here seeking job-finding advice without contributing much in return. My response, san snark, to your OP is below.

randomised

xuwei, make sure to write tailored letters when sending unsolicited applications, be very specific why you'd want to work there and would be a good fit. Also keep tabs on architecture news, who's winning commissions and competitions and would likely need to increase their team. So you can send your application just before they would normally start posting a job ad and go through the lengthy and time consuming process of interviews.

xuwei93

Previously I had 4 or 5 templates for different firm profiles, and I'd adapt each letter to a firm by addressing it to them. Now I'm writing them specifically for each firm instead of for the firm's profile, if that makes any sense. I'm not expecting that to yield immediate results but at least I'll have the peace of mind of doing what's best.

randomised

Makes sense to specifically write to the firm and not just their profile and highlight how you could contribute to what they do or what you're interested in etc.

xuwei93

I'm putting all my efforts towards that now. I need to get a bit better/faster at it though. Practice makes perfect.

Non Sequitur

Finding a job when fresh out of school is the equivalent of a full time gig, maybe 1 and half.  If you're not working 8hr per day on your applications and researching offices in your area, then you're doing it wrong.


Jun 25, 19 12:28 pm
xuwei93

I appreciate your sans-snark advice very much. I'm doing it about 80% right based on your metrics so I'll give it a harder push. I just really wanna put my heart and soul into real architectural projects goddamnit.

flatroof

Also since you're foreign, most US offices don't want the added cost to sponsor visas which limits the amount of jobs. Can you work in the country where you got your degree? Some EU countries give you a year to find work without a visa. 

Jun 25, 19 2:56 pm
xuwei93

There's an 18 month visa that's free for the employer, J-1 I believe. Also, partner is a US citizen so once we get together in the US it'll be fine. I always communicate this to firms so they know they don't have to spend money or get into a lengthy process. working in the EU isn't an option for me right now unfortunately.

5839

In architecture in the US "junior" vs. "intern" really are interchangeable, and both just mean relatively entry-level.  One is not a step up from the other.  As Formerly noted above, "Intern" in architecture was used for the last 70 years to mean people working toward licensing. It's not like in other professions where an intern is almost always a student.  In architecture an intern has meant someone with a B.Arch or M.Arch who is somewhere in their years between graduating and completing their license exams.  That period can be as short as 3 years but averages more than 6 years.

It was very recently (2017) that NCARB discontinued using "intern" and recommended replacing it with "architectural associate" or "design professional" - but both of those new suggested titles actually violate laws in a lot of states, and a lot of firms already use "associate" in different ways to mean more senior people, so these new titles just haven't really caught on well to replace "intern".  That's why there are still a lot of job postings for "interns", and also why "junior" is in more frequent use than it used to be.  You really should just apply to anyplace that appeals to you, and sort out the titles later.

Jun 25, 19 5:09 pm
xuwei93

This gives me a lot of peace of mind. It seems like entry level jobs either don't come by as often or aren't as publicized. I saw an ad today for a Junior position, 1-3 years, that specifically said "Not reviewing applications from recent graduates", and it's not the first one. I guess there's a lot of people like me

5839

It can be tough to find a first job after graduation, especially if you didn't do any summer or part-time jobs in firms while you were a student. But right now there are so many jobs available - I'm a little surprised you're not finding anything at all. Just googling "entry-level" and "architecture" I see lots of job ads all over the US. Is the issue that you're limiting your search to a particular city? Are you currently in the US, or if not are you making it clear that you can be available on fairly short notice in person to interview?

xuwei93

I'm limiting my search to the NY area, yes; I'm open to other cities but that would complicate things. I just never get a response when I apply, and I really don't think my application materials are bad. I've had them reviewed and critiqued countless times, and even praised at job interviews- right after the "sorry, but you need CD experience" Interesting about making it clear I can be available for interviews, I always assumed that was obvious by the fact that I am applying to the job. I'll be clearer next time!

reminiscences

I have seen a lot of firms hiring people from Europe on J-1 visa's quite frequently. It gives them time to assess whether a person who seemed talented in an interview actually has the chops to contribute holistically as a team member in the long term at a relatively low cost. Then they are fairly comfortable to invest in visa fee and so forth as they are far more assured about what value you bring to them.

As other's said, I wouldn't get hung up on titles. The term "intern" is an old NCARB terminology. At this point of time, graphic capability is likely to be the only relevant skill you might have acquired so far based on your background. There's a fair bit of training ahead to get a firmer grasp/start from scratch to learn assemblies, local codes, co-ordinating with consultants, local authorities, etc based on project-typology and firm size/culture and role. If I were you, I would really narrow down what kind of work excites you and apply with a portfolio showing your graphic chops and enthusiasm about learning with their team. I also wouldn't be too rigid with salary expectations unless you have tons of competing exciting offers. It's more important to have the opportunity to grow in a healthy environment than just go for a few thousand dollars more on an entry-level gig.

Jun 25, 19 11:43 pm
midlander

my understanding of the J1 visa is they come to work as training before returning to their home country, usually with the intent to staff a branch office. Is this really common to be used as just an introductory work visa?

xuwei93

I'm not asking for much: I don't care about the salary. I'm a frugal guy and money isn't what drives me. As you say, I do see that I need a lot of training, and that's the only thing I want. I can offer things in return, but finding a firm that's willing to have a conversation about that is damn hard.

midlander

i think you are probably being screened based on work status. the visa issue is a big one for employers, and both a risk and a lot of extra paperwork. if they train you and then your visa doesn't get renewed (which isn't up to the firm) they've just lost their investment in time, salary, and paperwork. so unless you're already in the US with an appropriate visa you automatically go to the
bottom of the pile. i've never before heard of this J1 visa, so I'm not sure it's a solution.

reminiscences

I would also add that all job-descriptions that excite you requiring 0-5 yrs experience are fair game. I've seen people, who after working just one year developing the skills to co-ordinate and produce comprehensive sets for fairly complex custom projects, compared to some average PA's having even 10yrs of experience. It's all about getting the right opportunities and  making the most of them to build up  value in yourself. 

Jun 25, 19 11:57 pm
whistler

My personal experience was that those first couple of jobs were all about developing skills that were relatable so I could get the better jobs down the road.  Employers want bankable skills that make them money.  I have looked at a ton of great graphics in many recent grads portfolios, but until I see any working drawing experience even a small house  / renovation, I'm not interested.  This is critical for small offices where staff need to do everything ( and a great learning environment in my opinion ) but in a large office it can be easier to hide and not get into the meat of a project, or get stuck doing more minimal tasks on a project.  Large office environments certainly have great appeal and nice to put on the resume but the small office environment is where you can learn more skills for career development.

Jun 26, 19 12:21 pm
flatroof

I think the visa situation might get better once you move over here.

Jun 26, 19 2:05 pm
Threesleeve

I suspect that most of the trouble you're having is because employers are unsure about whether they can legally hire you.  J-1 is a type of student visa - it does allow for up to 18 months of training after graduation, but usually only if the student receives a job offer before graduation.  If you know for a fact that there's some exception to that rule, that will allow you to work in the US for 18 months even though you've already graduated, then you should probably spell that out (as simply as possible) very early in your cover letter.  Unfortunately the job of educating your prospective employers on this is going to fall to you, because that's not a common visa situation that they're going to understand. 

Also it's not clear from your posts so far whether you're already in the US?  If so, you should make that very clear, and plainly state that you're readily available to interview in person.  I get so many emails from students and recent grads in other countries - typically with nothing even suggesting that they've done any research on our firm, and usually assuming that they can interview by Skype or that we'll hire them without any interview at all.  Do you have a local address on your resume?  If not it might be worth getting a mail forwarding service, just for the sake of having a New York address.  If it appears that you're not local then employees are much less likely to even review your application, because of the hassles of interviewing, worries about how soon you could relocate, and unknowns about the visa process. 

Also if you have any work at all that demonstrates basic familiarity with the types of construction that the firm does, it's important to convey that.  Hiring an entry-level person always involves a significant time commitment to training - and with an international applicant it can be a lot more time-consuming. The more evidence you can provide to show of skills that can be immediately useful in some way, the more likely someone is to think that the training commitment can be balanced out.

Jun 27, 19 12:36 pm
xuwei93

I'm very frequently in New York, About 1/3 of the time, and I stay at my partner's address, so I have a NY address I always use in all my application materials,as well as a NY mobile number. I've become a member of a NY architectural organization, which is mentioned in the resume as well. What I haven't done is explained that I am readily available for an Interview. I've never mentioned that. Very dumb of me on the other hand.

Bloopox

The visa issue is a little complicated.  There are a few different J-1 categories - it sounds like you're trying to use the "trainee" category, not a student category, but the trainee category requires a minimum of a year of employment in your field in your home country after you graduate, before you're eligible for J-1 training in the US, so are you sure you'll qualify, since you seem to be saying you don't have any employment experience?  Also the US position is supposed to exist only for training purposes - it's not allowed to be a job that would ordinarily be filled by an employee, so we aren't allowed to publish an ad for a employee position but then fill that with a J-1 person - but it sounds like those are the kinds of ads that you're applying to, so no wonder nobody's responding.  I think instead of applying to published employment ads you should apply directly to firms that interest you and explain to them that you're looking for a J-1 training opportunity, and then explain how that works.  Then an interested firm can decide to create a training setting for you, and not get in trouble for filling a regular job with a J-1 trainee.

Jun 27, 19 1:21 pm
xuwei93

Well, I didn't explain it very clearly, but the main problem right now is that J-1 Intern visas can only happen a maximum of 12 months after graduation, and that window is closing fast (I graduated 8 months ago). To get a trainee visa I guess I could justify my freelance work, I'm guessing that even if it's not relevant for firms it might still be relevant for the Immigration department. I did hire a company to help me with J-1 sponsorship and they're specialized in architecture so I'm hoping they'll guide me on the process.

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