can't find or keep a job, could use some advice


Dear archinect,

Not sure if looking for advice or just to blow off some steam. If you have any pointers, please don't be shy :-)

Long story long, here goes my first post. 

So I graduated during the previous economic crisis in 09-10, couldn’t find a normal job in architecture for quite some time. Had to take an internship that turned into a junior position after about a year or so, was good at my job but when it was time to give me a permanent contract as is required in my country after some time they didn’t want to take the risk. Back to square one ☹. 

Could take a low paid position working on a competition, would get a normal salary if we won, would loose the job if we lost. Quit there after a week to work freelance on a huge competition, and won, stayed there for a year. Office literally moved continents and I couldn’t stay on. 

Got a job in arch office working on real buildings, stayed 2 years, was time again for my permanent contract but construction already started on all my projects and no new ones coming in fast enough, they didn’t need me anymore (2016). 

Switched to another firm trying to design and make real buildings, 1 of 2 directors quits the firm just like that during my trial period and they can’t keep me on. 

Did some freelance design research and competition at a local office which lasted a year. 

Switched to the cultural sector, thought it was my dream job, to do more design research, make publications and exhibitions about architecture and with other architecture offices. My direct supervisor burned out in my first month, apparently one co-worker was burnt out already when I started, never met her. Another colleague quit from one day to the next, lots of crying going on in the office, small office <10 people. Toxic work environment apparently. I managed to stay 1.5 years, but management wanted to change direction and not have in-house architects/researchers and use different up-and-coming (and thus affordable) arch offices for each new project/commission. So there goes my dream job. 

So I’m now unemployed, with a resume filled with lots of very interesting offices/jobs but all very short time spans for one reason or another. I haven’t yet designed a single building from the early concept to finished construction and I’m out of school for a decade pushing 40. I tried changing direction into consulting firms, had some very good leads ( or so I thought) and interviews but the covid-pandemic gave everyone cold feet and they are suddenly very reluctant to concretise anything. 

I don’t know what to do, have young children and don’t want to put it all on my partner. She’s unhappy at her stable job for years already but can’t change anything because of all the insecurity because of my (lack of a) career. Last months have been very heavy and tense, we are all home in our small apartment because of the lockdown, with daycares closed and her working remotely during the day I don’t even have time to look for a job even if there were any, and our fights get more and more frequent and intense and are often in front of the kids. Getting quite depressed and don’t know how to proceed and where to look for what kind of job anymore.

tldr: can't find or keep a job, could use some advice.

thank you

Jun 6, 20 8:22 pm

Well don't beat yourself up, times are tough for everyone and it sounds like you've been pretty unlucky.

Some relationship advice - take care of the kids, do all the housework, cooking, etc... Until the job market opens up again, there's probably not much you can do, so may as well make your home life as good as it can be.

In the meantime, polish your portfolio and resume, both for architecture jobs and for one or two tangent careers - whatever you decide is promising. Construction industry could get you some hands-on experience with real buildings as like an assistant project manager or something like that. 

Is there an aspect of architecture you excel at or comes naturally? You could always explore a specialist consultant position in something related.

Lastly, engineering firms always need drafters. It's not glamorous but it's stable, decent pay, and good hours.

Good luck and don't give up. I graduated in the last recession also and if not for a few lucky breaks I could be exactly where you are at. It'll get better.

Jun 7, 20 10:34 am  · 
1  · 

Wow, thank you so much for your advice and encouragements, especially about the kids!

Jun 8, 20 3:30 pm  · 

May I ask what part of the country (or what country) you're residing in?  It may be worth looking out of state.  that's what I had to do when the economy tanked in 2010.  Scary to move but it was worth it.

Good Luck!

Jun 7, 20 10:57 am  · 

Thank you! I'm in Europe, Wallone the French part of Belgium, so relocating within the European Union is optional.

Jun 8, 20 3:37 pm  · 

Agree with everything above said.  Only piece of additional advice is to study the market in the are you are at.  See which sectors are busy.  For me, I too graduated in the midst of the recession.  I bounced from short term arch job to short term arch job with months of unemployment between for the first couple years.  While the arch industry was dead slow at the time, the landscape industry was doing relatively well, so I switched over and never looked back.  Look into other design sectors that may still busy.  

Jun 7, 20 12:00 pm  · 

Thakn you! I don't know any other sectors and markets that good but will definitely look into it.

Jun 8, 20 3:40 pm  · 

If you speak Dutch there is plenty of work in any kind of consultancy in Belgium. 

If you live near Luxembourg you could try there too. 

Jul 17, 20 4:17 pm  · 

I am in a very similar situation myself. I graduated during the recession and it took more two years to get a job remotely design related. I worked for two years for a landscape design company but then was laid off. After another year and a half I was able to find a job at an architectural firm but was fired after five months for making too many mistakes (I never received any training). Another two years of unemployment later I was finally able to get an architecture job again but that only lasted six months due to COVID layoffs. I feel like my career is completely over. I can't think of any other career/field that I could go into with my skills. I feel like I will never be able to have steady employment or income if I stay in the architecture field but I don't have any interest in anything that isn't construction or design related. Maybe I should just give up and become a housewife LOL. My failures have made me extremely depressed but it is comforting to know that I'm not the only one who is struggling.

Jul 18, 20 3:37 pm  · 

fmarouet: I am in a similar situation, having been stigmatized by firings and layoffs, new jobs are even harder to obtain and hold on to. Hang in there and try to remember what you are good at, even if not architecture related, to keep a positive mindset. I am grateful to have a partner that, although is stressed about our finances because of my issue with unemployment, is loving despite it all. I try to remember to thank my partner for patience and support, do the housework, and I continue applying for jobs. Eventually an opportunity will open up. There are new online marketplaces for gig workers and remote work. Keep trying! Wishing you the best.

Jul 21, 20 7:42 pm  · 

Hang in there, OP. I graduated at the tail end of the 08 recession and barely got into the profession after applying to over 100 places. Then the pandemic hit and was laid off. Interviewing now but it is really, really tough. Most firms are hesitant to hire and have many candidates to choose from, where I'm located. A LOT of architects are looking for jobs right now and it is super discouraging. We need to stay positive and keep moving forward. We will get through this. 

Jul 22, 20 2:48 pm  · 

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