Employment issue regarding references.


Hello everyone, I joined this forum to ask a question over a professional issue I am experiencing, since I can see that there are forum members on here with a wealth of experience in the architecture field.

After finishing my undergraduate degree, I worked for about 1 year at a design firm. Things were going generally well, until one day I was verbally abused by a PM in front of the entire office, because of missing a deadline. Due to the amount of shock and embarrassment I went into, I resigned and left without giving notice.

Currently, I am completing my MArch and I am due to graduate soon, however I am concerned as to what kind of reference I could get from this job. This was my first and only job and as you can imagine this incident, along with the way I quitted, created a very bad impression. In retrospect, I really regretted quitting like this, as it was rather unprofessional on my behalf, but on the other hand I could not personally tolerate being publicly humiliated in this way within a workplace.

Here is where I would like to ask for your advice: My understanding is that any graduate job would be offered on the condition of providing satisfactory references. However, how could I possibly obtain a satisfactory reference from this former job?

Would a basic reference from the HR, confirming only dates of employment & role be adequate in order to secure the next job?

Thank you for your time and looking forward to your advice.

Feb 17, 21 7:41 pm

just the basic stuff, name rank and serial number.

LOL, I remember one time getting yelled at by a PA, "Code, That is BullS**t, that is BullS**t, so loud the entire floor heard him. My co-workers laughed, i was one of those "WHAT IS YOUR MAJOR MALFUNCTION PRIVATE PYLE" moments that happens when you are a Noob. But ever since I caught him walking out of a certain nearby dive bar, he was nice to me 

Feb 17, 21 7:56 pm  · 
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Blackmail is underrated as a skill set.

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Hmm, in some states like California, providing bad feedback can get one sued...which begs the question on why a reference is important ... but yeah

Feb 17, 21 9:44 pm  · 
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for a first job after grad school it really won't matter that much. you can ask for references from professors or other part time jobs and if anyone asks about the other job just tell them you haven't kept in touch or something like that. you'd be surprised how little effort firms put into checking references, mostly because the feedback is rarely useful unless there is some personal connection between your old and new employers

Feb 17, 21 11:02 pm  · 
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there are some firms that pride themselves on treating employees with dignity and you could probably explain you left due to abusive behavior in the last firm and trust they will understand that. it's something you'll have to judge for yourself whether it's suitable to let them know

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I would avoid situations where you might speak negatively of former colleagues or firms.

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I think, since you are starting your career you can mention the firm but if the firm you were in is nothing like the firm you are applying to I would maybe start with a clean slate. 

One pitfall we all face is your last job/firm colors the way your next firm sees you and sees you fitting in. If the firm you worked for is known to be a bunch of jerks, and in our profession word gets around, I would recommend just dropping it from the resume and starting with a clean slate.

If you are on site at your collage or university I would seek out the physical plant or campus architect, you would be surprised how much work there is and how eager little and big projects are for student interns. I worked for Facilities and Services at University of Illinois Urbana Chamapaign documenting floor drain locations in 60 buildings for about 15-20 hours a week and it was critical in landing my first post graduate job and getting good references. I have several jobs I keep off my resume since it was not a good experience and or the firms is not held in high regard.

Over and OUT

Peter N

Feb 18, 21 7:40 am  · 

The firm was actually a starchitect practice and the experience I got there was good for my portfolio, so it's a job that I would like to keep on my CV. It's just that my exit was unfortunate. My understanding is that large companies always check references before they hire, so does this mean I should refrain from applying to large firms? Or would a basic reference confirming dates of employment be enough?


This is complicated, I think the first thing to realize is if the firm committed inappropriate emotional abuse, or let that happen to you, then they are not likely to be flowing reasonable Human resources protocol. If a prospective employer calls they might say anything. Most firms, starchitect or otherwise, are too small to have a dedicated HR professional and they tend to mess these things up as HR basics don't make it into architecture curriculum, despite the fact that the majority of the profession is sole proprietors and very small businesses. If you want to only work for starchicet firms and take the abuse long hours and low pay most starchitect firms give out then leave it on your resume, otherwise your education and the portfolio of school projects should be enough to get you into an entry level at most firms and you can start your career on a trajectory that should be more stable. As for the portfolio, since it is a famous firm your prospective employers will check your role and that risk them coming into contact with your former abusive boss. Unless you actually designed the thing or played a major role you probably don't want to take credit for it and put it into your portfolio if what you did was not making design decisions. Another way out of this is to list the firm as "Architectural Firm in (region of country)" and say the work was confidential for confidential clients. That is all you can say.


There are a lot of terrible bosses and firms out there and it is very hard to figure out these things when you are interviewing because the firms are also trying to sell themselves to you during this process. Many of us have had bad experiences which manifest into gaps in resumes.


I wouldn't worry about getting a reference from that firm.  As others have said this would be your first firm since completing your degree.  Simply list the firm as experience and move on.  

If asked why you left that firm with the jerk PM you could say that they weren't providing you with the career development you needed or something similar. 

Feb 18, 21 10:00 am  · 
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Well I have told to major client(s) to fuck off and slammed the phone down on them when I was in a very junior position in the office.  Both very warranted as determined by colleagues ( even though they were very shocked ) and those who know me knew that it takes a lot for me to blow my stack like that.  Only count on one hand the number of times it has happened.  But glad to say it didn't negatively affect my career.  Sometimes things need to be said and let the pieces fall where they may.  Everyone learns and you move on.

Feb 18, 21 9:08 pm  · 
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Non Sequitur

Hey, since you reached out to me personally, I figured I'd give my 2(canadian) cents here instead.

I have to agree with Chad above.  I say simply list the firm and notable projects (plus specify your contribution to them).  If you're clear in demonstrating your work for that time in your folio, then all you need is something confirming your time there.  This was only a 1y junior role in a name office and anyone interviewing you today is not going to assume you were running projects and calling the shots.  

I would however not offer up the real reason for your departure since I think the worst thing a reference can say, legally, is that they would not hire someone back. So it's safe to assume the circumstances of your departure will remain private.  Typical safe reason for moving on is lack of support for professional development, or something like that.  You can actually use that as a stepping stone in a interview when discussing advancement paths/options with potential employers.  Turn a dry one-line response into an open discussion.  

Feb 23, 21 10:39 pm  · 
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