Searching for a job while still working...

Hi All,

I've run into a bit of a problem and wanted to crowd-source a bit to find out how others deal with this. I'm currently employed and have been at the same firm for about two years now. Due to various issues and frustrations at my current job I have finally decided to begin sending out my CV and portfolio.

During my time here working in NYC I've realized how closely-knit the architecture community is (probably truthful everywhere) where everyone seems to know/have previously worked with everyone else. My current workplace doesn't know that I'm considering switching jobs - so I'm worried that as I send out applications, news will somehow filter back to them...

Am I being overly paranoid? I would like to leave this position as smoothly as possible and on good terms. Any similar stories or tips?

May 8, 12 5:32 pm


It happened to me few times. Ones I've lost job after some employer's friend seen me at other company at interview. Architectural world is really very small.

May 8, 12 7:26 pm

I just went through this situation, and I assure you that people who run firms have been competing against each other for the best employees for years and are generally very professional about it. When someone interviewing me said "oh, you work for (old boss)! I went to school with him/I worked with him back in 1993/our kids go to the same school!" I would usually respond with something calm but firm like, "oh really? wow, he sure does seem to know everybody. I'd really appreciate it if you didn't mention speaking with me though." It never bit me in the butt, and when I quit I could tell he was genuinely surprised. Basically, the people you're applying to jobs with know what's up, and if you mention it in a respectful and confidential way, they'll handle it like the pros they are.

May 8, 12 7:27 pm

When jumping ship, you have to be very discreet about it.  As someone else pointed out, the architecture scene is tiny and everyone knows everyone.


1.  Tell  no one in the firm you are already at (exceptions can be very good friends you trust).

2.  Express absolutely no dissatisfaction about your job to anyone you work with.

3.  If you have a feeling that you will begin to get calls for interviews, there is a good chance they will arrange them so that they are during a normal workday.  This poses a problem because you need to dress up and look sharp.  The key is to just begin to sort of "change" your style.  Start to go into work everyday wearing sharp clothes - not necessarily a tie or suit, but be "interview-ready."

4.  Do not use your work outlook email to mention anything about jobs to anyone.

5.  Do not look for jobs from the internet at work.

6.  Stay focused on the work you are doing at the firm.

7.  when you get a job/offer you want, be professional and don't burn bridges - VERY small world.

May 9, 12 9:28 am

This comment may just show my naiveté but I have to ask; is it that unheard of to sit down with an employer and honestly and candidly explain why you think your current position is frustrating, or not enough of what you want / are looking for?

Worst case scenario, you get fired on the spot, but at least you'd have the freedom to look without worrying. Best case scenario, you talk it over and your employer either tries to keep you happy with a pay increase, different tasks, etc., or they give you some suggestions and referrals for firms you might fit in with better. 

Even then I'd still agree with all the points that med. outlined with the exception that your employer is one of those people you tell in point #1. 

The reason I ask is because if I was the employer, I'd like to know if my employees aren't happy. If there is something I could change about it I'd like the chance before I get blindsided with an employee's notice. But even then, If I don't have some sort of beef with an employee, I'd like to help them out even if that means they become one of my competitors. But then again, if I was that worried about losing them and competing with them, I'd do everything I could to make them happy in my practice. 

May 9, 12 11:06 am

Brian, there's a zone between what you describe and the method med. describes (which I would characterize as lying). You can discuss with your employer ways that your position could be improved, and as you intuit many would believe it's only fair to give them a chance to do so before jumping ship. But unless you've already got an offer in hand, you shouldn't represent it as a change-this-or-I'm-quitting ultimatum. 

Once you've had this conversation, you still need to be discrete about applying and interviewing for new jobs. Just because they know that you would like some things to change does not mean they know and have accepted that you are interviewing elsewhere! But it will mean that when the time comes to quit, they won't feel like you've blindsided them.

May 9, 12 11:22 am

@rationalist, I agree that what I explained is different. I only mentioned med.'s points as ones that are sound advice when looking and they should be common sense: Don't let everyone know you're looking, don't do it on the company's dime, until you leave you're still employed by the firm you work at, and be professional. I would think that the biggest part of being professional is being upfront with your employer that you're not happy. But like you said, unless you have an offer in hand don't present it as an ultimatum (FWIW, I don't think using another firm's offer as a bargaining chip is very professional). 

I never intended my comments to be read as some sort of confrontation with your employer where an ultimatum is presented. Instead I intended for it to be a candid meeting where you explain why you aren't currently happy. The employer has the option of trying to keep you or letting you go. Even in the case of the latter, I don't think it would be on the spot. Instead, I would hope that a professional would allow you reasonable time to look for work (while you follow the common sense advice above) and perhaps even understand your situation and give you some advice about where to look or even make a phone call or two to people they know to who they think you'd be able to fit in with better. Conversely, if the decision it to try to keep you and you don't see any way of that happening to your satisfaction, I would hope that the professional wouldn't waste their employer's time and efforts and instead would be honest their desire to look for work elsewhere.

May 9, 12 11:41 am

Brian, I've done it both ways, and from personal experience I can tell you it's a LOT less problematic to keep your frustration and search to yourself, provided that you have ALREADY made the decision to leave. If you're just unhappy and want to work it out, then by all means, discuss it immediately with your boss and try to work it out. That's how constructive professional relationships operate.

On the other hand, if you're definitely on your way out the door, keep it to yourself or there will be all sorts of problems. Med's advice is excellent for people who've already decided to move on, and I wholeheartedly agree with it.

As for why you wouldn't just quit and then go looking, do keep in mind that it is way, way easier to find a new job if you've already got one than otherwise. It makes you more desirable as a hire (sort of like the "social proof" thing in dating), and also allows you to negotiate from a position of strength (you've already got a job, so your BATNA is stable and viable...assuming you haven't pissed off your current boss).

May 9, 12 12:40 pm

I used to despise employees that left and I would furtively try to fix it such that they would never work in this profession again.  Which sounds like a lot of vindictive fun and all until I realize that they are probably much happier outside the profession.  One of the little shits even went into finance and now has a nicer car collection than me.

Now I do everything I can to encourage them to stay.  Share the pain, yo!

May 9, 12 12:55 pm

Now I do everything I can to encourage them to stay.  Share the pain, yo!
What the hell Ca$h. You’re an evil . haha
I’m here to hijack the thread. Is there gonna be another finical crisis soon? Are we seeing dark clouds in Europe Horizon? How offices are preparing for this? Or Am I just reading the wrong economic tea leaves?

May 9, 12 2:09 pm

any conversations with present employer better to have at the moment you've offer from another one

but if you asked to stay with salary increase than you often in black list to be fired later for some strange reason

employers don' t like asking for bigger salary or that you bored with current tasks,

only acceptable subject if you want to take more responsibilities without asking for more money (letting boss to decide later if you're eligible)

May 9, 12 2:29 pm


This is true - I knew someone who complained about being bored with current tasks(urban design) and when the economy crashed, she was in the first wave - - out the door.

more money? I know far too many who would get an offer from somewhere else and present it to their current employers as some kind of foolish attempt to leverage for  more pay - sure a few would get paid more - then they would find their job listed on Craigslist - bye bye


May 9, 12 2:45 pm

Renegotiating your current position/pay with an offer in hand from somewhere else may sound like a good idea, but it rarely works out well. Most architectural firms are run by entrepeneurial personalities. Entrepeneurial personalities tend to value loyalty in subordinates very, very highly (much more than is really good for them, truth be told...this becomes especially problematic when it comes time for a leadership change). So, if you go into your boss' office, third-party offer in hand, and try to use that as a lever to renegotiate your relationship, you may earn some grudging respect for being a hard-nosed business person, but you will lose a lot of trust. The trust is the more valuable thing. Once it's gone, you are expendable. Count on it.

May 9, 12 3:12 pm

only acceptable subject if you want to take more responsibilities without asking for more money (letting boss to decide later if you're eligible)

Now that is the sort of comment I would expect from a good architect.  Hell, ask your boss for a pay cut while you're asking to take on more responsibility and work more hours too.  Offer to work for free if you can.  There is some sort of 'trickle-down' type theory that explains with much logic and detail how your boss will appreciate your service and loyalty and ultimately you will get paid more.  I don't recall the details on top of my head, but I'm sure I heard it on talk radio the other day.

May 9, 12 3:18 pm


of course, more responsibilities in most cases comes with work overtime, even weekend work, but I wouldn't call just asking for more hours as a good way to get promotion

Long time ago I came to company where many senior project managers can't do Auto CAD,

so someone very enthusiastic was always welcome to do more draftperson's job after them but not likely to be given more responsibilities , becoming strong competitor for older folks with obsolete set of skills

May 9, 12 4:33 pm

I did this about 2 years into the first non-internship firm afterschool.  I started looking, and got an offer.  I sat down with my principal and told him about it.  I did not mention anything regarding money, etc, but rather as a young person asking for mentor level guidance (and I wasn't bored or dissattisfied, I was just curious what else is out there).  The result: I was encouraged to explore other types of firms (not in a sarcastic way, but sincerely), offered a promotion (assumed raise) if I choose to stay, and an open invitation to return if I leave and it doesn't work out.

(I did leave, and it didn't work out, and I did return and got my promotion.)  That was 2010.  There were a lot of pressure to not screw up this transition and end up jobless, but having that open and honest conversation with my principal really paid off.

I know that was proably a rare and lucky case,  But I'd still say how you handle it largely depend on who your boss is and the level of trust you have with each other. I didn't have the same level of trust with the principal at the place that didn't work out, so when I was getting ready to leave there, I kept quiet about my plans.


May 9, 12 5:15 pm

@ cash.... I have a hard time believing that you actually have any employees. Man, why do you talk trash when someone has decided that they don't want to work for you any more?  The mature and professional thing to do is to allow your "employees" to go elsewhere when their time is up - not try to gal\vanize the profession against someone with a different view from yours.  Cash's comment is so typical of what happens in firms - once someone goes elsewhere to find a better fit for them - (happy employees make a better world), the  firms act like a bunch of prissy high school age bitches who are upset and propogate  a smear campaign on the individual that left.  Philadelphia's architecture scene is a prime example of this contemporary dysfunction of our profession.  I prefer to think of architecture globally, not locally.  Smalltown community thinking is very destructive to the progress of architecture.  More architects should branch out and befriend people doing different things.  They might actually learn something.  

May 10, 12 10:47 am

Nothing bad in looking for other job.

Half of America hates their jobs.

Jun 20, 12 12:31 pm

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