I got a job! How did that happen?

So after a long time of looking and tweaking resumes, portfolios, cover letters, thousands of applications and networking I got a call and had an interview and a job offer not long after that.

If you are interested I would like to share my strategies what worked and what failed and hopefully other folks can post similar good news and how they got there.

Ask question and I will try to give honest complete answers.

Dec 14, 12 2:23 pm


Can I borrow fifty bucks?

Dec 14, 12 2:28 pm

The first thing to get the ball rolling is to describe the sequence of events surrounding the specific happy situation I am in.

On the AIA website I saw a posting for junior architect position, sent in a resume with a cover letter in the body of the email.  This firm is in Southwestern Michigan Architecture and engineering. This was in October.

Monday the 19th I was helping deliver turkeys to the neighborhood residents with disables who could not get to the food pantries.  This was part of the array of volunteer work that I was doing for the Leirman Neighborhood Action Committee, an organization that I was a leader and founding member.  My phone rings and I take the call and then asked them if I can call them back later that evening since the box of frozen turkeys was thawing and the 10 folks volunteering needed to get going on the distribution. So I actually told a potential employer I can’t talk now I’m distributing turkeys and food to needy residents with disabilities can I call you back later in the afternoon.

Later that day got an email they were busy but could I come up and interview here are the available times.  I sent the email reply right away with three dates for them to choose.

November 21st get the confirmation email and then a call re confirming that I was coming.

Then I researched and got the names of the CEO and other firm leaders looked into Linked in Facebook and local papers for any noteworthy news. Read every page of the company website.

December 4th drove up for the interview

It went well had some interesting comments, the operations manager who called while delivering turkeys apparently got a kick out of the situation and shared this with the department manager, they mentioned that I appeared to have little experience, skills and a lack of focus but the community service I was engaged in and the references I had from those events and the news articles I sent web links for got them interested, I was able to explain my diverse activities as evidence of my ability to manage my time and prioritize my efforts to maximum effect.  I also asked a lot of questions, what markets are they expanding into what markets are they retracting from, where have they looked for work and suggested a few places to find clients.  I also think the freelance work I was doing and my comments about enjoying the chase as much as doing the design work for each client also had left a good impression. 

One thing I did not do is talk about the job opportunity as a way to help me, I was interested in helping the company helping my future boss and coworkers get the work done with less overtime, helping the community and helping the firm succeed in bringing in more clients and diversifying their business while working within their existing skills and expertise 

Drove home emailed thank you replies to the two folks interviewing, also printed a thank you note tri-folded with images in each fold of the portfolio images they commented on during the interview.

December 6th get am email asking for a follow-up conversation and if I was available that after noon, sent an email I am available any time no more turkeys to juggle.

December 11th no call so I called them

December 12 early evening 6:00 ish they call and make offer

They were really busy and wanted to get in touch sooner but had to get work out the door.


So this is the story I start in January what do you folks looking for work want to know?


Over and OUT

Peter N

Dec 14, 12 2:38 pm


I have to get paid first.

Dec 14, 12 2:39 pm
On the fence

Starbucks is always hiring.

Congrats on the new job.

Dec 14, 12 3:05 pm

Congratulations - you created the Karma by helping out - it's not luck or accident

Monday the 19th I was helping deliver turkeys to the neighborhood residents with disables who could not get to the food pantries.  This was part of the array of volunteer work that I was doing for the Leirman Neighborhood Action Committee.

One thing I did not do is talk about the job opportunity as a way to help me, I was interested in helping the company helping my future boss and coworkers get the work done with less overtime, helping the community and helping the firm succeed in bringing in more clients and diversifying their business while working within their existing skills and expertise 

Dec 14, 12 3:17 pm

The "Over and OUT" kid got a job. Congrats.

Make sure you end each day with that phrase. Also all professional e-mail correspondence. 

My phrase is "Boom waka waka pow". But yours is ok as well.

Dec 14, 12 3:42 pm

*fabricating a turkey incident to mention about the next time I get called for an interview*

Dec 14, 12 7:27 pm

nice job! i gladly pay you tuesday for a hamburger today

Dec 15, 12 1:51 am

Good job, I remember you in some my depressing threads. How long have you been looking for a job? Maybe my turn will be next? Going on 3.5 years now....   :-/

Dec 15, 12 1:51 am

Congratulations. Now you can start worrying about when you're going to get laid off.

Dec 15, 12 11:34 am
Sergo Antadze


you mentioned, you tweaked your resume, cover letter and portfolio many times. what you think was different in your application from your previous submissions? what worked this time to provoke their interest in you?

Dec 16, 12 5:47 am


Always be ready for a job search, you may out grow your firm or they might have a run of bad luck.


Spend one afternoon each month keeping the resume and portfolio up to date. 

Always ask for copies of the drawing sets you work on and take them home if you have permission.  I had drawing sets from each employer to show when I interviewed and that helped.  IF you are concerned about lugging a huge log of paper into an interview try printing half-size sets and only the pages you need to use to demonstrate your technical ability, wall sections, stair details, elevations. Window schedules and floor plans to some extent may not be as important to show them so edit a little. Don’t wait to do this when you finish a project ask for copies.

 Also file your IDP early and often if you have to leave you may have a hard time getting experience verified so don’t let 5-6 month accumulate. File every 8 weeks.

Dec 17, 12 10:42 am

Quentin P.

I was looking since spring 2008 had three short gigs and freelance work during that time.

I have to admit that a lot of mistakes were made that may have caused my search to go on too long.

First I have to say I started out with only applications online, this is not the most useful way to go about it yet the job that I landed was found this way.  3,456 applications, 21 interviews 100s of networking events.

You have to stop treating each application like it is the one, don’t dwell or daydream because each day that goes by will erode you ego and squelch your spirit.  Become methodical become efficient.  3,456 rejections is a lot to take but once you realize that it is not a personal attack or a failure on your part then you learn how to move on.  Why you get turned down maybe for any number of reasons many are beyond your control.

However you do need to spend the appropriate amount of time on each application.  I used a cover letter template and inserted names and titles of the person then I had a section in the template to add or remove experience. The cover letter was part of the body of the email with the resume attached as a PDF.

Dec 17, 12 11:18 am

Cool cool, good stuff. Happy for you.

Dec 17, 12 11:26 am


I have 26 resumes that I use at a given time. 3 versions with different information and different numbers of samples from my portfolio one is technical, one is design oriented, one is a blend. Each version has the same resolution just different numbers of pages and different sizes.  2mb -10mb in each category so my 3mb resume was a PDF labeled PeterNormandResume 3MB and was just under 3 MB in size.  This made it so much easier to send applications since all I have to customize is the cover letter and then select the appropriate resume version and size that I preassembled. I update the resume each quarter making changes.

Some of the things I did that were not so effective, I tried to include a detailed narrative under each job I had that was architectural in nature, this is not a good idea resumes have to be a fast read quick and efficient.  Ask yourself what does the reader want to know?

I put my skills first AutoCAD 14years, Revit 4 and then in a second column I listed the building types under $32,000,000 in built work including affordable housing, commercial, industrial and so on. This helped and made a huge difference in the response rate

Then work history in chronological order.  If the job was not architecture related it was not mentioned.

A few jobs are just one line Summer Ta for architecture summer camp 2006 and that was all.

LEED AP logo on each page with header and contact info just in case pages get separated.

I did not include a personal statement career objectives or a narrative about my interest this is covered in the cover letter but I do have a section on volunteer activities where I list organizations charities and brief description of the roles I played if they are significant.

So for example

WEFT Community Radio for East Central Illinois  2004-2008

Member Board of Directors 2006-2008, Treasurer 2007-2008, Associates Executive Committee Member 2005-2006, Weekly Radio Show Host and Producer 2005-2007

I treated my volunteer experience similar to a job description marking accomplishments in order of importance.

One thing that did get some attention I listed my IDP experience on my resume, in interviews they asked about it and I said I had 623hours 45 minutes to go and they were impressed that I was serious about becoming a registered architect.  I later changed my resume and made this a part of the references and employer contacts PDF that I send as a follow-up if requested.

The most recent and risky thing I did was to include a large timeline graphic showing how the layers of academic, volunteer, professional, and survival jobs played out over the last few years and that I stay busy balancing work learning and community service. This fits on a vertical layout on the left third of the first page of the resume, it is color coded to scale and the folks interviewing me described it as interesting, artistic and memorable.

This is risky, technical small non design focused firms don’t get this graphic but I was surprised at the positive response.  This was an interesting way to include design and graphic skills on what would otherwise be a text document. It did make my resume two pages.


My resume was three pages of way too much text.  I trimmed it down and asked a friend to read it cover to cover if it takes more than 5 minutes it is too long.


Also references I have 12 references that I can use at any time, always check your references, have someone call them or email to check that they are responding and responding in a positive way. I send a combination of 6 two that are geographically closest any references that a member of the firm has a connection to and I usually get to 6 before digging too deep, never more than three academic references. I try to keep in mind their vacation plans so that references are left off if they are out of town for a while.

Dec 17, 12 11:41 am

I put the timeline up on my portfolio page here on Archinect too

Dec 17, 12 11:46 am

wow i read some of these comments i hope everybody finds a job

Dec 29, 12 11:03 pm
Sergo Antadze

this is really helpful,  after reading so many job searching tips, you are shearing real staff. and your timeline is truly impressive.

Dec 30, 12 2:52 am

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