Why I am not able to get back to work


I am just frustrated with architecture.

Equipped with a Masters, LEED AP, good work experience, finished ARE exams. 4+ years of work experience in US. Unemployed for 3.5 years. I got contract work on and off but nothing lasts. Laid off twice. I have good references.

I have changed cities from Seattle to Bay Area because of spouses job.

No unemployment benefits for 1.5 years. What should I do? Anybody else in similar situation?

Any advice? Anybody changed careres to UI Design?

Feb 7, 13 8:08 pm

I do know someone who went from architecture to UX design at Linked in here in SF and he is doing rather good - it's a good field - pays 2* arch

Feb 7, 13 8:13 pm

It's frustrating, yes. 

The problem is not with your qualifications, it's that lots of people have similar qualifications.  The total number of folks with all those with good qualifications is much (much!) greater than the total number of jobs in the field right now.

Feb 7, 13 8:54 pm

Do you have a resume and portfolio that can be reviewed? How actively are you looking? Are you actively sending out your work and making connections in the architecture community? Are you getting any response to sending your information out in response to job postings? What are you doing to improve and deepen your professional networks?

Right now it is tough to stand out from the crowd, but there are jobs out there.

Feb 7, 13 9:24 pm
wurdan freo

Do anything. Do something. Start a nonprofit. Build a house. Build a tree house. Start a doggy daycare. Tutor kids. Volunteer for Big Brothers Big Sisters. Teach at ITT Tech. Teach at a private school. Sell newspapers. Write a novel. Join the police academy. Work for government. Get a welding certificate. Draw portraits on the street. Pitch your business on Shark Tank. Design your masterpiece.

Is looking for a job really what defines us as a country? You have an opportunity to do whatever you want to do. 

Feb 7, 13 9:39 pm
Wurdan freo... Well said. If you can't get a job in the field of architecture, it is your time to diversify yourself from the other post grad ms just like you. Also, since you are close(ish) GO to the AIA conference this summer in Denver! It will provide you networking opportunities which will help you land the job you desire. Don't give up! You are obviously passionate about design... Express that in a way that you can feel proud. Good luck!
Feb 7, 13 10:12 pm

^because that pays the bills and was totally worth the money and time put into it.  he has a right to be frustrated.

Feb 7, 13 10:14 pm

start your own firm.

Feb 7, 13 11:46 pm

Ya, being unemployed sucks... These past few years haven't been easy for me either, more so because of visa requirements (non european in EU), but the end result is the same: Not enough working, not enough income.

But I'm also wondering what you're doing and if you've exhausted all avenues as others have already suggested. I mean clearly you're a skilled worker who isn't afraid of hard work. Your credentials speak to that. But 3.5 years is a hell of a long time.

True, finding work in traditional architecture firms might be difficult, but there really are other associated fields. What about teaching? And I don't just mean a studio instructor for arch school. I have friends who teach design fundaments at an art school. Another does studio drawing classes for community colleges and continuing education/night school. Do you have particular software skills? You'd be surprised how receptive schools are to people hosting workshops for learning rhino/grasshopper/scripting/revit/whatever.

Have you heard of Gidsy? It's a social platform not unlike airbnb, but instead of offering a place to sleep, you offer a service/experience. It's just now becoming popular here in Berlin, but there are already people on there who offer courses on photoshop/illustrator, digital fabrication workshops, and the like. There's another guy who does architectural tours. Sure, it's not going to get you rich, but like you said, you're unemployed and with no benefits. What's to lose? You do something interesting, you share your skills with others, make lots of contacts, and make a bit of scratch on the side. Maybe it's even your fist steps into being an entrepreneur and running your own business. Websites like Etsy and Fab demonstrate that despite the crisis, there's still an absolutely massive consumer market for designed/handcrafted goods. Do you have anything to offer in that field?

The fact that you're in the Bay Area is already a huge advantage. Like Berlin, it's a capital for tech and web start-ups. These guys are always on the look-out for people with some design skills. I myself don't know too much about that world, but I know other under-employed architects (there's tons here in northern Germany, with more arriving from Spain/Italy/UK every day!) who transitioned into jobs designing interfaces for apps and exhibition design. The cool thing about the start-up scene is that's a very social community. In addition to the huge online presence in the form of websites/blogs, they also meet regularly, host workshops and do casual meet-and-greets, where people show there latest projects/ideas over beer and pizza. Check out if something similar exists in SF. I can almost guarantee that it does. 

And of course, go to as many architecture-related events as possible. Lectures, exhibitions, conferences, symposiums, gallery openings, studio reviews, whatever. Over the past couple years, I've been going to as many as I can. Even though my motivation was simply to see/learn (and not "network"), you'd be surprised at how many people will begin to recognize you. A couple months back, through a friend I got a little job at the local Architect's Chamber (equivalent to AIA chapter) to help set up an exhibition. Whilst there, several architects said hi and introduced themselves to me, asking me where I work/study/etc. simply because they had recognized me from past events and had "seen me around". Of course, nobody is just offering jobs to strangers, but that's how a connection starts. You get introduced, they remember your name and face. Who knows when you'll see them again, but it's certainly not a bad thing. Maybe that recognition is all the difference it takes to get your next application reviewed rather than getting tossed in the recycling bin?

Sorry if this sounds like a big laundry list of seemingly random things, but I truly believe this is what one has to deal with in this industry in the year 2013. I'd say that if all you're doing is "cold-calling"/spamming offices with email applications, that's just not enough. It works for some and it worked for me in the past, but I'd say that was more a product of good timing/luck. I've seen how many applications even a tiny studio receives in the average week and how most sit un-opened before being shown the bin. In this industry in this economy, you've got to do everything you can to find your niche, find opportunities, or make opportunities, even if it means stepping out of your regular boundaries. Good luck!

Feb 8, 13 5:58 am

Go to AIA-SF events and attend Revit users group 11:30-1pm + free lunch 

Feb 8, 13 12:28 pm

Attending AIA SF events. part of mentorship program. Have a mentor. 

I have been looking on and off for the last 1.5 years. But intensified search since the last 4 weeks. I am tired of applying for jobs and of trying to meet people. (In the last 4 years, I must have applied to atleast 500 jobs, done cold calling, dropped off resume at firms, made calls, tried to meet new people at AIA etc. but sadly this industry is full of egoistic people. No compassion and no value for good work.)  If after giving it so much, I cannot get job stability, good opportunities, a decent salary, I dont want to pursue it anymore. I am on the verge of a mental breakdown. If I tell you my about my stellar academic career, you will faint.

Is something wrong with me or wrong with this profession?

Architecture treated me badly and I am seriously considering kissing it goodbye forever.  I just did not deserve this. No way on earth. My family is kind enough to support me through this and all of them are telling me to get out of it. They cannot see me so hurt. I had hope and the so called passion. I am seriously drained now.

Feb 8, 13 6:30 pm

Xenakis, can you tell me more about this person who switched to UX? How did he do it?

Feb 8, 13 6:31 pm

wurdan freo, than you for the advice. I went to 2 non profit firms. When, I was free, they did not have work. When they had work, I had signed up for some contract work. And you cannot keep doing things for 4 years. 

Feb 8, 13 6:33 pm

I have started my own firm but with that much experience you don't get much work and it doesn't help to be a woman.

Feb 8, 13 6:36 pm

IamGray, thank you for the long note. I read every word of it. And thank you for your time too.

You are a compassionate soul. I will pray for you and your family. I think good souls deserve to have good things happen to them.

Design & software, is the next thing on my mind. I am seriously considering doing Design work for the startups and switching careers forever. Plus it makes twice the money. 

Architecture will always be my passion and I will be a developer of buildings one day. My father is a small time, somewhat rich developer in another country. I came here to learn more but I do not want to return as a failure. Plus there is the whole family aspect I have to care about.

Feb 8, 13 6:42 pm

Nick Ladd,

Thank you for caring. I do have a resume and portfolio. I do seek feedback and reviews. 

And I constantly keep updating it.

Feb 8, 13 6:43 pm


He actually created his own web site and studied programming in school - Berkeley

One of my other friends also a CAL grad was doing UX design at the video game studio where we both worked - he learned flash,  and C# - and used his knowledge of architecture to guide users( play red dead redemption to see what he did)


also drop the littlebruisedbee name that's being in victim mode - victims don't hired

Feb 8, 13 6:53 pm

sample job

Position: UX Designer
Salary/Rate: $0.00 - $100,000.00 /year
Status: Full Time, Employee
Location: San Francisco, CA
Category: IT/Software Development
Start: 1/11/2013


Position: UX Designer
Location: San Francisco
Status: Full Time
Starts: Interviewing now
Rate: Up to $100,000 DOE

Job Description:
Our client, a cutting edge fashion ecommerce company, is looking for a talented UX Designer to join their growing team in San Francisco.

In this role you will develop and manage user interactions, user flows, user testing and some wireframing for the website.

You must have 3-5 years of UX Design experience and are versed in creating user flows and conducting user testing. You are creative and love the fashion industry!

- MS Office

Located onsite in San Francisco. Public transportation accessible. This is a freelance opportunity that could turn into a fulltime salary offer for the right fit!

If you feel you are qualified for this position please send your resume (and samples if applicable) to:

View additional job opportunities at

Feb 8, 13 6:58 pm

Thank you Xenakis. That helps.

I have started talking to people in UI or people who have switched from architecture to UI. 

And the bruise had healed. Coz someone on this forum cared. Thank You.

Feb 8, 13 7:25 pm

Littlebee, would you care to post a link to your portfolio? It can't hurt.

You sound incredibly frustrated and I can't help but think that frustration might come across in your cold calls, emails, and interviews. After 500 resumes, frankly, if you're still unemployed, you have to start looking in the mirror. I thought I'd been having tough times lately, with 3 offers after sending out about 15 portfolios (and I'm an intern with 2 years experience). I can't imagine what you're doing wrong after 4 years, and how you haven't figured that out yet.

You sound passionate and you are experienced. I know many, many people I'd describe the same way. The question is: what are you doing to stand out, and how far are you willing to go to get that job? We could all use a break now and again, but the world doesn't owe you anything. Don't give up!

Feb 9, 13 3:23 am

Littlebee, first you need to figure out which one do you want to do: UX design or UI design? Because those two are different. UX focuses on people mostly, on how they behave. UI is all about building the actual user interface. More info:

Now these terms are loosely used by a lot of people. Some people never use "UI designer", in their narrow vision two positions exist "UX Designer" and "UI Developer". There is something called UI Design and again it differs from UX Design. If you want to be a UI designer you also need to figure out what you want to work on. Do you want to work on software projects or web projects? If you want to work in software you need to learn programming languages. If you want to work in web you need to learn client side coding. If you're in UX position you're not required to know programming but in UI position you're required to know and even write code yourself. Think about it..architects can't design if they don't know about building materials and construction methods right? Same thing with digital design. If you don't know the capabilities and limitations of coding you can't design. Well you can design but it will be trash.
If you're thinking about working for small startups..well they are looking for unicorns aka people who can design AND code well. If I were you I'd volunteer in a firm for 1-2 hours a day to see what people are doing and how they're doing it. It will help you build connections too. By the way, you will need a portfolio so you actually have a tough road ahead of you.

If you want to be a (building) developer though maybe you should search for those opportunities now. See what is out there. Chances are you won't be in the tech sector when you hit 50. Since SF is full of entrepreneurs you want to learn the business side of things from them.
You're hella lucky you ended up in SF, use that to your advantage.

Feb 9, 13 4:10 am
I think you are one of my mentees from Seattle. I'm sorry to hear you are still having trouble. I'm sure that years of rejection will wear you down. Please just find a job. Any kind. It's important to rebuild your self esteem, then work on a design career when you feel better about yourself.
Feb 9, 13 6:35 pm

bowling ball, can you send me an email address? I can send you my resume and portfolio. I hate to make such victim posts on a forum. But I have reached a point where I just need to know what is wrong. Is there anything else I can do to improve my position? That is what I want to know.

Feb 9, 13 8:28 pm

Gruen, I would like to talk to you. I had 2 mentors in Seattle. Are you still in Seattle? Is there a way I can get in touch with you?

Feb 9, 13 8:33 pm

Littlebee, believe it or not you're likely to get support and constructive criticism if you post your pfolio here. I speak from experience. If it's a matter of anonymity, just remove your name. There's no shame in asking for help.

For me, the key was to be confident (I'm normally very shy and introverted) and more importantly, pursue firms which align to my sensibilities, and to which I could clearly communicate how I could help them. That's why I only applied to a handful of firms, because I was focused like a laser. That helped me stand out. It's not all easy though! Two months ago I moved 1600 miles away for a job that blew up in my face after a week! That was a harsh and expensive lesson, and one I don't ever want to repeat.

Time to stand up, brush yourself off, and refocus your efforts.

Feb 9, 13 9:42 pm

bowling_ball, I saw your post about losing your job recently and I'm sorry to hear how all that fell apart. To both you and the OP, were there any signs that, in hindsight, you realized lead to the state of unemployment? As a student about to enter the real world I just want to know what to look out for. I'm also trying to move across the US to a larger city, but after reading your post I am rethinking that idea! 

Good luck in all of your endeavors!

Feb 9, 13 10:48 pm
Bee I have left Seattle. Can you private msg me through archinect?
Feb 9, 13 11:47 pm
Bee:::::--->>>. MSG me at punkmotorcycles (at) gmail
Feb 10, 13 9:52 am


I have landed an interview for next week. It looks like a good match. Lets see what happens. But that fear of whether this job will last for a year or more still exists. I have seen friends and colleagues my age, go through similar situations. I used to think that maybe they are not good or don't work hard enough. Now I know better. 

Some of them are just changing/losing jobs every year. These are very smart, skilled people. Can you imagine what we all go through?

Feb 10, 13 11:17 am


Can you please tell me more about your two friends? Can I get their names and contact information, if it is okay? I would like to talk to them about how they went about this. I would appreciate their help.

Feb 10, 13 11:28 am

temporality, part of my maturing as a professional is to be diplomatic so I won't name names or be too specific with details. It's also not my thread. But I will say that there were some vague warning signs before I accepted my last position, including hesitation on the part of the employer. We in this profession aren't any different from anybody else - there's both good and miserable folks everywhere you look. The whole thing about me losing my original job (that's led to this mess in the first place) is a tale for another day.

temporality and littlebee, from my limited experience it's been better to be a big fish in a small-ish pond. I live in a city of 750k, which means a lot of things - one of which is that everybody knows me, for better or worse. I'm extremely active in the community and try to do good where I can. That's been key. I was offered two different jobs this week, one without even having previously met or contacted the owner. I've been very fortunate but I've also worked my ass off for years (but hasn't everybody?)

littlebee, congrats on landing the interview. I'm a terrible interviewee, but I've definitely found that the more confident I am (bordering on being aloof), the more success I've had. If you don't have confidence in yourself, why should they? It helps to act as if you don't really need the job, but are still considering offering your services if it seems to you to be a good fit. Nobody likes desperation or self-pity in these circumstances. Good luck!

Feb 11, 13 2:39 am
I completely agree w bowling ball- you want to not appear needy in an interview. A good attitude to have is that you are going to interview them (yes, bring your own short list of questions for them). Then, you might discover that you don't like them and its ok to not take a job with them. Or you might get them interested by showing them that you have actual interest in what they do by asking good questions. Remember to look at it as of you are on a first date-no one wants to date someone needy, but someone who likes themselves and is a bit standoffish is enticing...
Feb 11, 13 9:21 am

The whole question about UI Design comes up because in the 3.5 years, I could have built a portfolio and moved to another profession. I just hoped for a better future and life in architecture because I had the right to it. 

Life in software might end in 50's. But for me it is ending in architecture in 30's. I know a quite a few people here, for whom this has happened. I don't want to wait another 3 years to realize that. 

Feb 11, 13 2:02 pm
Sorry bee
Feb 11, 13 6:13 pm

FlagParad0xx86 ,

I am in the same situation as littlebee. I appreciate you providing insight into UI and UX. I'm interested to know if UX/UI are good long term career options. Like littlebee I've invested a lot of time and money into architecture. I have 2.5 years of architecture experience and have been unemployed for 3.5 years. I wouldn't want to start a new career just to be in the same unemployable state in 15 - 20 years.

I currently reside in Michigan and am also looking into learning Catia V5 Cad drafting for automotive parts, which may be a more sustainable career.


Feb 18, 13 1:09 pm

"I'm interested to know if UX/UI are good long term career options. Like littlebee I've invested a lot of time and money into architecture. I have 2.5 years of architecture experience and have been unemployed for 3.5 years. I wouldn't want to start a new career just to be in the same unemployable state in 15 - 20 years."

There is no guarantee for anything these days. In the past there wasn't much of a demand for nurses for example but nowadays it is such a popular and lucrative field everyone and their mother is becoming a nurse. Yes there are some transferable skills from architecture to UI/UX but it still requires a significant studying time self study or formal study but the good thing about UI is most employers don't require an advanced degree as long as you can demonstrate you have the experience and the knowledge. They do ask you to have a college degree from a related field and that related field includes architecture too. Call me biased but I think architects make better designers. Lots of people come to UI from graphic design or art schools and they're only good at making things look pretty and that is not what UI is about.

Anyway. I stopped making long term plans but if you've been miserable for long time and see an opportunity in another field and you have transferable skills I say give it a shot. If it seems like a bubble stay away from it. There was a tech bubble, lots of people in the internet industry lost their jobs and then there was a housing bubble and we're still suffering from it.

Feb 18, 13 2:05 pm

Parad0xx86 ,

Thank you for you input. It is most valuable. Apologies for my ignorance but, aside from researching the links on this thread, I have just started researching UI/UX.

Is there any way to learn UI in an unpaid internship environment?

Once you've learned the key programs and skills required for UI/UX and ready to work do you generally have to begin with lower paid/unpaid interships or can you acquire the skills then obtain paid employment in a company. Similar to architecture.

The reason I ask is I am 32 y.o. with student debt I must consistently pay off without interruption and I wouldn't have the capability to work a low paying/unpaid internship for more than 6 months.

Feb 18, 13 5:56 pm

"Is there any way to learn UI in an unpaid internship environment?"

Yeah you can try that. When you're inexperienced in any field you'll need to gain some experience to get paid work down the road. Unpaid internships are tricky situations but maybe you can volunteer for a short time. I followed this advice:
"Step 4: Within Your Budding Social Economy, Start Working for Free

Timeline: Months 3-5

Begin to seek opportunities where you can practice your skills. Offer small, light services related to your chosen field for free to people in your network.

If you’re trying to hack credentials in design, offer free design services.

Say, “I’m training to become [X], and I’ve been meticulously studying the craft to learn how to do it well [link to your blog]. I’d like to offer you [some free services around X] as I build my practice. I don’t expect any payment at all. But down the road, if you like my work, perhaps you can refer me to other people you know who might benefit from it."

Personally I wouldn't do any unpaid internship for more than 3 months.

I can't exactly say "you need the x skill or the y skill" because it depends on the company and what they're looking for in a designer. You can check out this Linkedin page and click "See Suggested Skills":

You can subscribe to or with your email, check out the job postings and figure out the common requirements but the general requirements are like this:
• BA/BS in Human Computer Interaction, Usability, Human Factors, Industrial Design, Graphic Design, Visual Communications, Computer Science or related field.
• X years of experience working in interaction design and/or UI visual design.
• Articulate design concepts and prototypes, with the ability to define your vision for the project in a variety of ways - written, visually and verbally.
• A mastery of web standards, user-centered design principles, knowledge of the software development process.
• Strong skills in mediating and resolving competing requirements and designs.
• Expert proficiency with design and prototyping tools.
• Thorough understanding of the limitations and appropriate uses of web technologies.
• Fluency in Photoshop and related designing tools.

• Strong Front-End development skills and preferably some Back-End programming knowledge.

See it is not really that easy to switch to UI design so I'd advise you to research the field thoroughly and not make any rash decisions.


Feb 20, 13 8:46 am

Thank you Parad0xx86 

Feb 20, 13 9:35 am

It might be easier just to step up your game in architecture and network - 

Feb 20, 13 12:14 pm

Xenakis, I've been looking for long term sustained work for 5 years and all I've found were sparse contract positions that only lasts a couple months. I doubt anyone will hire someone unemployed that long. I think it's time to look elsewhere for a career so I can support myself.

Feb 20, 13 12:42 pm

Making a good profile on Linkedin and networking with people on Linkedin is a must! Using Twitter and other social networking sites are necessary. If they can't find you on search engine results it is like you don't exist.

Feb 20, 13 1:47 pm

I admit my question is hypocritical since I was busy updating my LinkedIn profile recently...but in this market with everyone actively seeking work, is a good LinkedIn profile and networking online really as valuable as networking face-to-face?  Another way to ask the question is are firms really actively searching ("on a search engine") all these profiles?  I've always considered in-person contact primary; digital profile secondary.

Feb 20, 13 2:44 pm

Some surveys say that 85% of the recruiters use Linkedin to find talent. One survey revealed 81% of employers will Google candidates. Microsoft also commissioned research, including interviews with over 1,200 hiring and recruitment managers in the United States, U.K., Germany, and France. They report:
79 percent of United States hiring managers and job recruiters surveyed reviewed online information about job applicants. Additionally, 70 percent of United States hiring managers in the study said they have rejected candidates based on what they found. I mean you research the company you'll be interviewing so why wouldn't they do the same?

Google indexes your Linkedin profile so unless you make your profile private it shows up on top of the search results when someone Googles your name. Of course in person contact is always better but there are several things you can do on Linkedin:
- Set up a good profile so that when people look at your profile they see you in a positive light.
- Use the Questions & Answers section to both ask questions and answer questions to show your expertise.
- Join groups.
- Connect with people online then offer to meet in person.

and most importantly you can see how you can connect to a certain person by searching his/her Linkedin profile. I believe in the 6 degrees of separation stuff so you are in someway connected to most people in your industry. You may realize that your friend or your ex co-worker or your cousin is connected to the person you would like to get in touch with and with some effort you can turn 3rd degree connections to 2nd of 1st degree connections but you can also just use it as a search tool. Besides a well designed Linkedin profile looks more attractive than a boring resume. There are actually books written solely on using Linkedin.
Also as a person who is getting prepared to do a long distance job search I can see no better alternative to Linkedin.

Feb 20, 13 4:29 pm


What I have learned by "doing what it takes" is that I made some financial sacrifices that exceeded financial responsibility - achieving goals, self actualization at the expense of financial responsibility is just wrong - supporting yourself anyway you can should be priority 

too many people in debt...

Feb 20, 13 4:31 pm

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