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Sydney, Australia
Una arquitecto en construcción de un nuevo proyecto de vida...

jueves, 10 de mayo de 2012

Finding a job!!! – Part I

i got a jobWell, after 82 days (almost 3 months), six job applications and one interview:


Now… a friend just asked me last week, before my interview, if I thought I have invested my time properly in the job seeking issue, and my answer at that time was: I’ll tell you after I know whether I got this job or not.

As you can imagine, now my answer is: Ok, yes, I think I’ve invested my time properly regarding the job search.

You may think, that was luck!!! And it may be a little bit of that involved, but I’ll tell you what happened and how I did it.

1.- Looking ahead in time:

As I told you in a previous post, networking is an important factor in the job search process in Australia, so, last year even prior I had my visa, I took the opportunity to come here and let myself to be known in my discipline. If you don’t have such an opportunity, well, create it yourselves. It’s not easy, but it’s possible.

From that I got my first casual job (local experience) and one of my referees.

So (again) networking works!!!!!! Be on top of that!!!!

2.- Applying for jobs:

I’m not going to talk about how to look for a job and how to apply for them, because there are too many blogs and forums that provide that information in a very detailed way. However I’m going to lay out some tips about it while letting you know my personal experience.

As I said before, I only applied in total for 6 jobs. The first two was as an Urban Designer in the City of Sydney. One of them was a little bit out of my league, and the other one was perfect (I applied the second day I was here). However, when applying for Local Government job (as well as other institutions such as universities) besides from the cover letter and the resume, you have to address the “Selection Criteria”.

What is that? what is the selection criteria? Well, the institutional ads are quite longer than private industry ones, because the have to give an extensive description of the position and the selection criteria they are going to use to select the chosen candidate. For that you have to write (sometimes also in an extensive way) why and how you have each one of the criteria they ask for.

So, in the City of Sydney application I didn’t know how extensive that had to be, so, after finishing the Skillmax course (for more info read: Skillmax and finding a place to live), I look at that application and I wouldn’t have hired me either. Why? The resume wasn’t completely in the Aussie way, the cover letter didn’t EXACTLY address what they were asking for, and the selection criteria document I sent, well, I’m not even commenting on that. So, bottom line: the Skillmax course does help!!!

The third job I applied was also PERFECT for me: it was a a Lecturer in Urban Planning in UTS. It was the perfect fit for me. A 2,5 years contract, doing exactly what I did in Venezuela: teaching Planning Theories and Urban Planning Studio (workshops), researching, and occasionally external consulting. For that I applied EVERYTHING I had learnt so far in the Skillmax course (we had just finished with resumes and cover letters), and addressed a lot better the selection criteria, not really great, but at least a lot better. That was on the 23 March.

Then in the 2nd and 3rd weeks of April, I applied for 4 jobs: one of Project Architect, one of Interior Designer, one of Revit Documenter and one of Interior Design documenter. The two latter were basic jobs, but I still applied, and the other two were alright, not perfect, not even close, but alright. Well, for those applications I took under consideration everything I learnt in the Skillmax course, however, no responses yet.

Regarding architectural related jobs:

  • It’s not that easy… not impossible, but definitely not easy.
  • Recruiters don’t usually work with people that have no local experience, so it’s better to do some cold canvasing or to try to get in touch with other working architects (networking once again)
  • Bring your portfolio done when you come to Australia
  • Learn how to use Revit (a program)… 80% of positions require it!!!
  • Start researching and learning about the BCAs (Building Codes of Australia). This depending on what you want to do as an architect.

In general the moral of this part of the story is: apply for different jobs, even if they are not the perfect fit for you, but also you have to look for a job that says “YOU” all over the ad and really make a huge effort in that application. Remember: the resume gets you the interview, not the job… but you HAVE to get the interview first.

3.- Getting an email / call + preparing for the interview:

Of the 6 jobs I applied, I only got one positive response: I was contacted by UTS via email (Tuesday two weeks ago) to attend the 3 May (Thursday last week) an interview at the Dean’s Unit. That same day they contacted me, the Head of School, Heather, contacted via email all my referees asking for some references.

From that day on (for a bit more than a week) I only did one thing: PREPARE FOR THE INTERVIEW.

How to do that (what I did regarding UTS):

  1. Research about the selection process. From that I knew it was only going to be ONE interview, and that it had to be minimum of half an hour.
  2. Research about the company. In my case, I read EVERYTHING on the website about UTS; about the Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building; about the School of Built Environment (where the position was); about the programs and courses they offered; about how I could fit into those courses; about the staff that worked there…. EVERYTHING!!!
  3. Prepare a list of possible questions they may ask you… and write the answers to them. In this case I had a list of 30 questions, from which the first 10 were related to the selection criteria. In the answers always give examples, and if they are behavioural questions (they assume past behaviour predicts future actions) use the S.T.A.R method: Situation – Task – Action – Result… and the result always MUST be a positive one.
  4. Prepare a list of possible question you may ask. This is even more important than the previous point, because it shows your interest in the position and in the company.
  5. Role-play the interview with a friend. I thank Yoshkar a great time for doing this for me. I emailed him the position description, the selection criteria, my entire application and the 30 questions (without the answers), and we spent all Saturday afternoon practising and revising some important tips about the interview process, such as during the interview it’s good to ask for feedback (f.e.: “Did I answer your question?” “Is it ok this level of details or do you want me to discuss this a bit further?” “Would it be ok if I give an example on that area?”).
  6. Prepare your portfolio. This is not only for architects: it is highly recommended for you to bring to the interview a nice folder with the job ad, your resume, well the entire application) and some examples of your work. In architecture this grows by adding your professional portfolio. I must say I did this, but I didn’t use it at all. However, I don’t regret spending a long time in this, because it helped me prepare a bit more, and helped me feel a bit calmer during the interview.
  7. Prepare what you’re going to wear: not a silly thing. You have to be dressed properly. So think about it and don’t leave it to the last day, just in case. (Thanks Tocaya)
  8. Try to speak only (or mostly) in English the days prior to the interview… and most of all the actual day of the interview… Try not to speak in your mother tongue that day.


Now, this post is getting too long, so I’ll leave this first part until here. For the next post (coming really soon), I’ll describe the rest of the process, from the interview until now.

3 comentarios:

  1. Congrats!
    Those are very good tips for us Architects.
    I'll be in Melbourne at the end of July so I'm working on my portfolio and CV, and looking forward to my new life and the adventure of job searching.
    Also looking forward to part two of this post!

  2. Felicitaciones ! Me gusta mucho tu blog, me parece muy positivo, constructivo y alentador, miras para adelante con alegria, te felicito en el exito de tu busqueda laboral !!!

    Gracias por la buena onda y el detalle de tus experiencias !!

    Yo migro en tres dias a Brisbane !
    Saludos !

  3. @Andi: I'm so glad you found this post useful for architects. That was one of the aims of it. The second part will be ready really soon. :-). Let's keep in touch for when you come to Oz. You can write to me a PM in Aussie neighbour if you'd like.

    @Javier: congrats on your moving. Thank you so much for your comment :-) it helps me realise that the way I write reflects how I am. I'm sure you'll also have a very successful experience whilst moving here.