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Gary Sim (Uno M. Ploid, E.I.), 2006

The architectural job market in B.C. is booming. The large number of jobs available makes it easier to find work, but still doesn't guarantee it. If you are looking for professional employment, consider the traditional values such as experience, personal grooming and an attractive portfolio.

The AIBC employment survey is now on-line at, and is worth a review. Knowing that some firms have reduced summer work weeks, paid mental health days and sick time, cash bonuses, retirement contributions, profit sharing, paid parking, paid time off at Christmas, and so on, can help you when you are interviewing. On the other hand, knowing that the average partner's bonus every year is $22,515.00 will be of little use to your own negotiations.

The AIBC survey also shows that only about 21% of the architectural firms in B.C. who responded to the survey have a dress code. Perhaps more of them should have a dress code, or perhaps a body-hardware code. Although there are no laws against having hardware bolted into your face or dangly bits, or having tattoos scattered about your body, one should consider their effect in a professional setting.

Employers might want to keep an eye out during interviews for any signs of temporarily removed hardware such as unhealed holes in lips and eyebrows, dilated earlobes, oversized bandages obscuring parts of the body, or black turtle-necks rolled up to the ears (unless it's a Mac office). Obscene t-shirts are declasse - especially during interviews - and political t-shirts advocating revolution are only acceptable if you aren't serious. Political correctness should be the guide here, even if it's just facadism.

The PC versus Mac battle continues, with offices typically being one platform or the other, a critical bit of information for job seekers. A Mac office will usually have Capital-D Designers who have wonderful computers. PC users know their computer is just a tool, don't care what colour it is, and seldom wear black turtlenecks.

Job descriptions posted on the internet are a good introduction to the positions being advertised, but an ability to read between the lines is helpful. There is a lot of jargon being used, and a quick refresher is offered here:

     ability to work with minimum supervision = you don't steal.

     appreciate our client's needs = you have to work this weekend.

     challenging = see dynamic.

     creative thinker = you are able to live on a small salary.

     demonstrated skills = people who ask for these are usually not willing to accept the demonstrations without further proof.

     design culture = a Mac office.

     dynamic = see energetic.

     energetic = see exhilarating.

     excellent view from office = you won't see it from your desk.

     exhilarating = you'll be overworked and unable to catch your breath.

     flexible workspace = your tiny desk will get even smaller.

     friendly management style = if they smile all the time don't trust them.

     knowledge of local building codes = more than just knowing that they exist.

     local experience = local experience. Period.

     passionate about your work = see creative thinker.

     potential to advance = average the ages of the principals when applying here
         subtract the result from 70, and add that to the current date.
         That's when you might advance.

     self-motivated = you can make coffee, wash dishes, clear photocopier jams and put paper in, etc.

     sense of adventure essential = you will not sue if attacked by a wolverine while in northern B.C. on a site visit.

     strong cultural context = your tax money is at work helping special interest groups become even more special.

     strong team players = like a team of huskies pulling a sled.

     willing to undergo continuing education = heavily redlined drawings will be landing on your desk regularly.

There are many other similar phrases in use, but you catch the drift. The architectural employment market has shifted. Companies once held total sway, but a crack in the castle wall has opened up with the current high demand for staff. People seeking employment have much greater bargaining power. Use it while you can, but be careful what you bargain for.

Once you have navigated through the jargon, had interviews, and perhaps even reached an agreement with a prospective employer - take a day to think about it before you sign on the line. It's not just a job you're looking for, but an exhilarating environmentally-sensitive and vibrant design culture offering you a challenging and dynamic career with potential to advance. (I feel tired already...)

Good luck!

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