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The coach: Are all the good jobs filled by word of mouth?

Sad architect crop
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AJ careers expert Matthew Turner helps an architect who wants to move practice but fears the best posts are never advertised

I want a new job, but most of the ones I see advertised are for entry-level people. I also want to move to a well-regarded practice. Someone I know is moving to a practice I would love to work for, but when I asked how he got the job, he said he went through his contacts. Are none of the good architecture jobs advertised? 

Matthew Turner the AJ coach

First off, lots of good jobs are advertised. Getting a job by answering an ad or through an agency is a sure-fire way of efficiently matching skills to requirement. Advertised jobs also tend to have the advantage of being well-described, and the firms posting them will have clearly thought the role through. They will want to recruit for the medium to long term, rather than acting on a whim. So, answering ads is certainly a much better use of your time than firing off speculative applications. 

But what your friend is tapping into is the vast underworld of the job market, which consists of recommendations, indistinct roles and self-made niches. If you are good at what you do, it is perfectly possible to be proactive and make your own opportunities. In fact, with increasing seniority, this route to a new job becomes even more important. 

Make sure you don’t ignore networking – you never know when it might pay off

Think of it from an employer’s point of view. They might not have an actual role to fill, but if they come across someone who has this experience as well as a little bit of that, someone who looks like they can deal with this, and seems likely to be able to cope with that, then these abilities will be enough to justify creating a job around a person. Even if they could describe such a combination of skills, putting this description in the paper would result in a whole range of left-field applicants. This is especially the case for a well-known practice, where the sheer volume of responses to an ad can be time-consuming to handle.  

So, for better or worse, some employers prefer to scan the horizon for recommendations of people who can fit in; then, in order to hire them, go to the lengths of constructing jobs around them. But employers don’t necessarily do this actively; they need to be made aware of your availability.

So the lesson from feeling envious of your colleague’s good fortune is to make sure you don’t ignore networking. You never know when it might pay off.

AJ coach Matthew Turner is an architect and careers consultant who runs the Building on Architecture consultancy. To contact him with your questions, tweet @TheAJcoach or email him in confidence at hello@buildingonarchitecture.com

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