Careers expert Matthew Turner advises an architect looking to focus more on UK work
I have worked for a number of London firms over the past years, and I am ready to move on from the current practice I work for. However, all my experience is overseas, I have no post-Part 3 UK experience, despite being British and based here. Regular overseas trips were fine, but due to now having two small children, I would now like to be fully London-based, and not to have to travel so much. How do I present myself?
London is an unusual place in terms of architectural job market, in that the dynamism and internationalism of the firms based there can mean a long career is possible with little professional contact with the actual country itself. That can pose a challenge with respect to demonstrating your transferability.
The quandary you are facing is to do with the tendency of employers to seek people with a track record that exactly matches what they are seeking. You should not feel disheartened, as that is not to say that some employers will not take a punt on someone; but this is rarer, and most likely going to come from introductions via your network, and you really doing your homework and anticipating how you can best show willingingness to adapt.
You should work hard to prepare yourself to tackle questions about transferability and relevance. Understand the difference between the way in which you are accustomed to work, and the way in which architects operate in your target practices.
Prepare yourself to tackle questions about transferability and relevance
If you have been on projects overseas, you will no doubt have been collaborating with executive architects on the ground, which is not the way in which UK work is generally produced. Find a trusted friend with UK experience, and with their help map your actual day to day skills and activities to the stages an architect might typically use in the UK.
Be prepared to describe your project work in terms of what you actually did, rather than the project output. A good way to do this is to adopt a STAR approach (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to describe your actual input on a particular project.
In whatever architectural context you have developed them, skills such as team management, problem solving, writing skills, and client contact are universal; these are all things you will need to find specific tangible examples from your experience.
Get accustomed to the language used in the UK in relation to projects, procurement, and so on. Finally, be confident in your abilities. The transferable skills that you have are, by their nature, based on your abilities to adapt, which is of great value to an employer beyond technical knowledge.
If you demonstrate the skills, character traits, aptitude and, most importantly, the cultural fit that will bring them success, employers will often respond.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org