Julie Jancewicz of LLB on lessons learned in job searching

Julie Jancewicz, LEED AP was recently interviewed by the Boston Society of Architects and featured in the Chapter Letter on her job searching experience. Principal Kathy Bartels, AIA, LEED AP commented, "Julie really impressed us during the summer she did a co-op at LLB. Not only was she well organized, she handled engineers and product reps on the phone like a seasoned pro. That is not something that many entry-level interns have: the ability to be persistent, ask the right questions, and get answers that help the project move forward. Communication is one the best skills any architectural job-seeker can offer. If it doesn't come naturally, communication and writing classes can help hone those valuable skills. We usually find a way to make room for someone like Julie, regardless of our workload."

Here's her interview from the BSA:

After graduating with an MArch from Northeastern University in 2008, Julie was laid off from her full-time job as a designer/drafter at TRO Jung | Brannen in November. After working outside the industry for a year and a half, she found a job as a designer/drafter at Lerner | Ladds + Bartels in Providence, Rhode Island, where she now works on commercial, civic and university projects. The BSA recently caught up with Jancewicz on lessons learned from her job search.

How did you find your job?

I sent my resume out and touched base with everyone I knew. As part of the undergraduate and graduate architecture programs at Northeastern University, I had done co-ops in various cities. One of those was at Lerner | Ladds + Bartels, which eventually emailed me to ask if I had found a job yet and, if not, if I was interested in coming back to work in Providence. I said I’d love to come back to work in the field.

I had a first interview, but because I had worked there before, it was only a matter of discussing whether the position would work or not. And it did. I was living in Somerville and that was too long of a commute, so I moved to Quincy. It’s still a long drive. But my network was still in Boston, so I wanted to stay halfway in between.

Did you use any BSA resources during your job search?

Volunteering through Common Boston was a great opportunity. I became very active in that, trying to network with different people. It was exactly what I was looking for. I really got to know people in the city, in the field and in other facets of design.

I took the BSA’s free Revit training session. And at a BSA Emerging Professionals Network event, I met a few other women who were also unemployed; we ended up deciding to study for the LEED exam together during our unemployment.

We’re fortunate to have the BSA, which provides so many opportunities to get to know other people in the field, which, in turn, builds your network and industry contacts.

Did you ever think about leaving the industry?

Yes. Once I became unemployed and began reaching out to people at places I had once been employed, I learned that most of them had been unemployed at least once in their career—and many of them twice. That was certainly discouraging. At this early stage in my career, I wondered if it was wise to continue on this path if there’s a good chance I’ll find myself jobless again in 20 years. But I still had the passion for architecture and had gotten a taste of working in the field and didn’t want to give it up. And at that point, I didn’t really know what other avenue I had because architecture was what I wanted to pursue. I was working other part-time jobs at restaurants to pay my bills, but that was not meant to be a permanent situation.

Did you have to settle for less money than you were earning previously?

Personally, I came in at the same salary level I was hoping to earn and had earned before. But I do know people who have had to take a job for less money. Honestly, I would have expected to do so also, because a lot of working people have seen pay freezes. With so many people unemployed, I don’t think it’s too out of the question to take a job for less money. At the same time, it also depends on what level of positions you are looking at. I’m at entry level, which is quite different from someone who has 20 to 30 years of experience. What they’re expecting to make and what a firm may be willing to pay could be drastically different, depending on the kinds of firms they are looking at as well.

Do you like your new job more or less than your previous one?

They are almost not comparable. Both are good. I was designing a city in Morocco at TRO. Here, I’m working on larger projects, but they are still smaller-scale compared with that.

What advice would you offer job seekers?

Being active in an organization, becoming a member and joining a group are great ways to meet other people and grow your network. Even though I didn’t get my job through Common Boston or other BSA events, it still enhanced my resume, my knowledge of the area and my knowledge of design. And who knows? I am still in touch with many of those people; one of us may well end up helping another at some point down the road. The more good people you have in your network, the better your chances are in life.

That said, I’d also advise job seekers that, although persistence is good, I don’t think constantly hounding your contacts is smart. However, staying in touch with people once you have found a position is key. It makes it known that you are not just looking to your contacts for an immediate job; you are looking to them to help build their networks as well as your own and to help each other over the long term.