In the rosy glow of receiving a job, many a promising architect forgets the factors to consider before accepting the job offer.
The assessment process goes in two directions – they need to like you to make the job offer, and you need to like them to accept it.
What’s not to like? They have acknowledged your brilliance; you are their candidate, and your future beckons.
Take a deep breath and think about what to consider when evaluating a job offer; failure to do your due diligence now can leave you stuck for a few years in a job you hate that doesn’t meet your needs.
What are the mistakes to avoid when choosing a job offer?
1. Selling Your Soul for a Dollar or Two
The salary is essential. It means you can eat, put a roof over your head, and send your kids to college.
More money is welcome in most households, but if the only thing this job has going for it is salary, listen to your gut and walk away.
You’ve spent years building your skills. You got into architecture because you have a passion for some aspect of the architects’ life.
If this job doesn’t feed that passion, you are going to be deeply unhappy. A good salary is not enough by itself to make a job offer worth accepting.
But people switch jobs or careers for various reasons – if money is the primary motivation, make sure you consider the salary and benefits as a package and employ these salary negotiation tips.
2. An Ill-Made Match
On the one hand, gaining experience in a new field is challenging and stretching. On the other hand, the learning curve may be too steep, and you may have insufficient support to become competent in a different work environment.
Then there is sticking with only one type of work. You have the advantage of doing all the projects, but it is more of the same, and you are sick of the bland diet.
Matching your skills and experience that you have now and want to gain is a tricky balance. Get it wrong, and you end up failing miserably or bored to tears.
Think of the variety of experiences you need when you eventually practice as a licensed architect. Or perhaps getting a license isn’t crucial to you, but you want to be a skilled designer in a specific niche in architecture.
One of the best decisions an architect can make in choosing a new job is getting this match between current and future skills right.
This approach is also a better fit for your plans to move into the six-figure architecture salary bracket.
3. Fit as a Fiddle
Today you are in peak condition, and you never get ill. Tomorrow may be a different story. No one intends to get sick, but illness is part of the human condition.
If you accept this job offer, what happens when you get sick?
You need to expect the best and plan for the worst.
That means you want to pay attention to how many paid sick days you get per year and the health benefits. If the benefits are inadequate, do you need extra insurance?
You need to factor that into your budget calculation when calculating if it is worth your while working for this employer. Don’t make the mistake of accepting a job offer and finding out that you are on your own if you get sick next year.
4. Recharging Your ‘Batteries’
How important is your holiday time for you?
It’s a value assessment of your quality of family life, and you need to be happy with the balance of paid and unpaid time off available to you.
Vacation time is your time to spend recharging your batteries, and it is a big mistake to underestimate the value of your vacation time to your well-being.
Additionally, consider the firm’s work culture – when you attended the interview in the evening, were there many staff staying for overtime?
You may be in the initial years of your architecture career, and long working hours matters not.
But if you have a family with kids, a firm’s emphasis on a culture of overtime would usually also mean you don’t get to switch off when you’re on vacations – both are detrimental to a work-life balance you’re seeking at this stage in your life.
5. What’s the Bill?
A new job, possibly in a new city or country, will come with a whole load of costs.
Set up a spreadsheet and price up the cost of accepting this job offer and see how much it will cost you both as a one-off and ongoing expenses.
You’ll come across plenty of hidden costs – if you are relocating, your partner may be without a job for a while, you may need to pay for childcare, and the cost of living may be higher.
If you are still happy with the job offer when you add up what it will cost you to take up the opportunity, you haven’t underestimated the impact it will make on your finances.
Alternatively, negotiate to have the firm foot the bill of relocation.
6. Plan B
If this job doesn’t work out for any reason, how secure are you?
If you are moving to a big city firm and there are plenty of other jobs in the area, then any lack of employment is likely to be short. But if you are moving to the only architect’s firm in the area, losing your job is a bigger deal.
Before you accept the job offer, think about your plan B if you find yourself jobless in a few weeks or months after starting with your new employer.
7. Funding the Travel
Every week, a job with international travel jetting off to a new location sounds exciting, but how are you going to fund that lifestyle?
Seriously, are you getting a company credit card, or does it all go out of your bank, and you claim it back in arrears?
Are your finances in the right place to manage the amount of travel expenses you need to cover before you get reimbursed?
The job may be fantastic and the opportunity of a lifetime, but not if the company isn’t funding the travel expenses upfront. Don’t make the mistake of not knowing what you are getting into with this company and finding out that you can’t afford to work there.
Business travels – especially in international or large firms – are quite common for architects.
8. Future Problems
The next point to look at when choosing between job offers is what this role will do for your future self.
Architects tend to spend a reasonable time with firms (several years), so each position has to contribute to your portfolio and resume in a way that makes life easier for your prospects.
Does this job fit your career path, or is it a dead-end that doesn’t help you get where you want to be?
If you have a vision of your future, you need to hold this job up to the light and assess it according to where you want to be in five or ten years. Otherwise, you can find yourself wasting time and going nowhere.
As part of not making future problems, you may need to consider pension provision. That provision can be a company pension or enough salary to put something away for your retirement because everybody gets old.
9. Smiling at Your Reflection
Don’t make the mistake of thinking what you do at work doesn’t matter. You spend most of your life at work, and if your work is in direct opposition to your values and beliefs, you will have a hard time looking at yourself in the mirror.
Are you going to be proud or ashamed of your projects?
There’s a reason you became an architect, and every human being has a moral code. If your work doesn’t line up with what is important to you, it will chip away at your happiness.
No one needs that in their lives.
10. Listen to Your Gut
The biggest mistake everyone makes – not just architects – is ignoring what their instincts are telling them.
During the interview, the research, and the job negotiation, you pick up clues about the company you will join. It’s a big decision, and you only have a short time to make it.
What is a reasonable time to consider a job offer?
You may be under pressure to decide within 24 hours, or you may get the luxury of a week or two if you are negotiating terms and asking for more salary and different benefits.
What is your gut telling you?
Is this the job you want, or are you making a big mistake?
If you are choosing between job offers, put the pros and cons down for each in writing and compare the columns. Then trust your instincts because you will be living with the consequences of your decision for a long time.
Although you need to consider your future and it can take a long time to extricate yourself from a poor job decision, you need to remember one vital thing:
Don’t let the fear of making a mistake stop you from moving on with your life and career.
It is far too easy to get put off by your job offer’s negative aspects – having to move, being the newbie, and imposters syndrome (believing you are not good enough).
While you are busy evaluating your job offers, don’t forget to turn your attention to your current role. What are the pros and cons of staying where you are, and what will it cost you to remain in your present position?
It would be best to remember that you always have at least two job offers on the table – the new and the old.
Sometimes you need to look at your current position with fresh eyes and push yourself to recognize why you want to move on. If you have clarity about why you are leaving, can you apply that clarity to the job offer?
One of the most important factors to consider before accepting a job offer is the value it brings to your life. Or is its only attraction the fact that it is not your current job?
Running from something without checking what you are running into is probably the biggest mistake of all.